Whether you are a veteran project manager or you have just been assigned to lead a team, it is essential that you take the time to develop your project management skills. After all, the sky’s the limit for improvement in whatever field you are in. This quick guide will help you align your perception of what project management is and the necessary skills that you can improve on to achieve your workplace targets.
Before we get on to the skills of a project manager, we should first define what project management is.
What is Project Management?
The definition of Project Management, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI) is the “application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
Your target as a Project Manager is to manage the team in order to achieve the assigned goal or objective. You use all your innate skills and knowledge to become a successful team leader and attain overall team satisfaction.
The PMI also published A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) that highlights the 5 Project Management Processes:
1. Initiating: The phase in which you create the project on a broader scale.
2. Planning: Where the roadmap construction of your project is planned out; you’ll see what needs to be done, how to do it, and who to assign the tasks to.
3. Executing: Aligns everyone in the team on what they should do; individual assignments take place, and your peers start working on their tasks.
4. Monitoring and controlling: Making sure that everything is on track with the time frame put out; snuffing out problems if they arise and creating countermeasures for the next time it happens.
5. Closing: The conclusion of the project; this is where the project manager and the entire team decides if the project was a failure or a success.
The PMI created a guide for aspiring project managers so they could have a solid step-by-step that they could use when they need to direct and control a project.
What are the essential skills of a project manager?
There are many opinions on what the skill set of a project manager should be. Keep in mind that these are the skills that you might already possess. What you need to do is to take a look at this list, determine the ones you embody, and try applying the ones that you think you don’t have (or want to improve on). Doing this will ensure that you can be a well-rounded project manager.
Here’s the list of skills that a project manager should have:
The first, and possibly one of the most important, is communication. Lack of effective communication is usually one of the reasons why the team fails to meet expectations and goals. Communication lets you, as a project manager, give instructions and expectations clearly, raise and escalate concerns to your stakeholders, and act as a bridge between your team and the stakeholders.
To be a good communicator, one must:
- Learn to listen to your team
- Ask your team members if they understood your point
- Observe how each one communicates
- Organize your thoughts before speaking out
Being able to get the point across isn’t the only part of being a good communicator. Your team members should be able to comprehend what you told them. It’s also important that they feel comfortable enough to inform you if they have any issues. This, in turn, where your people skills come into play; whether or not you can adjust your communication style to fit with your peers.
Scheduling and Task Management
Scheduling is also known as time management. A project manager should be able to organize a timeframe of events that is feasible and also reasonable. Task management, on the other hand, is delegating tasks to your team in a way that is organized and achievable within a timeframe. These go hand in hand because they both include the skill of organization.
One mistake that project managers do is that they overestimate the tasks they assign, and therefore “over-assign” tasks to their members that they can’t finish by the deadline. That is only a recipe for disaster, as your team will not be able to complete all the tasks delegated to them and will only cause conflict and dissatisfaction.
Below are some ways to improve your scheduling and time management skills:
- Create an organized schedule for you and everyone on your team
- Prioritize on tasks that are most important
- Download time and task tracking applications
Remember that your team members are human, not machines who can work for extended periods of time. Even then, machines still need to rest lest they overheat. The same goes for humans. If you assign them too much, they tend to get stressed and pressured over the tasks assigned to them. A way to avoid this is by doing calculated task management. One good task management app is the Eisenhower Matrix, downloadable on your mobile phone and accessible through your web browser.
Having leadership skills as a project manager is a no-brainer, but not all people have the skill to actually lead and manage a team. They say that leadership is innate, but you can also learn how to be a good leader through practice. You should be able to inspire your team, be able to coach struggling team members and be able to get everyone on the same page.
Leadership factors include:
- Setting the right example
- Always looking for ways to improve your skills
- Having a positive attitude
- Keeping your team informed on the goings-on
- Getting to know your team members
When you are a leader, you’re in charge of a lot of things. When someone in your team commits a mistake, you’re also the one who has to face your boss and explain what happened. You also have to take responsibility and own up to that mistake. It’s all part of being a leader. A good one will also know how to guide the team when problems like these arise.
Industry and Solution Knowledge
As a project manager, it is crucial that you know your brand. All the skills in this list would not be handy if you do not have expertise in what you are actually doing. This helps you foresee any possible problems that your team will encounter and come up with ways to counteract them.
Here’s how to familiarize yourself with your brand:
- Read up your mission and vision
- Ask your team what they think the mission and vision is
- Do some research on what your company does and wants to achieve
This also helps you align your team during meetings. A reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing can strengthen resolve and keep team members on track. During meetings, don’t forget to inform everyone on any updates so they will also feel like they’re in the loop.
Critical thinking, also known as good decision-making, is probably one of the most important skills that a project manager should have. You can always try to create countermeasures to avoid problems, but sometimes they come up anyway. Critical thinking helps you determine the best way to deal with any problems and how your team can move forward.
Some tips on how you can be better at critical thinking:
- Think beyond the subject
- Research and absorb the information you think will help you reach a sound decision
- Ask your team for their opinions
- Don’t assume that you are always right; take criticism like a sport
- Break down the bigger picture
Problems occur naturally; with that, a project manager should be ready to resolve them as soon as they arise. It takes a while to develop your critical thinking, so it doesn’t hurt to ask for help and the opinions of your peers. Remember that it doesn’t take a complex answer to solve your problem; it’s good to keep things simple.
Sometimes, when problems within the team arise, others want to get out on the top. As a project manager, you should know how to negotiate and assess the situation so you can reach a decision that benefits everyone. This also comes hand-in-hand with your conflict management skills.
Below are a few tips on how to be a good negotiator:
- See the situation from all and any possible angles
- Listen to what everyone wants to achieve
- Align your overall goal to everyone’s goals
Being a good negotiator means keeping the peace in the team and being the arbiter when an issue arises between the two parties. You should be impartial as much as possible and avoid practice favoritism. That way, your team members will feel like they can trust you enough to open up problems in the workplace.
Another needed skill that you should have is the ability to lead a team building. As projects can take a long time to achieve, sometimes, your team members can get a little unmotivated and stressed. Your aim here is to lighten up the mood and give everyone the chance to unwind for a bit.
Some team building ideas:
- Go out with the team every once in a while
- Get to know your team members by asking about their personal lives or hobbies
- Have short ice-breakers before every meeting
With stress levels being high sometimes, it’s good if you have a few tricks up your sleeve to break the tension. Maybe plan a small get-together with the team for drinks, or crack some jokes in the workplace. If you’re not the joking type, you can simply try conversing with your team members so that they’ll feel more comfortable around you. Team buildings do not necessarily mean that you have to plan a weekend trip to a different city; it can be simple like workroom banter and conversations.
How do you develop and improve your project management skills?
Again, it is important to note down which skills you already have (and can therefore improve) and note down which skills you want to learn. However, it’s always great to refresh your skills as a PM. That being said, here is a Project Management course that will be sure to heighten and let you surpass where you are today.