Project manager jobs have been on the rise and are predicted to continue rising in the years to come. But what does the job entail? What does a project manager really do?
Project managers don’t write code, don’t create graphics, and don’t sell a product or service. But they do have the skills to manage and coordinate the teams that specialize in each of these areas. Some days they may feel more like a psychologist than a project manager, but that’s because they need to understand how to manage the relationships, personalities, and work habits of every project team member.
A project manager must have the following soft skills to be successful:
- Communication Skills
They need to be able to communicate thoughts and ideas both verbally and in writing. Anyone can type a message, but that message should be both motivating and professional. If notifying a stakeholder that their project is going to be delayed, the project manager needs to be able to give them the full picture. Why is the project going to be delayed? Has every scenario been attempted to keep the project running on time? What alternate solutions are available? By giving the full picture to the stakeholder, they can now understand the complexity and the work that is being put in to try to keep their initial plan on track.
- Negotiation & Conflict Resolution
Some team members might not be comfortable with stating to the team that there is an issue with a project. That’s where the project manager should step in. Is the project waiting on someone else to complete a task even though they’ve been asked for an update a few times? Sometimes all it takes is a little push from someone else running the project to get an answer. Other times there is a need for some real negotiating to take place. It’s all about give and take to find the best possible scenario.
- Team Building
Project teams are made up of different personalities and work habits. The way one person works best may not be the same as the next person on the team. It’s the project manager’s role to keep the team in sync. Daily Standup meetings are a great way to do this. Read Vikki Rokkas’ blog from April on the Benefits of Daily Standup Meetings. In this blog, Vikki mentions how these meetings create trust and transparency between every team member.
In addition to the soft skills above, there are hard skills too. Those are the easy skills to learn. There are countless tools out there to help. Just look at a few of the software options to help create project plans easily: Microsoft Project, Inspire Planner, Slack, etc. Reporting templates help to properly prepare for a project, receive signoffs, show the project’s success, and calculate risk. You aren’t finding the tools that fit your needs 100%? Make it easy on yourself and tweak the option that best fits your needs.
You see, there is more to project management than just managing projects. You must be able to read the room and read the people. Know when to push a little more and when to back off a bit, and consider what resources can be brought in to help keep the project on task. Imagine you are driving on a busy expressway around Chicago. To get to your destination safely, you need to be very aware of the cars surrounding you. If you are like me, you have the Final Destination movie in the back of your mind every time you see a semitruck with a load of logs. If in fact that cord breaks and the logs start to roll off the truck, what is my plan as the driver behind the truck? I know that is an extreme situation, but it helps me be prepared on the expressway and in my project plans. What am I going to do when one task starts spiraling off course and gets behind thus causing the successor tasks to start falling behind, or rolling off the truck?
It’s an exciting time to be a project manager to watch how the market is growing. More and more companies are realizing the need for this role. Always remember though, to be a great project manager, you need to be approachable, respected, and an active listener. When you achieve success on your soft skills, your project teams will be more successful and experience less stress. That’s a win-win!