The Importance of Soft Skills for Project Managers

Project Management is both an Art and a Science

Project Management is both an art and a science. It is a science because project managers need to estimate budgets, draw up schedules, and manage costs and earn profits. It is an art because they have to ensure that the team gets along well and the extra edge that contributes to the success of the project is achieved through efficiencies and synergies.

In this context, it is very important for project managers to have good soft skills like communication, people management, and personality. The project manager is like a conductor in an opera who provides the direction to the individual performers in the team. Hence, he or she has to have exceptional people skills as they are tasked with the objective of carrying the team along with them.

Further, project managers need to communicate with different stakeholders including their superiors, the support functions like HR and Admin, and the other interfaces like customers, vendors, and members of other project teams with which their team is interacting. All these aspects call for a superior display of people skills from the project manager. We shall discuss each of these skills in the following sections.

Essential Soft Skills for the Project Manager

The first essential skill that the project manager must have is exceptional communication abilities. Since project managers have to interact with the customers, the team members, and associated stakeholders, he or she has to get the point across without communication gaps. There are many projects where the project managers because of limited communication skills often find themselves unable to articulate the problems and the objectives to the stakeholders.

It is an axiom in contemporary organizational behavior theory and practice that the project managers must have excellent written and spoken English skills as he or she has to communicate in writing as well as during oral speech about the project imperatives and the project objectives.

Apart from communication skills, the project managers have to have superior people management skills. Since the project manager is tasked with the duty of ensuring excellent teamwork and team bonding, he or she must provide the leadership by example and leadership by people management from which the team members can draw inspiration and perform at their full potential.

In some multinationals, it is the practice that the people manager is different from the project manager and that this division takes some responsibility off the project manager. However, even in this case, the project manager still has the overall responsibility for teamwork and team cohesion and hence, his or her people skills must be exceptional.

People Management and People Enabling

The other soft skills that the project manager must have concern the conflict resolution, team development, and mentoring skills. Conflicts are inevitable in teams as well as with other stakeholders. Hence, the project manager has to be a skilled negotiator and an astute troubleshooter.

Further, the project manager has to inculcate teamwork and team bonding and hence, the team development skills must be exemplary. Apart from this, the project manager has to mentor new recruits and those employees who show high potential and pass on some of the tips and the strategies that made the project manager grow to the present position with the objective that the employees with potential would also grow in a similar manner.

Closing Thoughts

One of the skills that we have touched upon briefly was the customer interfacing skills. Without this skill, project managers might as well find another role for themselves as customer interfacing is one of the key areas of project management.

Including the internal stakeholder management, customer interfacing is all about how well the project manager handles customer complaints, proactively prevents customer complaints, and achieves customer delight and customer wow that go beyond customer satisfaction.

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Project Management