Forget the usual list of project manager skills and what we’re supposed to do on the projects we manage. Forget the list of items in the normal project manager job description. Let’s consider what we really need to do on projects. What it takes to get to the end of the day, the end of the month and the end of the engagement and be successful on the projects we are managing. What are those things we need to do? What do – or what should – good project managers bring to the table to lead the teams, projects, customers and stakeholders through the chaos that is each of the projects they are managing at any given time? The real down and dirty skills and things we must do? I’ll give you my list of a few of the key skills that I think we need…please share your own thoughts after reading…
The project manager must be a person of integrity. Honesty is key. Walk the walk and talk the talk. It will be hard for any project manager to gain and retain the respect of his team if they see him being dishonest with the project client, demonstrating omission of key information to executive management, or simply not sticking to their word on things they have said they will do or not performing their own work as they have asked and expected others to perform their work. Gain and keep respect…it’s key to a cohesive team and to customer confidence for the duration of a project engagement.
Time management skills.
This is fairly obvious, but you would be surprised at how many project managers are actually sloppy in this area. I’m not saying they can’t hand out time-specific tasks and manage those. What they seem to have trouble with is staying on time with meetings, status calls, getting information to people who request it, etc. Keeping schedules and keeping meetings aligned with planned times helps gain team and stakeholder cooperation and participation. And we all know that’s critical to project success.
The great project manager is ready, willing, and able to conduct formal and informal negotiations on the project. These negotiations happen all the time and may involve department managers (negotiating with them for resources), senior management (negotiating with them for resources, equipment, project funding, or additional time), or the customer (negotiating time or change orders). The project manager who is well versed and confident in this area will find greater success.
Decision making skills.
This is probably an obvious one too, but it’s harder than it sounds. Anyone can make a good decision with enough information and a bunch of people around them who can provide input. But what about those times when there isn’t much information available, there are no key stakeholders to call upon for help, and a critical vendor choice or change order decision has to be made on the spot? That’s where the decisive and confident project manager with good decision making skills will shine. That may mean the difference between delivering a key deliverable – or even the entire project – on time or delivering it late.
This one may make you go, “huh?” But I mean it. We are dullards. We are creative individuals. And we have to be leaders of people. Every day. They project manager who comes in with that certain swagger – not the kind that puts people off but rather the kind that draw them near and entices them to listen and follow – may become out-of-the-box great project managers before they enter their first task durations into the project schedule. Project management is all about leading, communication and organization and all of that is easier if you have the type of personality that causes people to listen and follow.
Summary / call for input
This is just a list of five key things that good project managers need to bring to the table. The list could go on and on, but these are critical ones in the real project management world. What about our readers? What are your thoughts on this list? What would you add to it? What do you disagree with? Please share your thoughts and discuss.