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Essential Soft Skills for Great Project Managers

Written by Andy Trainer – Thu 17 Jan 2013


soft-skills-pillows

It's certainly the case that to really succeed in Project Management you need to have a solid technical knowledge and be able to use the tools and services available to you effectively. These Hard Skills of the sort you can learn on our Project Management training courses are vital because without them a Project Manager cannot really guide their team nor fully understand the details of the project.

However, what makes a truly great Project Manager is the ability to balance these technical hard skills with interpersonal, or soft, skills. Soft skills needed for Project Management are often difficult to nail down, with no real definitive answer as to what is required and what is desired.

Here's what we think are the 4 essential Project Management soft skills:

1/ Communication

So many issues arise during projects due to bad communication. This may be the Project Manager misunderstanding the requirements of the Project Board or team members not being given clear instructions.

Make sure you have the ability to both listen and explain. Listening really means active listeningnot assuming based on past experience or pretending to accept their way while secretly planning to continue with your own methods.

Simple words at first and then more detailed points go along way when trying to explain a course of action or reason for one to team members. Nip any misunderstandings in the bud by asking for feedback. Get them to offer any problems they see or clarifications they require, upon explanation rather than days or weeks later, when some damage may have already been done.

2/ Decision-Making

You are the Project Manager - Manager being the operative word. You are responsible for making the final calls on the big things. Be brave; don't shy away from making tough-decisions - it should be something you thrive on.

Even more important is your ability to decide on the nitty-gritty aspects of the Project. Project Managers, unlike some other types of manager, can be directly involved with the smaller decisions because even the small decisions can have huge ramifications for the project overall.

soft-skills-fairness3/ Fairness

While being brave and making tough-decisions is vital, doing so without gaining the advice of your team first would be both strange and stupid. Sometimes however, you'll have to be able to tell a member of your team that they're wrong.

Calling them out on this in a public environment or in the wrong way could create tension and negatively impact their output, so instead it's important to be tactful and diplomatic. Having a quiet private word, for example, will make sure you aren't perceived as a bully by your team.

Take all views on board to make up your mind. You can't say fairer than that.

4/Flexibility

Project can change with the click of finger. If you aren't able to adapt to a sudden closure or budget cut or recent technological developments, you're in the wrong game.

You have to be able to go with the flow whilst remaining resolute and strong. It may sound hard but with practice and experience, you'll be able to change tact without batting an eyelid and still remain committed to the task at hand.

Last Word

This is only a selection of the essential soft skills needed to really succeed in the industry. If you're new to Project Management, you can learn more about soft skills on our Introduction to Project Management Course.

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