Successful project managers are in high demand as organizations strive to deliver successful projects at a faster pace in increasingly complex environments. There are a few critical skills that make project managers successful –
Subject Matter Knowledge
- Effective project managers understand the inner workings of their organizations and know enough about their products/services to hold intelligent conversations with (1) customers, (2) stakeholders, (3) suppliers, and (4) functional leaders within the organization.
- The best project managers are excellent listeners, and view exchanges with the above groups as learning opportunities.
- Project managers that are new to an organization set aside learning time each week to better understand and interact with the four groups noted above. This learning investment is paid back many times over in the form of good decisions, effective meetings, and successful project delivery (and fewer headaches!)
Project Management Tools
- Effective project managers understand how, when, and why to deploy project management disciplines at different points in a project. Examples of these tools include developing project charters, planning, scheduling, vendor management, risk assessment, budgeting, change management, and project control.
Interpersonal and Leadership Skills
- Successful project managers know how to motivate people who do not work for them, and keep teams working effectively together.
- Quite simply, effective project managers tend to be as “likeable” as they are assertive.
- Project managers create structure from chaos by using specific tools such as charters, risk assessments, Gantt charts, decision matrices, and many other tools throughout the project.
- Steven Covey’s quote, “The enemy of the best is the good,” applies especially well to project managers. They understand that there are countless good things to be involved in, but there are a vital few best things that must come first each day. Successful project managers are very good at saying, “I’m sorry but I can’t support that right now.”
- Successful project managers also respect their teammates’ time. Project managers run efficient meetings, which results in good attendance by all parties over the long run.
- Project managers communicate clearly, concisely, and frequently. They know, for example, when a simple email will suffice, or when a “working document” like a project charter will better serve their purpose.
- There are times when interpersonal skills are not enough to garner the support needed from the organization on one or more project tasks. In these cases, project managers use senior leadership support to get things done. Project managers are very good at scheduling update forums with senior leadership and functional leaders, to ensure that all business functions are making the project a priority.
Comfortable Running a Meeting
- As a project manager you will spend a lot of time orchestrating meetings. As a result, you must be comfortable running meetings with wide variety of audiences. Here are three tips for success: (1) stop thinking about how you are coming off in the meeting, and think about the project’s success instead, (2) organize ahead – state meeting objectives at the start of the meeting and do your best to keep the meeting on track to achieve those objectives, (3) know when to lean on others for answers – as a project manager you will likely not be the subject matter expert in the room, and no one should expect you to be.