IMPMO: In My Project Manager’s Opinion

Soft Skills Development – As an instructor of project management principles and best practices, I am regularly asked about the “softer” side of being a project manager:

  • How do I handle X situation with a project team member?
  • How do I get a key stakeholder more engaged in my project?
  • How do I get my sponsor to accept my meeting requests?
  • I sent the stakeholders an email, isn’t that enough communications?

For many of us that found our way into project management (i.e. accidental project manager), we saw that we appreciated the short-term project structure and seeing outcomes in our work. We like the idea of workflows, Gantt charts, checklists, and deliverables. While many of us focused on developing our technical skillsets to be a competent project manager, we oftentimes miss the opportunity to also work on our soft skills. Why a focus on soft skills? In addition to the fact that the Project Management Institute, “the leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project management profession” has very recently emphasized the importance of leadership skills in their talent triangle, the development of leadership skills relies upon the development of soft skills. The commonly cited soft skills include:

  • Problem Solving

  • Conflict Resolution

  • Effective Communications

  • Emotional Intelligence

  • Negotiations

  • Critical Thinking

  • Active Listening.

Here are some salient points as to why soft skills development is important for your projects:

  • Customers – Of course the customer is our primary stakeholder focus when it comes to meeting project requirements. It is THEIR requirements that we have to meet and/or manage throughout the project lifecycle to ensure success. It is the soft skills of negotiation (ever had to negotiate elements of your schedule or the budget?), active listening, emotional intelligence, etc. that are often necessary to ensure good customer relationship management. As the project manager, you have to build trust and confidence within the customer, help them to understand the goals of the project, and get them to believe in your skills as the project manager to achieve those goals.

  • Teams – In this complex world, we are managing more complex projects. It is very rare to have a one-person project where you define the scope, resource it, and are the sole stakeholder or audience. For many of us, we rely on other team members, official or unofficial, to aid in the implementation of the project plan. These team members need not only a competent project manager to keep tasks in line, but they also need a leader who can offer guidance, inspiration, and provide recognition of a job well done. And when necessary, team members want and need to be told—well before the project is over—where they can improve upon their skills. That’s where soft skills such as effective communications and conflict resolution are important. As the project manager responsible for a team, you play a vital role in team member productivity and retention. The inability to address team member issues because you did not spend time developing your soft skills often leads to you spending a bulk of your time replacing project staff or checking over their shoulders.

  • Yourself – Soft skills are good for your soul. It may not be chicken soup for your soul, but developing the skills to resolve conflict, manage your emotions, problem solve and communicate effectively to stakeholders can boost your self-confidence, lead to creativity, and enhance your relationships.

The options to develop your soft skills are limitless. They range from attending seminars, taking the time to network, listening to webinars offered by national and local chapters of project management, to connecting with a coach or mentor. Do a Google search, I’m sure you’ll find something worthwhile.

How do you develop your soft skills?

Need help finding resources? I’m happy to help with that too.

Crystal is the principal of Mosaic Resource Group, a talent development consulting firm focused on improving the project management capabilities of healthcare and human services organizations. Crystal has over a decade of experience in healthcare management and project management. She is a versatile project manager, dynamic trainer, and results-oriented engagement manager. Along with being a certified project management professional, Crystal is a Fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, a certified Strategic Workforce Planner and a member of the Association for Talent Development.

How to contact Crystal: ☏ 240-203-9177 ✉ info@mosaicresourcegroup.com.

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