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7 crucial skills every Project Manager should have

Project management skillsIt is one thing to lead a team of people with similar expertize. It is a whole other to handle projects that involve a medley of team members from various backgrounds, coming together to accomplish a goal in a set amount of time, with a set number of resources, a set number of people and finally of course a set amount of budget.

A Project Manager, alternatively referred to as the PM (not to be confused with the PM), has the responsibility to assure successful completion of projects involving all that and more.

Most employee and managerial skills apply for project managers too. And hence we will recommend reading these articles for your enlightenment, while adding some more to the already full course menu.

  • Key Skills for Managers and Employees lists out all the possible soft skills, you should possess, before stepping out of the elevator and into the office floor.
  • Interpersonal Skills make employee compatibility and work environment sunnier. Let’s say, without them, you might as well be interviewing for an entry level position in hell.
  • Leadership and People Skills are quite obviously necessary to let you rule and be nice about it at the same time.
  • Time Management keeps you away from making a mess of your job. ‘Coz without it your very best intentions may go to waste. A numbness to the ticking clock can slow down progress. Delayed projects cost more and are worth much less than timely ones. Time vigilance should be your middle name.
  • Self Management takes care of you. It helps you to manage your work stress and protect yourself from falling into a deadly routine. It gives you the essential self discipline to do your job well.
  • Coaching gift helps you to train, motivate and guide your employees thereby making your job a lot less burdensome, over time.

With those brief insights, we urge you to read the individual articles for a more meaningful look. And hoping that the teaser reached your sensibilities, we will move on to the skills particularly useful for a project manager.

Let’s listify!

1. Technically Sound

You don’t need to be a know-it-all but you certainly need to know how everything connects and comes together. What are the goals of the project? Which software platform should your team be working on? What kind of training is required for the tasks? Would you be able to involve yourself in the task and not be lost at sea?

Not only does an awareness garner you respect, it also lets you know the pitfalls and risks way before the experts decide to let you know. It puts everything, starting from resource allocation to time management, into perspective.

It is the difference between committing to tasks, people and deadlines with informed knowledge as against letting your daily horoscope rule your day to day decision making.

2. Finding the right resources

It is upon the PM to find the right people who can make magic happen. They need to be well aware of the capabilities and also smell talent from floors away. Delegation is an art. One of the ways to find the right people is to have an alert mind, aware of the who’s-who who can fit your tasks.

Step two would be to negotiate with their managers to let you steal them away from their teams. And if that is not all, you will also need to be able to recognize the trainings required to get the project moving.

3. People Management

That brings us to people management. Clearly, you will be handling a team of diverse members with a single mission. You will be needed to constantly communicate, listen, resolve conflicts and negotiate with the stakeholders whenever faith in the project comes in doubt.

You will be needed to see if each of them has the help they need to accomplish their job. Are they overworked, do they have all the technical information and resources handy, do they need more staplers or is the coffee inventory dwindling? All part of your job!

4. Problem Solving Skill

You have everything perfectly scheduled, organized and planned. But when has that ever stopped even the best laid plans from running into personal or professional roadblocks? It is your ability to recognize the problem, get to its root and find a resolution, which sets you apart from just any other employee. And of course, doing it all without pulling hairs.

A manager’s mettle is tested the most in times of crisis. Find the bug, make a decision to tackle it and move on. Your customer is not going to be in the mood to hear what all went wrong. It is always about the results.

5. Risk Management

Yes it is always about the results. And that is why you’ve got to have the answers to the what ifs. Even before they actually do happen. It is like having a healthy respect for Murphy’s law – the time tested law which has shown us that you should never be too smug about your Plan A. Risk Management is not just for the cynics. It is about identifying possible pitfalls and brainstorming strategies to keep those pitfalls from derailing your project.

In other words, keeping your Plan B-Z ready for the crucial and the potential problem areas. You see, it is not for the cynic in you but rather the part of you which wants to keep your faith in optimism alive no matter what!

6. Cost Management

Watch your project wallet from time to time. Your plan, to begin with, would have taken the cost breakdown into consideration. But at the risk of sounding like a nagging aunt reiterating the same warning, things go wrong and watch your step! With all your back up plans and problem solving, resource adding and schedule delays, you may run into the most damning problem of all – the overrun budget!

You should keep a small portion of your brain always crunching the numbers, in the background, and let it send you warning twitches whenever you start getting close to 80% of the task budget. Hey, if you have money to spare, it will only show up in the year end kudos bonus. Well, at least the pat on the back will.

7. Watch for the details

Follow up. Your constraints of limited time, people, money and nerves will keep you from sitting back and solving the Cosmo quiz, after handing over individual tasks. Set some mini-goals and make sure everyone is on the same clock. If you see a problem, go back a few on this list and practice your problem solving skills.

Remember, this is way different from micromanaging. You are not going to be nit picking on your team. Rather this will be a wholly self regulating exercise. It will help you change plans strategically, based on new demands, and also be ready with quick updates when your boss and paycheck signer asks you the loaded question – Whats up?

Project management requires seasoned skills. While most people are either good at following instructions or perhaps even getting creative and becoming experts in one job function, a PM has a daunting task of building a final product from its abstract beginnings. We hope these skills prepares future project managers to face the challenges that come with the job of making projects happen.

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Rakhi Acharyya
About Rakhi Acharyya
Rakhi is a freelance writer, a Physics PhD from Michigan State University, an ex-teacher and a former employee of Corporate America. Follow her on Twitter.

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