12 Soft Skills That Make IT Project Managers Unstoppable

    The increasingly competitive job market demonstrates that performing only based on hard skills alone is no longer sufficient. In project management reality, hard skills contain creating work breakdown structures, managing a project budget, earned value assessments and critical path charts. All these skills require technical background and applying professional knowledge and tools to perform well. What are the soft skills of leadership and how they help to uncover project managers' facilities?

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    Soft skills (also known as “people skills") are also important, their evolving becoming more and more popular among jobs in all industries. Soft skills provide the real edge to managers who have learned to use them well.

    Hard skills and soft skills definition


    Hard skills allow the acquirement of certain technical competencies in our chosen industry. Actually, this technical background is a core ingredient for every project. This typically includes proficiency-programming skills, competency with project management or experience with architecting systems. Technical proficiency, certifications, and scope of experience are the most common basis for being hired.

    The best thing about soft skills is that they help us to best apply our technical basis within a particular context.

    Soft skills in the workplace supply and elevate hard skills. That leads to innovation and creativity in today's fast-paced environment.

    Often they are considered as secondary to the hard skills when hiring. However, the obsession with hard skills over soft skills can stem from a need to be focused to drive immediate progress.

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    Here’s the list of soft skills required for successful project management.

    12 most demanded soft skills for project managers


    Leadership


    Just as every crew has its pilot, as the strongest army has its own commander, so any team that is focused on results should have its own leader. Being a leader is not just about creating a feel-good vibe and motivate everyone, it's more about solving everyday challenges.

    Successful leadership is essential for project managers. It means they should be able to lead and manage teams, set the vision, motivate employees and serve them, coach and inspire all team members.

    Effective project managers lead from strategic and operational perspectives, they communicate the vision, evaluate performance and make sure all team members have powerful tools, money, and other required resources to perform well.

    Leading people means to serve them by taking responsibility for how to make the team’s life better and projects successful. The key leadership skill in project management regards to leading, rather than just managing. You should provide a vision and a project roadmap for empowering your team to get there.

    Trust building


    There is no leadership without trust. A real leader is someone who has earned the team’s trust and can trust the team without hesitation.

    Being transparent about decisions and getting people involved in the decision-making process, project managers can quickly achieve success. They should be interested in team members’ growth and help people achieve their particular goals.

    Communication


    The ability to communicate well, understand and being understood is also crucial for people involved in project management.

    Effective communication is the key to any relationship's door. This skill of a project manager has an impact not only on the team but the customers and all stakeholders as well.

    Poor communication undermines a project’s successful outcome, while clear communication is fundamentally about being understood and maintaining a dialogue, not a one-way message. Therefore, it is very important for project managers to select a high-quality online collaboration tool and choose individual “keys” for each employee.

    Active listening


    This is not an innate skill, but a technique that can and should be developed day by day. Listening is directly aligned with communication. Actually, it's not difficult to provide constant feedback to the speaker, by re-stating what he/she has understood.

    Good listening allows project managers to learn more about their customers and team members and be more engaged. Mastering this skill creates mutual trust among all parties involved.

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    In order to improve active listening, you should focus on really understanding what is being spoken, and relaying back the communicated info by phrasing in your own words.

    Team spirit


    Projects may involve different people including customers, vendors, sponsors, consultants, quality assurance team, etc. The team that works on a project work interacts with most of these people, so it is important for them to feel safe and trust each other.

    For any manager, it is important not only to be a team leader but also to be a full-fledged member of this group. That's why they should be able to arrange team-building exercises and problem-solving activities to develop a project environment that helps people bond with each other.

    Project managers should know how and when to involve people in decision making, keep the team in the know-how of customer’s business-related news, resolve possible conflicts and increase the feeling of a strong team spirit.

    Motivation


    Any employee will stay motivated if they know that their work is making a sense. Project managers should care about various personal and professional needs and goals of their team members and be able to satisfy them on that front.

    It's not only about financial compensation, but also about the sense of accomplishment by doing challenging work, hierarchical growth or getting recognition of the hard work.

    Influencing


    Being able to get people to change their minds is another valuable skill for project managers.
    Influence is power and achieving more influence in the workplace can be critical for the project's success.

    It may help you work more effectively and make you more respected as well as make your voice to be heard and acknowledged. However, gaining that influence takes some time and efforts.

    There is a thin line between influence and manipulation, so try to figure them out and use the relationship with team members effectively to ensure they collaborate well on making the right decisions and achieving all project goals.

    Decision-making


    Decisions can be strategic or emergency, routine or operational.

    Every project manager has own set of criteria that assists when it comes to making a judgment. During the decision-making process, they should pay attention to how others will be affected and consult their colleagues if needed.

    There are some basic decision-making techniques:

    • Authoritative (command) when the decision of the project manager is final.
    • Consultation when team members and stakeholders are involved.
    • Consensus – the decision that appeals to the majority of the team is taken.
    • Random decisions often made with the coin-flip method.

    Negotiation


    Negotiation skills are also required for project managers who should always ensure that they listen to both the parties and make decisions in a fair manner. They can negotiate with almost everyone and every day.

    Finding a middle ground is a mandatory element of the good negotiation process. You may often face competing interests, and your job is to get these different interests on the same page, accomplishing project goals.

    Conflict management


    Only the ideal world of project management implies the lack of conflicts and contentious situations. In reality, conflicts are part of any system where people are involved.

    Conflict management might be one of the core soft skills any project manager must master.
    They may face various reasons for a conflict to surface on the project team: from the competition, communication gaps, unclear requirements, to personnel policies, etc.

    Well-managed conflicts can bring people together and make them more focused and productive.

    Risk management


    Any project may go beyond the plan and project managers are not wizards. Sometimes it's really hard to foresee and prevent risks before they become an issue. However, PMs should try their best to stay on top of their projects by controlling risks, and actively mitigating against them as far as they can.

    Risk management is really about your professional experience. The earlier you identify risks, the better your chances of avoiding and their occurrence.

    Coaching


    A good leader is a good coach. Coaching helps employees discover their own potential and elevate from their current skill level to the next step. To be an effective coach, a project manager should be able to help people change their mindset about a situation and help perform better.

    When people know that a coach is helping them, they take additional steps to achieve their professional goals.

    Concluding thoughts


    For project managers, it should be equally important to develop hard skills and evolve soft skills and abilities.

    Create excellent project plans, manage budgets, estimate time and effort, but also don't forget to keep your team organized, informed and happy. Soft skills will help you to become the best project manager you can be.

    What are your favorite project management soft skills? How are you trying to develop them? Feel free to comment below.
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    Comments 2

      +1
      This was an interesting read. Thanks for the post
        +1
        Team spirit is my favorite, I think it is essential for Unstoppable Greatest Projects) So, the next best management skills as for me are Leadership, Trust building, Communication, Active listening, and Coaching. BTW, Awesome article, thanks!

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