As discussed in our previous entries on this subject, both intuition as well as hard data point to a direct correlation between honing soft skills and successful project management. But how, exactly, do soft skills make a difference, and, more specifically, how do project managers use superior people skills to their advantage? Project managers that excel in applying soft skills:
- ‘Hear’ what the customer does not say. Their projects are more likely to deliver what the customer needs but cannot articulate. Project managers who do not listen for emotional content as well as business requirements do not recognize hidden yet important customer needs.
- ‘Ask’ better questions of stakeholders. Projects are more successful when they are designed around well understood objectives and expectations. Project managers with weak people skills often fail to gather enough information at the beginning of a project. As a result, they may execute projects based on their own assumptions.
- ‘Drive’ project teams appropriately. The majority of project managers in corporate America do not have direct authority over their teams, so their only means of ‘getting things done’ is through influence. Helping others feel cared about, recognized, and encouraged is directly related to productivity.
- ‘Deliver’ higher quality projects. They are able to assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of themselves and their team and leverage those strengths to attain the very best results. Project managers who cannot do this are often unable to address shortfalls in project quality, and may try to overcome problems with inappropriate methods (e.g., defaulting to more technical training even if the team is already competent).
There are, of course, many more that could be listed, but you get the idea. Tough things to measure, but those who do them well know the true power and influence they can wield.
Ben Snyder is the CEO of Systemation, (www.systemation.com), a business analysis and project management training and consulting company that has been training professionals since 1959. Systemation is a results-driven training and consulting company that maximizes the project-related performance of individuals and organizations. Known for instilling highly practical, immediately usable processes and techniques, Systemation has proven to be an innovative agent of business transformation for many government entities and Fortune 1000 companies, including Verizon, Barclays Bank, JPM Chase, Mattel, State of Oregon, Travelers, Bridgestone, Amgen and Whirlpool.