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Reflections on the Soft Side of Project Management
By Harry Hall

There is much debate about the importance of soft skills and hard skills for project managers. I believe PMs need both!

Many PMs find learning hard skills easier than soft skills. Think about it. Is it easier to learn how to develop project budget (a hard skill) or to learn to lead and influence others (soft skills)?

As we start 2014, I am reflecting how to improve critical soft skills. I have written out questions and comments from different facets of our integrated lives including fitness, family and friends, and projects. If we take care of the facets outside of work, we will put ourselves in a better position to lead projects at work and reduce our stress levels.

  1. What are your most significant time-wasters (e.g., TV, social media)? What will you do about them?
  2. Are you exercising a minimum of three times per week for twenty minutes, preferably longer? (Only 15% of Americans get this much exercise.)

  3. Are you getting up early to prepare for the day ahead?

  4. Do you have a quiet time each day? I like to do this early in the mornings. I use this time for reflecting, praying, blogging, journaling, and planning.

  5. Are you going to bed early enough to get at least seven and one-half hours of sleep per night?

  6. Are you watching your caffeine intake?

  7. Do you have a healthy diet?

  8. Are you investing an appropriate amount of time in your relationships outside of work (spouse, friends, extended family)?

  9. Do you meet with a trusted friend periodically to help you evaluate your priorities and commitments?

  10. Do you plan your week? Does your schedule consistently reflect your priorities for work and outside of work?

  11. Are you spending time with individuals who speak encouraging words and listen deeply?

  12. Do you say what you mean and mean what you say?

  13. What are you doing to increase your project management skills?

  14. Do you cast an impactful, meaningful, and memorable vision to your project teams? Does your teams know where you are going, how you will get there, and why you are going there?

  15. Do you consistently tell your team members that you value them? Visit with team members one-on-one and express your appreciation or send hand-written notes.

  16. Are you building trust with your team members through your character (integrity and good motives) and competency (skills, capabilities, and results)?

  17. Do you seek to connect each team member’s unique gifts and talents to challenging tasks that leverage their skills?

  18. Do you seek feedback from your stakeholders to ensure your actions are providing value?

  19. Do you celebrate success?

  20. Are you working to improve your public speaking and communication skills?

One of the great things about being a project manager is you never stop learning. Be intentional. Challenge yourself to develop a few soft skills in the next year.

Harry Hall, PMP, PMI-RMP, is the Director of Enterprise Risk Management at the Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, one of the largest domestic insurance companies in the state of Georgia. You can read more from Harry on his blog.

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