Inside every agency, many different types of people manage projects everyday even if they are not project managers; some because they were told to, some because they had nobody else to do it for them, some because they wanted to try it and were given a chance.
However, what does it actually take to be a good project manager? To be someone who can make sure projects run the way they should, someone who will bring added value to those projects? Everyone has different opinions on the subject, and a lot of skills are required for this role, but here is my personal top 5 soft skills:
Empathy: It may seem strange for some that this is first, but hear me out. A project manager spends an average of 90% communicating with many different clients, team members, and external resources. This means that you need people skills (2nd point) but to be able to manage the different kinds of personality you encounter, not to mention in many different situations (some involving more stress than others), is hard, and beyond being able to communicate, you have to be able to put yourself in the other’s shoes to try to understand them, and communicate accordingly.
For example, it’s easy to politely refuse a request from a client, and most of the times, but it’s all in the words you use, and in trying to find an alternate solution to the client’s problem. Your reflex should be to think “This client needs this or maybe his boss won’t be happy, maybe another solution could do the trick?.” and avoid thinking “Stop asking me to add features or pay up!”.
That’s why, in my opinion, empathy is really important.
Interpersonal skills: As mentioned above, 90% of the time is used communicating, so it’s natural that being able to communicate is very important! It complements greatly “empathy”; if you can understand the others but can’t talk to them, it’s not necessarily really useful. You must be able to be clear and flexible in your approach, and have the capacity for conflict resolution of any kind.
Leadership: There are a lot of articles out there that talk about management VS leadership, I do not want to get into the details of that here, but want to mention that there is a very large difference between managing a team, and leading one.
A project manager may tell people to do their tasks, but a great project manager will help/motivate the people to do them. A leader shows the way (makes the path clear), rather than simply pointing the way to go. This will raise team motivation, efficiency, and morale when they work with this project manager.
Organized: A project manager manages a lot information, spread through several projects at a time. A great amount of money is at stake, and a lot of people follow him. One missing word in a message can change it completely and break a project.
Therefore, it’s important to be very organized in everything: documents, messages, emails, schedules, etc. The project manager must be able to control all the project’s information, to the last detail, and by being organized, he will be able to find the necessary information quickly when needed.
Calm: Whatever happens during the project (angry client, conflict between team members, task to do for yesterday, etc.), the project manager must always remain calm, and resolve everything that comes at the project.
Being calm will help him resolve conflicts, find solutions in times of need, talk to the client politely no matter what’s being said, and so much more. The team will look up to him and will even more motivated to stick with him than if they see him panic.
There are many other important aspects of a great project manager (pro-activity, positive, curious, etc.) but this is my top 5 attributes for a great project manager. What is yours?