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By Sanjay Khatnani, Managing Partner, J2 Solutions

There is so much buzz in our industry about “soft” or interpersonal skills, and it’s for a good reason. These skills include communication, motivation and organization, among other highly valuable people skills. Soft skills are no longer optional for project managers. As team leaders, the success of the project depends on their ability to delegate and manage all aspects of the project. Soft skills are what make teams run efficiently. After-all, it’s people who make up the team.

While technical skills, or “hard skills”, are the main reason why companies hire candidates for the position they are in, soft skills are becoming just as vital. Like Vijay mentioned in last month’s Thought Leadership post, if a candidate  needs to develop their technical skills further, they can easily do so with training. In fact, they should: most companies offer several opportunities for employees to grow their understanding of technical aspects of their positions.

More and more companies also offer opportunities to develop soft skills like listening, communicating and delegating tasks; however, soft skills are more inherent traits, and today’s project managers need to be well rounded individuals with a good balance of both skill sets.

So, what are the key factors that make up a well-balanced project manager? It comes down to having technical skills mixed with emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or EI, is displayed through soft skills. There are many different examples of soft skills and while it isn’t always easy to put your finger on them, as humans we know them when we see them. For instance, when you’re in the presence of a “people person”, they make you feel at ease. You find you are just as curious to learn about about them as they are about you-  That’s an example of soft skills in action!

These are the few soft skills that are vital for the well-rounded project manager of today:

Communication. A project manager is the communication agent who is conduit to all parties. This is one of the main reasons why they need to be excellent communicators both in written and verbal interactions. If something important needs to be addressed via email, are you clear and to the point? This is often an overlooked communication skill. Because we are a society of quick email interactions with an “onto the next” mindset, important information can easily be lost in translation.

Managing unanticipated obstacles is part of the job description. When something critical is happening, like the development is behind due to lack of funds, how can you mitigate? It takes more than a technical solution to address the needs of a management position. And more than that, it takes teamwork, which brings me to the next key factor:

Trust Building. It’s crucial that the project manager is a person the team has trust with. Not only does the team need to trust in that person as the team leader, but they need to be able to feel that they can come to them for support or any internal issues that may arise. If they can’t, tension and resentment can build and can potentially jeopardize the success of the project.

Resolution Management. Can you cool down a problematic situation for the sake of the project and the people? Reactive leaders usually create more tension for everyone involved. What about escalating a situation if need be? It takes a good person to be able to do that. Some people may find this part challenging or avoid having to make difficult decisions altogether. When a crisis arises, passive action will only make the project, and team moral, suffer. Even if a person is a visionary strategist, if he isn’t a leader and a team player, there are bound to be problems.

If you want to further develop your soft skills, start with patience. A leader who has the ability to hold their thoughts for a few seconds before speaking, is much more responsible, or “able to respond” to any situation that arises. Patience coupled with someone who has trust built with their team, will make it easier to deal with conflict resolution.

In today’s competitive hiring market companies are interested in candidates who communicate well, build trust and resolve conflicts with ease. They also are looking for candidates that are a great fit for their company culture and get along well with others. They are self-aware, socially aware and have great human skills , along with having the technical skills needed. Soft skills apply to almost all job positions, but when it comes to Project Management, they are a necessity.

 

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