The project management competencies required to successfully plan and execute an initiative are well known, but does your team also have these soft skills that will help them get your next project to the finish line?
Being able to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholder groups. Though teamwork is already a priority, as far as soft skills, for many project groups, some personality types and working styles can make developing a truly collaboration-friendly environment a difficult endeavor. Team members who understand the value of partnerships and are adept at making them work—even if it’s only done informally—are true assets. Good collaborators know their team’s strengths and weaknesses, and they are skilled at forming alliances that help augment any gaps. They also have a knack for knowing what everyone wants to get out the partnership. This insight helps them ensure the collaboration is successful on all fronts, which in turn enables them to build a good network of possible partners for future projects.
An ability to have empathy for the challenges that others impacted by the project will experience. The final results of a project are usually expected to be largely positive, but those on the project team need to remember there may be some stakeholders who see a handful of negative effects along the way. These are often related to things such as short-term work disruptions, but there are occasionally long-term impacts which could be much more significant. Projects that include facility closures or relocations sometimes mean that a portion of employees will lose their jobs. Even a change in workflows or daily processes have the potential to translate into diminished productivity in the near term as everyone becomes accustomed to the new way of doing things. If stakeholders feel their concerns aren’t being acknowledged or that PMs are acting without regard for their situation, their satisfaction with the project’s results could be low and their engagement (and cooperation) is likely to drop as the effort moves forward.
Strong communication skills are also imperative. Members must be able to communicate a variety of details—status, timing for planned events, expectations, concerns—accurately. E-mails should be concise without sounding curt or dismissive. Communications also need to be regular enough to maintain stakeholder engagement even during periods when there may not be much visible work happening.
Along the same lines, another important soft skill is the ability to listen. Team members shouldn’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions when they interact with stakeholders. Those who can put aside any preconceived notions and actively listen to stakeholders’ questions and concerns will contribute to the team’s reputation and long-term customer satisfaction metrics.
Facilitation is another skill that can be crucial in driving a project to a successful and timely completion. It’s not uncommon that stakeholders will have disagreements—about the initiative’s scope, priorities, resource allocations, you name it—and if the team can’t deal with these issues efficiently, the entire project could grind to a halt. While facilitation itself is considered a hard skill, the ability to handle conflict effectively requires a number of soft skills if things are to reach a good conclusion. A facilitator needs to maintain awareness of the organization’s culture, for example. Each company handles disagreements differently, and someone’s position in the reporting hierarchy isn’t always a deciding factor in determining how heavily their input is weighted. Stakeholders may also have other needs that are sometimes overlooked or not carefully considered. Language and cultural barriers are just two of the factors that could hinder traditional facilitation discussions if team members don’t recognize them and adjust their approach to fit the situation.