Project Management and Business Soft Skills
It’s been mentioned on many occasions, project management fundamentally is to deliver, to deliver successfully people skills are required. Getting the best out of resources ensures a better project experience and every chance of success. The ability to get the best out of people and resources is possessing business soft skills, but what are they?
Soft skills, otherwise known as interpersonal or people skills are essentially communication abilities that contribute towards successful office interactions and working relationships. They incorporate a wide range of things including personal attributes, personality traits, and social cues; soft skills are similar to emotions or insights that allow the project manager to ‘read’ colleagues.
Technical (or hard) skills can easily be taught on the job if the employee is willing to learn. On the other hand, interpersonal (or soft) skills are much harder to master as they are heavily dependent on the type of personality. In most projects, technical skills alone are not enough to ensure a successful outcome. But if there is the perfect blend of both soft and hard skills, there is every chance of delivering the project as per scope.
At some point, nearly every project will require some form of interaction with others, whether that’s speaking to customers over the phone, in a face-to-face meeting with clients or simply interacting with other teams in the office.
Strong soft skills ensure a productive and healthy project work environment – vital attributes for project managers in a competitive working world.
Other reason soft skills are so important to project managers is that they are easily transferable; a project manager with strong interpersonal skills is likely to be more adaptable and flexible than one who isn’t so adept. They are also a sign that the individual has experienced a broad range of situations, bringing diversity of thought to the business and project.
Excellent communication skills can make an enormous difference to the project, but how can improving soft skills occur?
The best place to start is simple: by listening and watching. Observing how others in the office and project team interact with colleagues and management. It is a great way of gaining a better understanding of what works in the team. Once this is understood, try to replicate it and practise it in day-to-day life – at work and in free time! Beyond listening, there are numerous ways you can easily improve the strength of your interpersonal skills.
- Always try to remain positive: As hard as it can seem at the time, it’s important to not allow negativity to encroach on interactions at work. Attempt to clear your mind and find the positive aspects of any situation.
- Don’t let your emotions get the better of you: Emotions and empathy are important in the workplace, but it’s even more important that you have control over them. Whether you’re irritated or happy, always try to express yourself in a calm and patient manner.
- Recognise the expertise of colleagues: Everyone wants to be appreciated; showing that they are recognised and appreciate their talents is an effective way of building trust with co-workers.
- Show your interest in people: Our lives all continue beyond work. Getting to know more about your colleagues develops and solidifies your relationships, giving you a better understanding of them as a person – which can be useful when it comes to asking for favours!
- Try to identify the best thing about every person at work: It’s natural that you won’t get along well with every single person in the project team, clients, customers or stakeholders, as we are all different in many ways. Instead of forming unshakable negative opinions of them, try to pick out one positive trait in their personalities and always remind yourself of it when communicating with them; it’s a great way to develop mutual respect.
- Be assertive: Show that you are confident about your abilities and don’t be afraid to back up your opinions. This said, there’s a fine line between being assertive and being stubborn.
- Be empathetic: It pays to put yourself in others’ shoes – this is perhaps the most effective way of broadening your perspective on interpersonal skills and being able to find resolutions that keep as many people happy as possible.
If you highlight your soft skills during project delivery and can identify where it is particularly needed, then you go a long way to forming good relationships. Let us know if you have been able to use soft skills to good effect when delivering projects, what soft skills you have learnt in your project management career. It would be great to hear from you, all the very best on your project management journey.