In my 15 years of IT experience, I’ve worked with a number of project managers and leaders before becoming one myself. The great project managers separate themselves by developing a specific set of skills that I’ve shared with you here.
Communication. This is a no-brainer. Project managers who cannot effectively communicate are DOA. As a PM, you need to be able to communicate the right messages to the right people, but also in a way that will allow them to clearly understand the message. In the world of IT there is a lot of translation that needs to be done from the minds of the business experts to the keyboards of the programmers writing the code. Having a PM who can truly understand the risks, issues and effectively communicate those to the stakeholders in a way that everyone receives the same message is vital to keeping project communications consistent. One of my future posts will dive into this aspect in much greater detail.
Decision Making. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield speak at a PMI conference several years back where he discussed decision making and how critical it is to have someone in a leadership position be able to make difficult decisions. He cited occurrences on the space shuttle where critical decision making was essential not only to success, but to survival of the crew. While IT project managers likely won’t face dire decisions of that magnitude there are rarely days where project managers are not forced to make decisions that will impact the project. Decision making is a perishable skill which means that to get good at it you need practice!
Relationship Building. Every project has stakeholders. The very definition of a stakeholder is someone who has a vested interest in the outcome (notice I didn’t say “success”) of the project. This means that has the project gets bigger, the number of stakeholders associated with a project increases (sometimes exponentially). Building and maintaining relationships is often overlooked as a by-product of simply showing up to the office. Great project managers identify key stakeholders (business unit leaders, support staff leads just to name a few) and build positive relationships with them so that when the time comes to lean on them for support, you will have a much greater chance of being able to count on them.
By having these three skills mastered in your tool belt and by surrounding yourself with great team members, you will be setting the stage for success in your project deliveries.