While many professionals develop their craft through advanced education and on the job experiences, there comes a time when an enhanced skill set and a new perspective about working with people is necessary in order to advance to the next level of performance. How do you move beyond this plateau? Are you ready to be more complete as a project manager?
Co-author Alfonso Bucero and I, through many years of highs and lows, came to believe that enhanced people skills and systemic thinking are keys to success…in any endeavor. Our work as consultants these days is to help people commit to and develop critical “soft” people skills.
Success in any environment largely depends upon completing successful projects, and successful projects get done by skilled project managers and teams, supported by effective project sponsors. Integration of knowledge and skills makes the difference in achieving optimized outcomes. Our goal is to share the concept of The Complete Project Manager—a person who integrates key people, team, business, organizational, and technical skills.
Many people are not aware of the need for them to change thinking and adopt leadership, influence, sales, and negotiating skills that had previously been overlooked or under applied. We find this to be especially true with technical professionals—those people who spend entire careers devoted entirely to mechanics of a profession. But it is possible to adapt and apply a broader skill set and thereby get recognized through achieving business outcomes that had heretofore eluded you.
You may embrace the concept of becoming more “complete”…but also harbor many “enemies of change”—such as not invented here, too busy, not enough time, cognitive blindness, natural reactive processes—that inhibit you from adopting better leadership and management practices. Some of these enemies might be ingrained beliefs, harbored over a lifetime of experiences. We cannot change those beliefs; we can, however, suggest that you tap internal motivational drives that guide where you want to go.
Consider a complex molecule as a metaphoric graphic for the complete project manager. The field of organic chemistry has produced an untold number of amazing results through creative compounding. As in life itself, unlimited combinations are possible for the molecule surrounding complete project managers. There are many ways to assemble successful outcomes. New possibilities will emerge by various combinations of skills.
We offer this “molecule” as a starting point. Use this tool as a guideline, metric, or outline. Score a personal portfolio of skills from 1 (poor) to 7 (excellent), starting from the inside out. Connect the lines and form a spider diagram. Reassess regularly to gauge progress. Here is a brief summary of each element:
Leadership and management skills are those vital visionary and “can do” competencies so necessary when in a position to influence colleagues, team members, upper managers, clients, and so forth. The complete project manager possesses the lead by example, delegation, charisma, teachability, respect, qualities of leadership, courage, listening, and relationship building skills to interact with people and achieve results. The complete project manager needs to be both a leader and manager—covering both what to do (vision) and how (execution).
Personal skills are those vital interaction competencies for dealing with people. The complete project manager possesses the aptitude, attitude, and networking skills to interact with people and achieve results; they are able to motivate and sustain engagement throughout project life cycles. Effective networking is a vital ingredient for success.
Humor and having fun is effective, productive, and memorable. A project manager’s toolkit is more complete when fun is on the agenda, and every day includes laughter. Life in general and projects specifically seem to flow better and accomplish more when people have fun doing whatever they are doing. People want to work together again when they know the experience includes having fun. Humor may happen through paying attention and making the commitment to the moments in projects that deserve a good laugh. Seek a fun path that lightens the load while remaining on target.
Project management skills: people admire project managers who display high competence spanning not only the project management process but also related and necessary disciplines. They are professionals always ready to learn and always moving one step beyond. They are people who overcome a fear of making mistakes, people able to recognize better ways to get the job done, and they are able to learn from successes and failures and from others. Competence is a key to credibility, and credibility is the key to influence others. Most team members will follow competent project managers.
Environment skills: complete project managers focus attention on creating project-friendly environmental conditions, consisting of culture, operating principles, structure, customs, procedures, and values. Be sensitive to the impact of culture on every project…and how to create an effective culture. Embrace chaos as a natural operating force. A firm grasp of purpose is the means to prosper in any environment. It is also important to take social responsibility for being a good citizen in the larger context of the surrounding environment.
Organizational skills: an imperative facing complete project managers in all organizations is to execute projects within “green” organizations that encourage project-based work. A “green” organization extends the physical, tangible thinking about environments into the non-physical, intangible relationships that affect working environments among people in an organization. "Green" is good, productive, and desirable, allowing people to work as natural, organic living systems. Eliminate pollutants and “toxic” actions that demotivate people and teams. Search with unrelenting curiosity for leading practices—a process, action, or procedure that has not yet gained recognition as a best practice but shows great potential as a better way to structure the organization and optimize results from project-based work.
Negotiating skills: the results delivered by projects depend upon what you negotiate. Everything is negotiable, both at work and in everyday lives. It is in your best interest, and for your team and organization, that you embrace negotiating as a requisite skill, learn the ten "rules"…and implement them dutifully. Negotiating is fun, and it is productive. As you develop negotiating skills via learning and practice, people come to respect you more rather than perceiving that you are challenging their professionalism. We find so often that simply asking for something during a discussion results in a better outcome. Get something in exchange for every concession.
Political skills: complete project managers understand the power structure in their organizations. Organizations by their nature are political. Clues to a power structure may come from an organizational chart, but how things get done goes far beyond that. Influence exists in people’s hearts and minds, where power derives more from legitimacy than from authority. Its presence occurs in the implementation of decisions. What gets accomplished and how comes under the purview of power and politics. Become politically sensitive. Assessing the environment, rethinking attitudes towards power and politics, and developing an effective political plan are foundation steps. Address the power structure in an organization, identify critical stakeholder levels of trust and agreement, develop a guiding coalition, and determine areas of focus.
Conflict management skills: conflict is ever present and may be a good thing. For effective decision-making in times of conflict, focus on goals and objectives, assess the depth and type of conflict, implement a checklist of steps to follow, depending on the situation, follow a decision-making process, involve team members, be creative, get closure, and follow through. Evaluate conflict through multiple frames and reframe project-based work decisions in areas beyond just the financials, such as impact on people development and quality of work.
Sales skills: know that you are continuously in sales cycles throughout project life cycles. Be not a victim of lost sales or opportunities. Embrace the sales process as the means to secure necessary commitments in a genuine manner worthy of a complete project manager. The classic sales approach, applicable to almost any environment, is to cover features, benefits, and advantages. Seek compelling wording and arguments. Ask questions, listen, and then focus on what the other party truly cares about. Follow a selling process that facilitates relationship building with buyers. Be dedicated to serve others and present to them what they really need. Probe for issues through carefully crafted, open-ended questions.\
Change management skills: the keys to dealing with change successfully are having a good attitude toward it and being prepared to meet it. Understand the change management process: create the conditions for change, make change happen, and make change “stick.” Change will happen whether you like it or not. Without change there can be no improvement. Complete project managers make a commitment to pay the price for change. Change needs to happen within you before it can happen around you. It is never too late to change.
Market and customer knowledge: all projects have a customer. Complete project managers take care to understand market forces and customer satisfaction issues that guide them on to successful projects. Apply servant leadership skills. Implement ethical practices in all interactions.
Your fate as a complete project manager is up to you. Our mission is to open doors, propose structures, and share thoughts, insights, experiences, and stories. As depicted in the ever expanding molecular structure of organic chemistry, as well as the potential of social networking, infinite combinations are possible. What will be your path? Which "molecules" will you integrate? Achieving completeness is an unending—and thoroughly satisfying—journey. The rest of the story is in your hands….
Randall L. Englund, MBA, BSEE, NPDP, CBM, is an author, speaker, trainer, professional facilitator, and consultant for the Englund Project Management Consultancy (www.englundpmc.com). He also facilitates project management seminars for the Project Management Institute as well as conducts courses for universities and other professional associations. He received the PMI Distinguished Contributions Award in 2013 for his long and varied body of work. Randy applies an organic approach to optimize processes that create an environment for more successful projects