Is there such a thing as Good vs Great Project Managers? Of course there is! Just as with any profession, some Project Managers are better than others. There are several items which can contribute to this differentiation such as; Consistency, Attitude, Experience, Background, Desire, Training and more. What I've found over the years is that the PM who has developed "soft skills" has an edge over PMs lacking these soft skills. Even more specifically, I've found through my experience there are 8 soft skills which are the most important for a PM to cultivate and grow.
So what are Project Management "Soft Skills?" I've compiled this list of my Top 8 Project Management Soft Skills from my years running PMOs and working with clients across several industries.
2) Business Knowledge/Understanding
3) Conflict Management
5) Team Building
These eight aren't in a ranking of importance but #1 and 2 are tops in my book. I recently conducted a survey on projectmanagement.com and the top choice of respondents there was Communication.
For me, listening is so important and actually could be considered a part of communication. A great Project Manager will listen to Champions, Team members, Vendors, really all Stakeholders. The listening allows the PM to collect input to make decisions and provide guidance to the team. Too many PMs today are trying to move too fast, too soon, without enough information. They want to be the center of attention and speak more than being spoken too. Effective listening, not just hearing, is at the top of my list for the most important Project Management soft skill.
A close second for me is business knowledge and understanding. This isn't to say the PM should be a SME on the project. This means that they understand how the business operates. They understand why organizations are doing projects, what the real benefits and costs are to the organization. PMI has given us plenty of data on how project success rates rise dramatically when projects are aligned to Strategy and when Champions/Sponsors are engaged. This ties directly to the PM having business knowledge. The better they understand how businesses function the more trusted they will be by leaders and the better chance to improve engagement.
Most organizations focus Project Management training on tools, certification, and process. These are certainly important, but to see a jump in project success I'd suggest organization should start investing more training on these Project Management Soft Skills.
What have you found in your experience? Which soft skills have you found to be most important?