WILY: The Top Five Skills for Any PM

In this week's episode of Colocation, I discuss the five skills that I believe every project manager needs to be successful. The skills are:

  1. Listening.  This is not at the top of the list by accident. A PM must first be a good listener.  Listening skills are required at every stage, from planning to executing and closing the project.  Without being an exceptional listener, a PM will not be able to identify sponsor needs and translate them into project requirements, capture project risks and task-related information from the project team, or problem solve and clear obstacles along the way.  A PM must also be able to hear what is not being said in order to avoid or resolve personal conflicts on the team and manage stakeholders.
  2. CommunicatingThis is the other half of listening.  Or, the other third as you really should spend the majority of your time letting others talk.  A good communicator will make sure that everyone on the project is reading from the same playbook; that objectives and constraints are clearly understood, that there is a common understanding of the project status and upcoming deadlines, and that everyone can see the project's vision with enough clarity to drive toward completion.
  3. Negotiating.  A large part of controlling a project is negotiating the tradeoffs between time, budget, and scope.  It's at the core of change control.  A good PM can communicate the impact of a change to the sponsor or stakeholder, a great one can negotiate that change to something that gives the requester what they need without completely blowing the project.
  4. Leading.  This is one of the most important and difficult.  Leadership is about influencing, not imposing.  On most projects in just about every organization, the project team will not be your direct reports.  They likely will work for a functional manager and will be inclined to take direction from him / her.  Your job is to effectively use skills 1-3 to inspire the team.  
  5. Flexibility.  This skill can actually go by a few different names.  A good PM must be able to adapt to changes in requirements, priorities, or availability of people and resources. When the inevitable roadblocks come up, the PM must find the solution or work around.  Without the ability to look at problems from all sides, there is no negotiating.  Finally, the project manager must also be a cheerleader of sorts, always out front championing the project 

Download the episode wherever you get your podcasts or at: https://www.davidhersher.com/colocation