Project Manager skills wanted

NB: I wrote and published this post originally on my old blog between 2013 and 2014 whilst still in my full-time corporate career.

In my last post I questioned why a (Web/Intranet/IT) Project Manager should possess all those over-technical skills and knowledge, which all too many project manager job descriptions still seem to be asking for to this day.

Having concluded that it’s not the technical skills of a project manager that should be most wanted, it naturally got me thinking about the ones I think should be wanted – as the ones that contribute to a project’s success most.

Throughout my thought process and as I continued to categorise I ended up with no more than two main skill sets: project management and project leadership.

It may sound as if this is just saying that a project manager should have hard as well as soft skills – and as such will not be that surprising or ground breaking a statement, however perhaps the point I’m trying to make is that the hard skills of a project manager need to be in project management. No need to possess any hard core hands-on programme language skills or in depth technology specific knowledge.

What is project management?

The association of project management states: “Project management is the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives.”

In other words managing a project is all about managing tasks, events and timelines as well as resources, budgets, risks and any issues that come up.

To do all of this effectively a project manager will have to be highly organised, a great planner and multi-tasker, skilled at prioritising and as I think simplifying. Ultimately, project management is about coordinating and directing, administering and controlling human and material resources.

What is project leadership?

The best example of leadership is leadership by example.
~ Jerry McClain

Max Wideman’s definition of project leadership reads as follows: “Project leadership is an ability to get things done well through others.”

To make it even clearer, I thought ‘through’ and ‘others’ could be replaced with ‘in co-operation with’ and ‘people’. So as opposed to ‘things’ such as tasks, budgets and events the focus of project leadership is people – the project delivery team, the project board, any other stakeholders involved in making it all happen, and often forgotten the project manager her/himself.

To manage the people side of things then a project manager will have to have be a great communicator, negotiator and influencer, have the ability to delegate, motivate and above all inspire a shared vision and roadmap. Ultimately, I think leadership is about managing one’s own attitude and state of mind, keeping positive, being self-aware and open to life-long learning, both from successes and failures.

The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
~ Warren Bennis


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