Individuals who interact effectively with other people on a consistent basis have strong soft skills. These skills are not easily quantified, but are nonetheless vital for any ambitious professional to obtain and sharpen. In contrast, those who are technically and functionally talented have time-tested hard skills. Hard skills are quantifiable, with specific metrics considered and evaluated to determine the level of professional performance and ability.
Project managers who cultivate both soft and hard skill sets can quickly set themselves apart from the pack. Organizations see individuals with proven soft skills as huge contributors to the overall effectiveness and efficiency of a company's operations. The two types of skills are naturally complimentary in the modern workplace.
The most widely-recognized soft skills in the workplace include:
Application of Soft Skills to the Four Cycles of Team Delivery
The delivery cycle of any project is the nitty-gritty. It comprises the daily details each team member has responsibility for to ensure a project runs smoothly.
The four cycles of team delivery are as follows:
The creation and deployment of a project charter are essential to the definition phase of the project process. Project charters define the scope and objectives of the project, and the roles of each team member going forward. As the team creates the project charter, communication and active listening skills are vital. This is to ensure there's a uniform vision for how the project should proceed. This is especially true during the standard kickoff meeting to set the tone for the project.
Project managers with great hard skills, but weak soft skills, can derail a project early in the game. Team member input can be missed, or ignored if overall communication and active listening skills are weak or misdirected among leadership. Projects are in trouble from the outset if not properly defined and collectively bought into by all involved. so soft skills are the importance.
Hard skills and Soft skills:
Design and Planning PhaseTeam members evaluate the project charter and the work it entails is broken down into smaller, actionable pieces during this phase. The resulting delegation of tasks is the project plan, often visualized in a Gantt chart or something similar. Each team member should have a clear picture of the tasks for which they are responsible, and deadlines set to ensure work is completed in a timely and precise manner.
The planning stage requires careful application of soft skills, in particular, teamwork, to ensure communication about the elements of project design is consistent. Given execution of work comes next, it's essential all members of the project team are in agreement about the project plan before moving ahead. Any unresolved disagreements here, or communication gaps, could prove fatal to the success of the project.
Deployment and Execution Phase
Team members complete the lion’s share of the work during the deployment and execution phase. One can rest assured level of risk will fluctuate during this phase, issues will arise, and changes will occur. After all, in the world of project management, change is one of the only constants!
Decisiveness is essential among all team members during this phase. Hesitation to make decisions could affect the outcome of the project and this could be a major issue during the execution phase. Given this, all team members must be willing to speak up, be decisive, and call for change or adaptation when necessary to ensure smooth sailing. Leaders (inside and outside of management) naturally emerge during change and issue management, and set the tone for the remainder of the project.
Self-motivation is also vital during the execution phase. Individuals have to be able to stay on task and do great work without being motivated by project leaders who are also deep in the trenches of their own project responsibilities. The framework of project management doesn't allow much room for individuals who need constant external motivation.
Project leaders prepare final reporting during the closing phase to carefully wrap things up. Documenting successes and failures is invaluable to future project managers who will work on similar projects. This documentation process provides a great opportunity for learning, but also requires a highly attuned attention to detail to run smoothly, and identify where improvements could have been made and what went well.
The last stage for the best output
End users must also accept the work completed during the project. End users may outline concerns which need to be addressed, and the responsibility of the project management team is to be empathetic to these and act accordingly. Assuming end users are happy, project deliverables and finalized and passed along to necessary stakeholders, and in some instances to other internal teams involved in project finalization to complete the project.
There isn't a project in existence that went exactly according to plan.
Project managers who can actively apply essential soft skills within the project framework stand out, and become invaluable to their organizations. It's easy to functionally complete work involved in projects with the proper hard skill set. Empathizing with the concerns of stakeholders, listening to your teammates, communicating when things are rough, and being motivated to get the job done is an entirely different ballgame. Those who are successful at mixing these essential soft skills with hard skills undoubtedly are the project management leaders of the future.
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