My professional journey has been quite an interesting and adventurous one. I have been involved in MEP (Mechanical , Electrical , Plumbing) contracting for over 20 years. Through sheer hard work and determination, I climbed the ladder to become a design office electrical engineer, followed by a site quality manager. But, this was not the end of the voyage for me; I continued to enhance my skill set to become an engineering manager and eventually a Project manager. As a project manager, planning is important, as well as the hard skills, the design, the cables, ductwork, pipe work, planning, program of works, conflict mitigation, etc..... But above all, there is the soft skill set that, to me, include the most important skills for being a successful project manager. This my fourth article in the series with regards to Project Management. We will be looking at what I consider to be the most important soft skills for a successful project manager.
“It’s not the tools you have faith in–tools are just tools–they work, or they don’t work. It’s the people you have faith in or not.” ~Steve Jobs, Apple
Employee empowerment is giving employees a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility for decision-making regarding their specific organizational tasks. It allows decisions to be made at the lower levels of an organization, where employees have a unique view of the issues and problems facing the organization at a certain level. I was once chairing a progress meeting and one of my project team members (hopefully he is reading this article and smiling) looked at me and stated, "You need to Empower us, your employees." This is by no means an easy task. You need to have total trust in your employees, coach them , teach them, defend their mistakes, and be positive about all they do.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan
PMBOK® defines leadership as ‘the ability to get things done through others’. In a good way, actually. By inspiring people to do the work. By making people want to do the work. This is typically done by conveying the vision of the project and the value that team members will be creating by successfully completing the project. Leadership is all about effectively conveying the big picture and inspiring the team to achieve the goal. Leadership is also about showing people how they can achieve their own objectives by aligning themselves to the project’s objectives.
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." Henry Ford
A project involves different people, such as customers, sponsors, vendors, consultants, the quality assurance team, and management. It is important that team members feel safe, collaborate well, and trust each other. The goal of team building exercises is to develop a project environment that helps people bond with each other. The project manager should also showcase the team’s good work to make the team feel proud of the work they are doing as a unit. Highlighting the team’s customer appreciation and specific recognition or rewards received are also good ways to make the team feel important. A team that gels well will have members who help each other during tough times and sail ahead. In my experience, I have learnt to use every method possible to help build the team- chats, outside workplace meetings, breakfast meetings, social media blogs, group chats, any conventional or non-conventional means possible.
"Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it." Dwight D. Eisenhower
When people know their work is making a difference – to the customer, end users, company, as well as themselves – they stay motivated. People have various personal and professional needs and goals, and they need to be satisfied on that front. Knowing what motivates each team member, what makes them tick, and helping them get those things will keep the team motivated.
“Be Sincere, be brief, be seated"~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Open, short, and honest communication from top-level leadership helps result in the same communication and trust from all other members of the team. Transparent project managers will typically have employees who feel more comfortable about opening up to the manager about their concerns, issues, and constructive suggestions. In turn, listening aligns directly with good communication. Good listening skills allow project managers to learn about and engage with clients and team members. Mastering both of these skills creates a mutual trust among all parties involved.
“The better able team members are to engage, speak, listen, hear, interpret, and respond constructively, the more likely their teams are to leverage conflict rather than be leveled by it.”― Runde and Flanagan
Conflicts are part of any system, more so when people are involved. Conflict management might easily be one of the core skills a project manager must master in order to manage projects well. For me, the golden rule in conflict management is to listen, disseminate facts, balance, take a decision, and accept the decision as a team. Rarely is there a Black or White in a conflict; most of the time, it is grey or greyish, and one has to resolve conflicts using any means possible. If managed well, a conflicting situation can bring people together and make them more focused towards achieving project objectives.
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson
Coaching is about helping team members discover their own potential and elevate themselves from their current position of skill level to the next position. Coaching includes counseling to help people change their mindset about a situation and help them perform better. Coaching can be a great motivator for team members. Knowing they are being helped by an expert makes them take those additional steps to achieve their goals. Coaching can produce amazing results, and you see that most world-class sportspeople have coaches who help them achieve extraordinary results.
I hope this article clearly highlighted the importance of motivating the whole project team, increasing their morale (and keeping it high), and maintaining the focus of the whole team on the project mission. As a leader, it is imperative to hone your communication skills, listen to issues and resolve them together for the good of the project- Happy Project Management