They set up the team, assign tasks and responsibilities to the individuals, and review their performances. From setting the expectations right with the clients to preventing conflicts within the team and ensuring everyone’s on the same page, the project manager is responsible for the smooth functioning of the team.
Here are some of the functional areas where the project manager’s people skills take the front seat:
Building the right team
The project manager needs to pick individuals with the right skills and abilities that are required to complete the project. You don’t need the person who’s the most qualified in absolute terms. You need to pick the ones who play well with others who are the most qualified for the specific project. In order to build a team, project managers need to assess the qualities of potential candidates beyond the superficial layer.
They need the people skills to put their foot down, if necessary, while being open to ideas and feedback. Team members need to trust that the leader cares for them and is focused on the project’s success.
Bridging communication gaps
Project managers are usually the hub for all communication–they are the point of contact for all the stakeholders. They also deal with external vendors and other resources that require good negotiation skills as well. They’re tasked with fostering collaboration and cooperation among everyone involved in the project.
They have the responsibility of getting the client’s requirements and suggest an appropriate solution. They communicate what is possible within the given time frame and resources. Once the project begins, they need to keep the client on the loop with the status.
It is also the duty of the project manager to keep everyone on the team on the same page. They have to ensure all individuals involved in the project know their goals and the common objectives. They also need to be aware of changes that affect their work. Using a collaborative project management tool like Kissflow helps you stay on top of inter-team communication.
One of the most important things you’ll be asked to deliver, apart from the project itself, is performance reviews for the project team members. Some people are more receptive to feedback while others aren’t. How you deliver performance appraisals can make or break someone’s morale.
The appraisal begins with the project because it’s a continuous process. The expectations have to be communicated clearly at the beginning of the project. The feedback has to be spread across dimensions and not just based on results alone.
It’s also a wonderful habit to have monthly one-on-ones where all team members have private conversations about the project, the challenges they face, and how they can overcome them together.
As much as we all hate to admit it, there’s not a single project that’s not plagued by conflicts. The pressure to deliver stellar results in constricting deadlines can sometimes result in screaming matches between project members. In fact, conflict management is one of the biggest nightmares of the project manager, according to the PMBOK guide.
Sometimes, conflicts arise because a person’s ideas are not received well and opinions were not acknowledged. Project managers need to be good listeners. They have to exercise power, appease both parties arrive at a compromise, and resolve the conflict in a fair manner.
Mentoring new employees
There might be days when the motivation levels are dangerously low and project managers need to spot them immediately and take remedial actions. They need to motivate and inspire newcomers, especially, to make them a part of the team.
Project managers play the role of the coach and train younger employees. They should develop a competency development plan for every team member and work toward improving their skills. Their skills over a period of time should be tracked and an equivalent quantifiable metric should be identified. Usually, a matrix of team members versus skills is developed. The primary skills should be the ones aligned with the project needs while a training plan should be developed to meet their growth aspirations.
Most project teams aren’t spontaneously high performing. They are the result of deliberate actions by project managers and team members in a productive environment built on mutual trust and collaboration.
Dinesh is a hands-on executive with a wide range of experience working with bleeding-edge technologies, developing great products and mentoring highly productive teams. He has profound knowledge in design and technical implementation of BPM solutions.