No matter what your LinkedIn byline says, we’re willing to bet that you’re a project manager. Maybe not a Project Manager in the official sense, but almost definitely someone who needs to manage projects on a daily basis. When you need to coordinate work across a bunch of people to meet an ever-changing deadline, that’s project management. When you need to deliver feedback from a client to your team and strategize how to implement the requested changes, that’s project management. And when you need to coordinate a large-scale coffee run and make sure the right people get the right orders — well, that’s not exactly project management, but it’s close enough. The way that we work is changing. Bain & Company predict that by 2027, most work will be project-based. That might seem like a problem for Future You, but even now the Project Management Institute reports that the demand for project managers has been growing more rapidly than the demand for skilled workers in other occupations. And yeah, okay, they would say that. But with a projected need to fill 2.2 million new project-oriented roles around the world annually until 2027, they have a point. So as more and more people who never set out to become project managers are finding themselves in the business of managing projects, we wanted to know: how can you become a better project manager, even if you’re not a Project Manager? (If you want to know, too, you should check out our ebook to see what we found out.) One of the most important things we learned was that being a great project manager is about more than just having the right certifications or reading the right books. Having a project management qualification like PMP or PRINCE2 is great — and clearly reflects the time, commitment, and dedication someone has given to their profession — but, more and more, the emphasis is shifting from qualifications to skills and experience. In fact, the most important traits that you can have when it comes to managing a project are things that you might not even associate with traditional project management (well, except for the last one). Here are our top three:
Managing a project, by its very nature, is always going to involve managing people. (At least until the robots take over.) And managing people is complex. That’s why emotional intelligence is one of the most important traits a project manager can have. Emotional intelligence is more than just people skills. It’s about correctly understanding and managing emotions — both your own and those of others — and treating those emotions with significance and value. In this way, people with high emotional intelligence (EI) can use their ability to read, harness, and interpret emotions to cultivate better working environments, clearer communication, and more empathetic relationships. To improve that, try this: Tune in to how you’re feeling. Set a daily reminder on your phone, or stick a Post-It note on your monitor. Then, every time you see it, ask yourself non-judgementally how you feel right now. See if you can pinpoint any internal or external reasons for feeling that way. It might sound simple, but your emotions can affect your decision making — and therefore, your work. Being conscious of your own emotional state helps you to monitor your communication with your team (no more snapping at someone because you’re in a bad mood) and make more deliberate choices for your project.
Great communication skills
Being emotionally intelligent is one thing, but you also need to be able to translate your understanding of emotions into language that makes everyone feel heard and respected. That’s why great project managers also need to be great communicators. Good communication is essential no matter what business you’re in, but as a project manager you’ll need to connect with multiple people every day, at different levels of your organization, and with varying levels of involvement (and let’s be honest, maybe even interest) in your project. That means that you need to be able to communicate effectively in a multitude of different ways and media, depending on what the situation requires. On any given day, you might be informing authoritatively, explaining clearly, listening empathetically, brainstorming strategically, mediating compassionately, praising thoughtfully, or any other number of present tense verb + adjective combos. To improve that, try this: We’ve all heard of the “I feel” trick; that is, changing your phrasing from accusative statements like “You hate me!” to “I feel like you’re not listening to me.” But don’t forget that what you say is only one aspect of how you communicate. One study by the PMI notes that only 7% of our communication is comprised of “content,” while the other 93% is made up of factors like vocal delivery and body language. So be conscious of how your body talks — even when your mouth is closed.
Organized and adaptable
Project managers seem to have a preternatural ability to stay on target, on track, and on top of everything. The level of organization required can seem daunting if you’re not the kind of person who organizes their personal bookshelf using the Dewey Decimal system (albeit thrilling if you are). Luckily, there are a lot of techniques and tools (such as project management templates) out there to help you manage everything each step of the way. To improve that, try this: If it sounds like a no-brainer, that’s because it is: using a project management tool like Teamwork Projects can dramatically improve your project management, by streamlining communications, providing transparency and accountability, and helping you to break your overall project strategy down into achievable tasks and milestones. So now that you know you’ve had the power to be a great project manager all along, what else can you do to help you learn how to better manage your projects? Download our ebook below to find out.