I interviewed our Director of Operations who is a Project Management Professional, certified through the PMI. During our interview she explained to me that the most important skill set for a project or program manager to have is people skills. It is imperative to have good people skills as a PM because much of project management is building relationships and motivating team members to complete their tasks as efficiently and timely as possible. Ingrained in the mentality of a PM should be the mindset of working together to achieve the goals set forth in the vision of the project. If a PM is rough around the edges or has a way of putting people off, they may discourage open communication. If a PM is a pushover and does not have authority and the respect of the team members, nothing will ever get done. A PM must be able to share responsibilities and hold people accountable through the dependencies others have on them.
I was thinking about this and various teams I have been a member of and it reminded me of certain program managers that I avoid at all costs. Some of their characteristics which are unsavory are an inability to plan appropriately, threats, inability to see high level (bogged down in details), inability to drive results, poor budgeting, poor communication, and the like., Seeing as we spend so much of our time working and working with others in team settings, being surrounded by those who have deficiencies can be painful. Characteristics of good people skills include being a good listener, being able to refocused the group when led astray, air of authority which is non threatening, ability to delegate, proper identification of group members skills and talents, good communication, ability to problem solve, and a ability to motive. I appreciate the times when I am able to work with a well functioning team; one which makes progress and works together to achieve goals. Being a good team member is also important but the ambiance is set from the PM and if they are not effective it is easy for the team to get off track or not be able to overcome hurdles.
I’m not sure how much of this can be taught. My Director of Operations told me that part of the classes she took for the PMP certification included a class on leadership and teamwork. She told me she learned a lot from that class. Just having one class can be problematic. PMs need training and experience to be able to navigate choppy waters and lead the team straight. If that can be done in one class, then great, but that seems unlikely. Behavior needs to be reinforced, which takes time and willingness to accept consequences.
I happen to agree with the Director of Operations for my company; people skills are first and foremost. This is clear to me in daily work environment how important it is to cultivate relationships but having these in place on a project or program is critical.