Project managers are the heart and soul of any team. They are the caretakers of the group, tasked with leading the others through a minefield of unforeseen delays, uncommunicative contractors, and surprise budget changes. Through their training and experience, they protect their team members from the worst of the blows.
What Makes a Good Project Manager?
A good project manager is hard to find; as with any position of power and authority, project managers who have a tendency to become a little authoritarian in their outlook. “My way or the highway” does not lead to a creative working environment.
An inexperienced project manager can also be far more of a hindrance than a help. It is times like these that training plays a big part. Something as simple as Prince2 certification – a project management system in extensive use in the UK government – can completely alter how well a project manager performs. So how can project managers look to improve their skills and management style in 2017?
1. Earn PMP Certification
For those project managers seasoned in the field, there is the option of PMP certification. PMP (Project Management Professional) is an internationally recognized professional designation offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
PMPs lead projects in most countries and business sectors. Being a PMP is not a job title; rather it is a designation gained through extensive project management training and real-world application. It involves learning a variety of project management styles and techniques to allow the PMP to analyze a situation and apply the appropriate management style.
Upon receiving PMP certification, a project manager will be able to deliver above industry-standard results from projects. PMP certification is a mark of distinction in project management. It is recognition of large amounts of time spent both studying and practicing project management techniques
Because of this, PMP certification is a difficult thing to acquire. The pre-requisites to apply for the certification are:
- Secondary degree (high school diploma or equivalent)
- Minimum 5 years unique, non-overlapping professional experience during which at least 7,500 hours were spent leading and directing the project.
- 35 contact hours of project management training
- Four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or global equivalent)
- Minimum 3 years unique, non-overlapping professional experience during which at least 4,500 hours were spent leading and directing the project.
- 35 contact hours of formal training
Following this, there is a rigorous and repetitive cycle of training and application of knowledge. PMP certification only lasts for three years. During those three years, a PMP must write up reports on their positions of responsibility, as well as attend relevant training modules to earn 60 professional development units (PDUs).
Should a PMP fail to reach their targets within the three years, they have their certification suspended and are given a further year to meet the necessary requirements.
If at the end of the suspension year they have still failed to meet the necessary requirements, they lose their PMP certification entirely. This ensures that all PMPs are constantly up to date with the most recent techniques and practices, and are successful leaders in the industry.
2. Practice Soft Skills
“Soft skills” are personal attributes or characteristics that allow someone to interact in a smooth and effective manner with other people.
For project managers, soft skills play a large part in leadership. Being able to guide and support individuals is a key attribute of any successful project manager. Practicing soft skills will help a project manager become more efficient at managing their team.
Some examples of soft skills are:
1. Decision-making Skills
Being able to make confident and informed decisions. It stops projects from getting bogged down and allows for momentum to build.
2. Communication Skills
Communication skills are often top of any “essential skills” lists employers may have, and for good reason. People with strong communication skills are more adept at building working relationships and avoiding conflict.
3. Time Management
An absolute must for any decent project manager. Good time management skills often go hand in hand with the proper allocation of resources and individuals in a project.
Some people naturally have good soft skills. Many others, however, need to work at them and develop over time before they are on the same level as those lucky few. There are no soft skills training courses; soft skills are learned by doing.
Project managers should engage in social activities outside of work as much as possible to improve upon soft skills. Over time there will be a noticeable positive change in soft skill-related tasks.
Combining training and real-world experience is key to becoming a successful project manager, as one simply will not work without the other. To achieve a good level of both, it all boils down to one essential rule – always be looking to improve yourself in any way possible.