Project management may not be easy, but there are things which project managers can do in order to lead their teams through the softer though no less potent power of influence and gentle persuasion. They have no need to be heavy-handed with their employees. Instead, they lead through a combination of soft skills, honed and practiced until those they manage look up to them and obey through free choice, not coercion. Some of the most important soft skills for a project manager to use when leading their team are resource management, communication, flexibility and attitude.
Resource management may sound limited in scope, but it involves many sub-qualities essential to good leadership. Time is one resource which every manager needs to have a firm handle on. They should understand how much time a given project will take, so they can keep their team on task without setting unreasonable expectations, which only wear down morale, or underestimating the timing, leading to excess hours and lowered productivity. This goes hand in hand with personnel management, because employees are by far the most important resource in a company. Managers need the inspirational ability to encourage every employee to give their best work to the project at hand, and the understanding to know when they are, so they can be praised or recognized accordingly. Finally, the manager should know how to distribute material resources fairly and efficiently, so none will be wasted.
A second critical soft skill for managers is the ability to communicate. Without effective communication through the ranks, even the best messages will be lost. Good communication has two parts. The first, less important part is speaking. The speaker should be able to express the idea effectively and in a way that the listener can both understand and wish to respond to appropriately. However, contrary to popular belief, speaking is the less important part of communication for a good manager. Listening is even more important. Can the manager be able to listen to what the employees are saying, not just with one ear and half a mind, but give the full attention to what that person is saying? Can they then take action based on what they are hearing? If the manager can do both, they will show their employees that the boss cares about their concerns and gives the hope that they will act upon those needs. This can inspire a great deal of loyalty and that loyalty is critical in effective project management. It means that the employees trust their boss, and in turn, the boss can trust them. That is what truly underlies a healthy relationship.
Flexibility is a third key component of effective soft skills management. As much as one may wish for things to go according to plan, very few things ever will. A quality project manager will have the flexibility and creativity to handle the changes which develop unexpectedly and carry their team through them. This requires the ability to make quick decisions and have those decisions be good ones, something that comes with both practice and wisdom. Here, the aforementioned traits of communication and resource management will be essential, because by communicating the changes to the team and dividing the necessary resources to meet the new task, the good leaders will prove themselves not just to their employees, but to those higher up in the organization.
Finally, the one thread which connects all of these soft skill leadership qualities is attitude. The right project manager should have the ability to convey a mood which is calm, professional, and optimistic. Calmness in the face of stress is a must. When the employees see their project manager suffering the effects of stress, they will suffer it even more, and this will only compound the problem. Therefore, the manager must learn how to adopt an attitude of reassurance to demonstrate that they truly can lead. Secondly, professionalism goes a long way in leadership. Dealing with the employees as professionals, and the clients in a proper manner, establishes the project manager as a person who can be trusted. Thirdly, a positive attitude is contagious and inspiring. It makes for a more enjoyable workplace, which every manager and worker wants to have. In addition, believing that a problem can be solved goes a long way towards solving that problem, which is another benefit of a positive attitude.
For more information on how to develop these project management skills, look into the Parallel Project Training courses. They offer practical, engaging and informative classes on how to become a better project manager using these soft skills and more. They are an accredited APM training provider and a PMI registered education provider, so you can be assured of the quality of the training you will receive.