Project managers might stink at politics, ignore tracking tools, flunk PowerPoint and hate spreadsheets but there are three major character traits that they can’t manage without.
Good Communicator. Nearly every aspect of project management involves communication: Risks, Issues, Status, Budget, everything. If you are a poor communicator you will struggle with project management. Some of it is natural ability but, thankfully, there are some steps you can take to become a better communicator.
- Understand that people, especially management, want information. Knowing that may help you overcome some of the anxiety involved. If your upper management is partially sane they will even want to hear bad news, what you intend to do about it and how they can help.
- Reread. If your email is sloppy the audience may completely miss your point. Take time to reread it before you hit send. I often catch things that I write are senseless. I have even left out important words like “not,” changing the whole meaning of the email.
- Plan out your conversations. Think through your meeting agenda and consider how you are going to present it. Jot down key words or phrases that help make the points you wish to say. Anticipate the questions that will be asked.
- Join a group that promotes public speaking. There is an international group called the Toast Masters (www.toastmasters.org) that helps people become better speakers.
- Do more of it. With practice comes ability and confidence.
Integrity. This trait includes honesty in reporting, fair dealings with team members and respect for individuals. Most companies and even professional organizations like PMI have a code of professional ethics or professional conduct guidelines. Read through a couple of them. If you have to hedge or explain away any of the topics perhaps you need to strengthen your integrity.
Thick skin. The role of a project manager is much like that of a lightning rod. You take the heat from management to protect your team, allowing them to do their jobs. Then you get a jolt from your project team pushing back against time lines and direction. Don’t take these things personally. I find it helpful to remind myself that people are upset at the situation people, not me. For example, if the server is down and upper management is yelling at you because of it, they are really upset about the problems it is causing. Unfortunately they can’t yell at the server so you are the substitute.