Management And People Skills In Project Management
It has been said many times that people skills are the most important to career success. However, we do see a great emphasis on "tools", whether it is in project management frameworks, or MBA programs, or Six Sigma, or any other approaches. How can a project or program manager hone these skills, as they are so important to continued career success?
Career success is more often than not driven not just by management know-how but by a manager's ability to handle a group of people. While we see the importance of management tools emphasized, it is the handling of people that is always at the core of management issues. Given this, it is important that project managers be very knowledgeable with different personality types in order to see a venture to success. How? Let's see below.
The late Dale Carnegie contended that the vast majority of success is due to people skills, whereas only a small percentage is due to technical skills. Jack Welsh, former chairman of GE, has studied many many business schools and has observed that these are relatively low in emphasis on these schools, but are very high on a list of what enables someone to succeed in practice. Technical skills generally enable someone to get into a job and demonstrate a level of competence, whereas people skills generally help someone to advance and perform at higher levels in an organization.
Indeed, most of these types of programs emphasize techniques and concepts that are excellent for doing analysis, but have limited utility in helping people day to day in working on people problems. And since these types of more "technical" roles are often performed by professionals earlier in their careers, they not only provide an opportunity to demonstrate these skills, but also to acquire and demonstrate them along the way. These combined with constant exposure and problem solving will promote career advancement.
Let's take a look at what people can do to continue to learn and build their arsenal of management techniques, and at the same time, build strong people skills.
1. Volunteer in the community. Volunteering in the community,enables one to automatically get engaged with numerous of people with whom you would otherwise never have met. It will be a collection of people that will enable one to interact and practice people skills in different ways and with different pressures than are experienced in the work environment. Skills gained in the volunteer environment will spill over in the work environment, and will provide an exposure that sharpens performance in the work place.
2. Get involved with a professional organization of your choosing, such as a PMI chapter. This gives you the opportunity to see what others in the same field are doing and how they are handling certain issues from their end -- and you will get to practice some of this yourself. In addition, by the very nature of your involvement, you will be looked upon to some extent as a leader within that organization. Further, your will develop some important contacts that can help in your career in a very personal way.
3. At work, don't worry about which techniques you are using. Apply the best that you can. However, above all else, seize the moment to build strong and open personal relationships with those that you engage with. Work towards a reputation of integrity - for being credible, honest, and transparent so that people will trust you professionally and personally.
4. Read books, take online courses, study, attend classroom courses, listen to podcasts, and anything else you can do to learn more skills. As you do this, pick out something new and appropriate for each day to apply on the job and in your day to day activities. This process of continuous improvement will soon accumulate, and you will notice greater personal confidence in handling people issues, and others will notice it in you also.
A new emphasis - number one priority - needs to be placed on people skills. We need to acknowledge the fact that these are the most important, and practice what we believe. Wile people skills are tacitly considered important to on the job success, they are more often than not emphasized in training and certifications. As professionals, the most vital thing we must do is take the initiative and treat people skills as a core management issue. This can be accomplished by making a special effort each and every day to be cognizant of people issues, to take the best actions we can, and to learn form our experiences. People skills are truly something that we must "own".
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Reiling, PMP, PE, MBA is an experienced Project Manager and certified Project Management Professional. John's web site, Project Management Training Online provides online project management training for beginning managers and for PMP exam prep and PDUs. John also writes regularly in his blog, PMcrunch.com .