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How to be the Project Manager That No Company Can Live Without

How to be the Project Manager That No Company Can Live Without

By Jennifer Lund

There’s never been a better time to become a project manager.

According to a study published by the Anderson Economic Group, between 2010 and 2020, the project management profession is slated to grow by $6.61 trillion, globally across seven project-intensive industries. Because of this anticipated growth, there has never been a more opportune time for professionals and job-seekers to build project management skills.

A Competitive Profession

There is a huge demand for project managers. Project Managers get projects on track and ensure that they are implemented properly and efficiently. According to CIO, not only is there a huge demand for Project Managers, but 60% of all ads on its site require anywhere from a minimum of 5 to 11 years of experience. Since it’s such a competitive market, more and more project managers feel the need to get project management certifications and many companies advertise the certification as “highly desirable.”

Given the fact that project management as a discipline has been around since the 1950’s and how much experience organizations have with project management, you would think that all projects are delivered on time and on budget. But, this case isn’t so. A study by Price Waterhouse Coopers, which reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries and across various industries, found that only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects.

After reviewing 1,471 IT projects, Harvard Business Review found that the average overrun was 27%, but one in six projects had a cost overrun of 200% on average and a schedule overrun of almost 70%.  So, what’s missing?

The Decisive Factor in Project Success or Project Failure

Project management consists of defining project scope, project plans, ensuring deliverables, and tracking time costs. Every task has a set of rules that dictate what must happen by when and who will do what.   By following the structure, design and tasks, project success should almost be guaranteed.   You don’t have to be in an IT intensive type of industry to need project management. All types of project management skills are needed in marketing, healthcare, as well as event planning, for example.

There are many reasons why a project can fail. But, according to new studies, there’s one thing that isn’t taken into account – emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence can make all the difference of whether a project fails or succeeds.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

No, we’re not talking intelligent quotient or IQ that tells how smart you are.  We’re talking EQ or emotional intelligence which tells you how well you deal with people situations.  Emotional intelligence is defined as, “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s own thinking and actions.” Here, we are talking about relationship development, team building, influencing, collaborating, and negotiating – all the “soft” things which were never a part of the project manager’s handbook.

The Touchy-Feely Stuff Matters

The technical side of project management is important, but a study by Gallup revealed that companies that applied best-practice principles optimizing employee and customer engagement at the workgroup level, for example, outperformed their five largest peers by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth.  This means that the emotional side of things matter.  Getting team members engaged means that you will have enthusiastic, committed, loyal and productive people who are dedicated to achieving the organization’s objectives.

As a project manager, you also have to:

  • Build relationships
    • You need to influence, negotiate, and collaborate with other departments and teams for resources. The ability to build relationships and understand how to get the best from others is a critical skill that a Project Manager needs to be effective in a matrix environment.
  • Manage conflict
    • People are key to the success of any project, and Project Managers rarely have direct ‘control’ over the staff with which they are expected to complete the project. They need to be able to motivate staff, build teams from various sources, and manage conflict, all skills that require the ability to understand people and their particular wants and needs.
  • Provide leadership
    • Project Managers need to provide leadership to the people on the project, the stakeholders, and other groups with which they interact. As well as the ability to make decisions based on well thought out analysis of the situation, the ability to make decisions based on the understanding of the impact on people is also an important leadership aspect.
  • Understand and handle emotions
    • There’s a lot of collaboration that needs to happen in order to deliver a project. Understanding one’s own emotions, the emotions of others, and how those can be most effectively managed can have a dramatic effect on a Project Manager’s ability to deliver results.

It’s not as easy as it used to be when all you had to do was to deliver on time, on budget and according to scope.

5 Ways to Get Started With Emotional Intelligence in Your Projects

Obviously, when you’re working with people, it means that you’re working with emotions.  And by its nature, project management involves both people and emotions.

Here are 5 ways you can immediately start to build rapport on your team:

1.  Be specific with your expectations

Share and communicate the strategy or plan with your team. Define the scope. Make clear what everyone’s role is and what the deliverables are. Explain what success will look like. Ask for updates on what is going on, but trust people to do their jobs.  Don’t be a micro-manager.

2. Listen to your team’s ideas

Ask them for their input to problems and then listen to their ideas.  Just because it’s not your idea doesn’t mean that it’s not good.   If you come upon a problem that needs some discussion, feel free to open up a brainstorm session so that everyone can have input.

3. Communicate regularly with the team

Set up regular communication meetings to make sure that everyone is on the same page.  Pick a day and time to meet each week that works for the whole team, not just for the project manager. Having regularly scheduled meetings keeps the project going and attention on the right things.   You may also want to send regularly scheduled communication to other stakeholders so that they, too, can be kept updated on the status and the timeline.

4. Give credit where credit is due

Acknowledge a team member for a job or task well done.  A “thank you” and “you’ve done a great job” with a smile goes a long way. Appreciate your team for the work that they do and the hours that they put in.

5. Be positive in the face of mistakes

No one is perfect and mistakes can happen.  Instead of focusing on the mistakes, work together on finding a solution and get the project out the door.    Make sure to shield your team from prying eyes or finger-pointing.  They have enough to worry about rather than to get involved in conflicts.

Regardless of what industry you’re in, project management has become much more than just managing the schedule.  It’s become a people business.  And people business requires a whole different of skills which revolve around human emotions.  If haven’t already, it’s time to up your skills and include a level of emotional intelligence.