Your presentation provided a valuable opportunity for our attendees to learn about the various filters that can hinder effective communications and provided actionable insights on how to communicate with clarity to all levels of project stakeholders, team members and peers.
D. Bailey - President, Westchester PMI
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SWaynePow'Rful Presentations Newsletter
September 2009 - The softer skills
Pow'Rful Presentations is a relatively monthly investigation of ideas, strategies and techniques to assist readers be more present in life, better project managers and make effective presentations (in all senses of the word).
In my effort to please the widest range of readers and knowing that adult learners acquire new skills in different ways, you may find typographical or grammatical errors in this newsletter. No need to point these out to me. Some readers learn best by analyzing text for errors. 
Also, depending on your background, and my South African origins, you may find some of my spelling and grammar to be, well let us just say "imaginative".
© Wayne Botha 2009
Are you a soft project manager?
How to learn the softer skills that distinguish your project management style.
When you attend training in the project management disciplines, chances are that you learn the "hard" skills. Project management training courses focus on the mechanics of project management such as PERT diagrams and Finish-Start dependencies. You will learn how to use MS-Project® and the importance of keeping your project plan current. After you have mastered the hard skills, you should go ahead and obtain a certification to demonstrate your project management proficiency with an industry standard certification such as the PMP®.

You know that project managers are often in leadership positions and therefore training in soft skills such as negotiation and time management will help you to keep your project ship-shape. These soft skills are easily identified and training courses are readily available if you are willing to put forth some effort.
However, the skills that distinguish you from the herd are not hard nor soft skills. The skills that allow you to stand out from the crowd are not learned in traditional training courses. These are the softer skills. My research shows that the most successful project managers demonstrate the softer skills through these behaviors.
1. "Fire in the Belly". The best project managers take ownership of the project, versus normal project managers who merely manage projects professionally. The subtle difference makes all the difference. Pay attention to your behavior, and the behavior of fellow project managers. When the going is tough, who "owns" their project? Who is merely managing projects professionally?
2. Bring passion to your project. Show everybody that you are bringing energy to your project, inspiring your project team and leading it to success. With global project teams, you no longer demonstrate passion by "being the first one in the office and the last one to leave". There is always someone in the office before you and always someone working when you leave so don't obsess about outdated norms of office hours. Demonstrate your passion for your project by always being ready to discuss status in a positive light, share successes with your team and enjoy the ride. Don't allow yourself or your team to fall into the trap of mindlessly completing project documentation for the purpose of storing electronic files. Let your passion for your project shine through.
3. Solve problems. When a problem comes your way, break it down into component pieces and gather the right people together to facilitate discussions and a resolution. My experience is that project problems cannot be solved by a single person - if they could be solved by a single person, then the problem would probably not have come to you as the project manager. Somebody would have already solved it. The keys to solving a problem are:
- Clearly identify the problem. Make sure that all stakeholders agree on the problem statement.
- Identify the constraints to the problem. Get agreement that you have the facts straight.
- Facilitate solutions with the right people in the meeting. Don't attempt to solve a project sponsor issue with technical resources who do not have the authority to make meaningful decisions. Similarly, don't attempt to solve technical problems with project sponsors in a meeting.
4. Always be ready to sell your project. Be ready to present your project to outsiders in the best possible light, and sell it so that people want to work on your project. Make sure that you have something positive to say when you are in a meeting and asked "How is your project going?". The hidden benefit is that you are also selling yourself to executives and senior managers in the process.
5. Realize, and promote the value of your project. Projects are not sponsored so that more paperwork can be completed. Projects are funded and launched because the resulting value is greater than the cost of the project. What is the value of your project? Will your project save the company money? How much money? Will your project result in a new product or service? Instead of describing your project in terms of "Multimillion dollar website", can you describe your project as "delivering new benefits to 30,000 customers"?
6. Grow all the time. Encourage your team members to take on new responsibilities. Mentor them in the new roles and in the softer skills. Seek out a mentor in your organization who can help you to develop softer skills. Hire a professional coach to stretch you and keep you growing. You can't afford to keep on doing the same old, same old. Your competitors will leave you in the dust.
7. Build professional relationships. I have kept the best for last. Go out of your way to get to know the people on your project team, your project sponsors and as many stakeholders as you can. It is easier to work with people that you know. it is easier for people to work with you when they know you. You will spend many hours at work interacting with your project team members and stakeholders. Make the journey more pleasant by getting to know them and allowing them to get to know you. Take people out to lunch. Sit down and have coffee with them. One of the critical keys in being able to solve problems (see point 3 above), is your relationships that allow you to pick up the phone and call someone who can help solve a problem for you. The ultimate payoff is for her to pick up the phone and take your call.
Tips for Toastmasters.
If you are in Toastmasters, then this tip will help you to get more out of your journey. 
As we make our way through another season of Fall contests, make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to get stage time. Volunteer to speak as a contestant or fill a supporting role in your club contests. Volunteer to help at your Area, Division and District contests. You will grow significantly as you stretch beyond your normal routine and you will also meet some of the nicest people on the planet.
Toastmasters are interested in self-improvement. They are also among the few people on earth who make the time to put their money where their mouth is, and actively improve themselves.
Toastmasters is not a spectator sport. Volunteer for contest roles and grow yourself. 
My embarrassing moment of the week. 
Although this is a relatively monthly newsletter, I seem to generate enough embarrassing moments to fill a daily journal. 
My son is growing up fast and I am extremely proud of him. On a hot August day, I drove in to find that he was leading a team of neighborhood boys and successfully operating a profitable lemonade stand. When he came home I told him that I am proud of his initiative and the results of his lemonade stand. His team made over $60 for a few hours of work.
Recently, he also shared his thoughts with me. "Dad, I am proud of you..". I expected him to acknowledge me for following my dream and successfully immigrating to the USA or obtaining many academic credentials from humble beginnings.
His words revealed our generation gap as he said "... because you have learned to abbreviate to ilu when you send me text messages".
Do you know someone who can benefit from a trusted friend and personal business advisor? Contact me and I will setup a sample coaching session to see if we can work together.
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Email me with any problems or questions that you have about project management or presentations and I will attempt to address them in a future newsletter.

More next time!

Wayne Botha

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