As Barbara Streisand
pointed out "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world."
Projects are executed by people. As a seasoned project manager, you have worked
with all sorts of people over the years, from the "You mean I need to speak to
people?" geek-wizards to "suave, vision and big-picture" senior executives. What
have you learned about working with these different personalities over the
years? Have you realized that more projects are successful because of your
social skills than your scheduling expertise?
If you have mastered the
science of project management (i.e. You know how to create and maintain an
MS-Project plan), then now is the perfect time to revisit your social skills.
You already have some social skills, because you wouldn't last very long in
a project management role if you did not.
Here are the areas to
revisit and enhance your project success this month, using skills that have
proven to work for me over the years.
1. Have a positive
attitude. Do you want to be around people that whine all the time? Assume that
your sponsors and project team members want to also be around people with
positive attitudes. You choose your attitude - make it a positive
2. Remember to remember birthdays
and anniversaries. Take note of the date that a person celebrates an anniversary
and hosts the office party. Remember to enter it as a recurring appointment on
your electronic calendar, and sure enough - next year, on the same date, you
will be notified of the same anniversary. In the office environment, don't cross
the line. Don't ask for this information if it is not volunteered and respect
the wishes of others - only celebrate and congratulate anniversaries that the
person celebrates. You don't need to remember the date of the celebration. You
just need to remember to schedule it into your electronic calendar, and send a
short email on the anniversary.
3. Develop your ability for
pleasant persistence. As a project manager herding cats, you sometimes need to
call, email and hound people to get their input on plans and obtain status. This
means you need to keep on calling, emailing and following up to get the
information you need to make your project successful. It does not mean that you
are a doormat - escalate the situation if your attempts at pleasant persistence
lead to fruitless frustration.
4. Work with people when you
negotiate and brainstorm. Use words such as "I am on your side", "we are in this
together" when you meet with a team member or matrix partner who has different
objectives to yours. Your words, attitude and humor make it easier to get your
project done and for both of you to succeed. Saying "You must create this
additional report, because it is the process" doesn't help when your matrix
partner's team is working 14 hours a day just to keep the project moving
5. Keep people in the loop.
Report good and bad news. Be transparent. While researching for "Beyond The
Certification", one senior program manager phrased it like this. "Business
sponsors want to have a continuation in conversation." Each status report and
each communication must continue the prior conversation. If your report at the
end of month one "Project is green" and in month two "Our hair is on fire,
project is red" and introduce a new format of status reports each month, then
business sponsors feel out of the loop and that the project is out of control.
Your social skills include having a "continuation of conversation."
6. Politely, say "No." Learn and
practice the ways of saying "No", politely and without offense. For example,
"Thank you for bringing that up. We discussed it at the last meeting and this
was the decision. Let's move on."
7. Learn memory techniques to
associate faces to names, and make the effort to learn and remember people's
names. Greet them when you walk down the hall. I worked in a building where I
was called "The Mayor" because I knew so many people in the building. It is very
helpful when you manage a project - you have relationships of varying degrees
with many people.
8. Enhancing social skills is a
contact sport - you can't do it in vacuum. Get feedback on your social skills
from someone that demonstrates good organizational social skills. You may have
habits or tone of voice that is irritating or downright rude and you have no
clue about them or the impact they are having. For example, working with a
person who frequently says "I don't mean any harm, but..." or "Let me give you
feedback on that," when the feedback is neither wanted nor accurate.
Your social skills may currently
be your blind spot to moving your career to the next level. Nobody will tell you
this, which means that you may be ignorant to the fact that this is your current
blind spot. I identify opportunities for improvement by soliciting feedback from
people I trust in that situation. What will you do, today, to assess your social