Dear Project Managers of the world, this Valentine’s Day, we’re writing a love letter to… well, you! Managing projects, especially ones with huge consequences such as those geared towards social good in the third and public sector, isn’t always an easy feat. Actually, it’s never an easy feat. It takes a whole lot of planning, process and, of course, hard work. Not to mention the sometimes impossible-seeming task of getting the team to work, productively, together. In fact, anyone involved in the successful execution of a project or programme really deserves much more than just a rose this February 14!
Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and project managers are… well, maybe sweet isn’t the right word. Sweetness won’t manage a project. There are a lot of other fantastic traits (good) project managers have though. Here is our ode to all the fabulous project managers out there and all those special skill sets they possess. You make our heart’s skip a beat!
L is for… listening.
You wouldn’t be alone in presuming that great project managers are those who are always talking, loudest and the most. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Great project managers are, by nature, great listeners. They are able to generate insight through listening and use this to manage projects through effective relationship management.
And we know what you’re all probably thinking: anyone can listen. Again, not true! According to Psychology Today, research shows that only about 10 percent of us listen effectively. Instead, what most people are doing is ‘hearing’, as a physiological act. Listening, in contrast, involves our ability to unpack the meaning of words, and the silences in between. It also requires a genuine interest in what the other person is saying (as opposed to simply waiting for your turn to speak, as many people do!).
The ability to truly, actively listen, for many, is a skill acquired consciously over many years. Great project managers not only listen to colleagues in order to unpack what they are communicating, but enjoy doing so, and get that this is a foundation of project success.
How can you test whether somebody is a good listener?
- They make eye contact with you throughout the conversation and transmit a feeling that they are present
- The listener will nod, smile and give auditory feedback (mmm, sure, really?) without interrupting the individual who is speaking and only finish the speaker’s sentence when appropriate
- They’ll ask thoughtful and open-ended questions and occasionally repeat back what has been said to demonstrate they are engaging in the conversation
- He or she will encourage you to continue talking (Interesting! I’d like the hear more…) and will also help keep the conversation on topic
- They follow the 80% listening, 20% talking rule.
With these indicators in mind, how many good listeners do you really know?
O is for… open.
Excellent project managers are able to create authentic support for their project’s aspirations by helping team members and other stakeholders develop an emotional link with the project’s narrative. How is that achieved? First and foremost, through honesty.
Great project managers understand that transparency creates strong teams and strong results, again and again. They get that communication – in every form – must be open, honest and two-way.
They are open to hearing the ideas, thoughts and even frustrations of colleagues and are honest about expectations. They are committed to fostering a culture of mutual respect. They are honest about project results and open to new ways of working and will not only admit when things aren’t working but will actively identify ways to improve project performance going forward.
V is for… vibrant
V certainly isn’t the easiest letter in the alphabet to match with common characteristics of excellent project managers, but you get our drift! Excellent project managers are ‘magnets’ of recognition. What does that mean? Well, for starters, they are naturally recognised by their peers as project leaders and not because of their title, but thanks to their character and ability to apply their knowledge in an effective manner. That does typically mean they have a vibrant, charismatic personality that demands attention and respect. As such, they are great in understanding the political environment they operate in and are able to form alliances, negotiate and bargain effectively to achieve outcomes.
E is for... ethical.
Excellent project managers, especially in the third sector and public sector, rate “soft” personal success criteria such as the impact of their work higher than “harder” criteria such as remuneration and contract terms. They place great emphasis on their professional legacy and their role in “making things better”. As such, they are very ethical decision-makers. This trait also makes them excellent agents of change. Fantastic Project Managers instinctively enjoy the thrill and uncertainty that comes with change and are adverse to long periods of predictability. For most, job satisfaction comes through impact rather than title.
See what we did there? Bottom line is – we l-o-v-e great project managers! After all, is there anything more romantic than a well-managed project? We think not! Happy Valentine’s Day. Christos and the ROI team.