When I first became a project manager, I focused on developing my organizational, planning, and people management skills. And why not? These are among the most obvious—and most used—skills in the role.
But as my experience and responsibilities grew, I often found myself using quite a few other supporting project management skills; skills that I would never have thought applied to project management.
I used to think that project management and sales were entirely different skills for two distinct roles. But when I reflected on it, I realized that I was practicing sales skills all the time. For example, when I wanted to steer the project down a certain path, I had to sell the client on the idea. Or if my team ran out of allocated man hours, I had to convince the client to approve more.
And the sales skill wasn’t just used externally, either. I’ve had to sell my team on process changes or on administrative decisions. Any time I’m trying to influence someone into making a decision, I’m selling.
What use would writing be to a project manager? You’re not writing a novel, after all. And if you were (or at least a technical document), you could always farm it out to others. No need for the project manager to get his hands dirty, right?
It doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. As the center of project information and control, the project manager will eventually be required to write reports, project briefs, and other related documents. Well you don’t need to write a Pulitzer winner, you do need to communicate a message clearly and concisely.
You’re in the office to get things done, not to educate, so why is teaching on this list? Well, as it turns out, you might be doing a lot of teaching over the course of your career. Speaking for myself, I had to train a lot of junior project managers on how to do their jobs, as well as teach my team members specific aspects of the job. Sometimes it was client-centric information, other times it was skill-based teachings.
This skill was a big surprise, because at first I had thought I was there to execute projects while management or the client figured out how it fit into the bigger picture. But really, the project manager has to have just as much business sense as the stakeholders. This is so you can provide value through intelligent recommendations and insights on whether or not the project serves the business’ needs.
The four things I’ve just listed aren’t the only surprise skills that project managers would find useful. What useful skills have you discovered? Share them in the comments below!
Image credit, Flickr, Stephan King