A Project Manager plays a key role when change is required in the organization. Since this job blends technical skills with interpersonal skills, its not necessarily what a project manager wants! And the skills required by the profession are not all learned at school.
“You have to have a specific profile to become a project manager,” explains Pierre Ethier, a training consultant, project manager and ÉTS collaborator. “Someone who craves for recognition could have difficulty in this field. It’s not the project manager that gets recognition, but he is often called on to intervene in problematic cases: management of conflicts, realignment, goal changes… Someone who gets their motivation from gratitude will tend to say they only get attention when there are problems. So if you need a lot of pats on the back, this might not be the best choice.”
Indispensable in practically all areas of a company, the project manager must have certain essential skills to be at ease in his duties.
Active listening, ability to express ideas both orally and in writing… a project manager uses these communication skills around 90% of the time.
“Since the project manager is responsible for results, he has to succeed in getting the work done by collaborators,” explains Pierre Ethier. “Communication will be his main working tool. In addition, he is multidisciplinary, and has to communicate at different levels of the hierarchy.”
The company’s political and cultural awareness
To facilitate his work, the manager must know his company inside and out. “To be a leader, knowing the workings of the company, knowing which string to pull is essential to getting results, analyses, decisions and knowing how to negotiate with each party involved in the case,” relates the project management export.
Know thyself: this adage applies very well to project managers who, to accomplish their task, have to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and how they react to the situation. They also have to know how to “read” others and grasp the different personalities of the people with whom they work.
“A manager must be able to put these two strands together synergistically to obtain the results expected,” says Pierre Ethier.
The adaptation aspect
Conflict management is part of the daily work of a project manager. When a problem arises, people expect the manager to find solutions. “The professional must be agile and flexible,” stresses Pierre Ethier. “He must be able to reorient or realign himself quickly depending on the situation. He must also have the character to learn from his mistakes and be able to adjust himself over the next few days or for future projects.”
Daily challenges, constant communication with different staff, ability to adapt quickly to changes – the job of a project manager is a skillful blend of many professional and emotional skills. But for those who can navigate through this context, it is the most stimulating profession!