Most managers are asked to lead projects at some stage of their career and for some managers leading and participating in projects is their ‘day job’. The list of skills needed to succeed is long and can be daunting so in this short article I am focusing on what I believe are the three less obvious and most critical skills to practise and hone.
Imagineering – the ability to build a clear and compelling vision of success that will galvanise and enthuse people to give up their most precious resource, their time. I put this skill first as all projects can be thought of as a journey from the present to the future, converting thinking and ideas into tangible actions, deliverables and results. Start with the end in mind, the destination is the first critical piece of thinking that needs to be done well and is often overlooked.
Imagineering in a project context is a simple technique. Assume the project is finished and the project team are reviewing its success. Note the positive frame of mind and the past tense that you need to do this well. What are you celebrating? What exists now that did not exist at the start? Who has benefited and what are they be saying about the success of the project?
The more time you spend doing this thinking as a team, the more you will be able to build a granular and compelling picture of the destination and the more energy you will create to fuel the journey that lies ahead.
Influencing – the ability to win hearts and minds and to recognise when you have genuine commitment or compliance and when you are just being ‘fobbed off’ with a ‘yes’ that is at best a ‘maybe’ and in reality turns out to be a ‘no’. Learning to communicate and influence in a way that it is readily accepted and received by the intended recipient is a skill that most of us have to learn and practice.
We all have our own unique ways of processing information and drawing conclusions. There are many people profiling tools that can help you understand how best to connect with others and avoid simply transmitting information in a way that suits you. They are all based on sound psychology, some are more pragmatic to use than others, so pick one that appeals to you and learn how to adapt your communication style to match and pace the people you are trying to influence.
Your challenge is to break the habit of simply transmitting information in the mistaken belief people have the time, or the inclination to engage with your message. Don’t worry the irony of saying this in a blog is not lost on me! I see the ratio of display and click through stats that confirms this reality….
There is far too much ‘noise’ already in the world don’t you think? If you need evidence of this check your inbox – how many emails have been written to you that are tailored to suit your preference? Not many I will wager. Now check your outbox……For more on this skill take a look here.
Decision Making – the ability to choose the best decision making strategy to suit the situation you face. All projects require decisions to be taken and I have observed that there is a tendency to go for collaboration and the consensus decision making process most of the time. This is fine if the decision you are taking requires genuine commitment, but most do not. The consensus decision making process is undoubtedly the best to achieve commitment, however it takes the longest to do and collective team time is the scarcest resource in most projects, and it requires great influencing skills to be deployed for it to work, see comments above!
In my experience the consensus process quickly degrades into a compromise discussion which usually leads to a poor quality decision, that then gets revisited and retaken at a later date. There are 6 decision making processes that can be deployed and a skilled project manager needs to be comfortable with them all and know when to deploy each. Click here if you are interested in reading my previous blog on this topic.
If you would like to learn more about our approach to Team Based Project Management then please get in touch.
Finally, one of my colleagues and fellow Changemaker Donnie MacNicol has just published a great book that is a must read for all project managers check it out at Gower publishing.