Project management terms are changing. Keep on top of the changing trends with our deep dives into these methods and practices, and you can find them all in our Intro to Project Management category.
You’ve probably heard the term “soft skills” bantered about, but maybe you’ve been too busy honing your technical skills to give it much thought.
True, those technical skills are the ones that are going to give you the practical knowledge necessary to get the project done. However, it’s the soft skills that give you the expertise to lead your team members to success. After all, they are the ones who are responsible for accomplishing the tasks you assign them. And while they may have the technical know-how, if you’re not savvy to the soft skills needed to lead your team, then you’re most likely falling short.
In fact, we created a free soft skills self-assessment template, so you can see how your soft skills stack up:
Soft Skills [sôft/ /skils]
But what are soft skills? The term itself is soft, in that it’s not well-defined. Basically, soft skills are those that relate to the human element of the project. It is, afterall, the project team members and stakeholders who are the ones tasked to deliver on time. Soft skills are how you manage your human resources effectively.
The idea of soft skills was first popularized by Daniel Goleman in his bestseller from 1995, Emotional Intelligence—Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. At around the same time, Howard Gardner was exploring the educational theory of “multiple intelligences,” which proposed that intelligence is not dominated by a single general ability, but is made up of many different ones with varying aptitudes.
The idea of an emotional IQ and the theory of multiple intelligences are the foundation of what has become known as soft skills. Together they add dimension to leadership, which is more than a cold mechanical instrument, but one that must involve the less easily defined human element.
Soft skills may be considered personal traits, but they can be learned if you want to become a more effective leader. Some examples of soft skills include:
- Communication: influencing, presentation, empathy, networking, negotiation
- Critical thinking: challenging assumptions, contextual understanding, creative exploration, reflection
- Decision making: scenario planning, brainstorming, organization, adaptability, taking action
- Time management: listing, prioritization, scheduling, review
- Problem Solving: identification, examination, analysis, initiative, persistence
- Team building: goal setting, onboarding, trust building, cultural understanding, conflict resolution
Think of them as complementary to the technical or hard skills in project management, such as:
- Scheduling: communicating what work needs doing, which resources will do it and what the time-frame is to complete these tasks
- Risk management: planning for uncertainty by identifying potential risks, assessing and managing to minimize them
- Estimating: process to figure out the use of resources, effort, duration and cost of a project
- Task management: taking activities that need completion within a project and breaking them down on a schedule with deadlines and assignments with a beginning and an ending
- Budgeting: coordinating with the schedule as to the costs determined associated with the defined activities
Soft Skills & Project Management
Business, in general, has been demanding the interpersonal skills necessary to implement any kind of technical training efficiently and effectively. You may think that the skills essential to project management are the ones you learn through education or on the job. When it comes to soft skills, well, that’s just the luck of the genetic lottery. You’re born with them.
That’s simply untrue. Soft skills can be taught and you can learn them. Just as you’d never settle for complacency when it comes to technical skills, but will study and further educate yourself to stay competitive in the field, you want to hone your soft skills. Afterall, a project is about working with people to successfully deliver a project. Soft skills are the tools which facilitate this process.
In fact, the Project Management Institute (PMI) has updated its Talent Triangle. Where before the requirements for certified project managers were purely technical skills, PMI has responded to the growing demands of the business world to train project managers with leadership skills and business intelligence, which they say are “competencies that can support longer-range strategic objectives that contribute to the bottom line.”
Assessing Your Soft Skills
You’re probably getting the gist of this by now. You’re seeing how soft skills work hand-in-glove with the technical skills you have trained for and have been using all your professional career. Together they make you a more effective and in-demand project manager. It’s important to monitor your progress as you grow in your career, so you can identify areas where you need to grow, as well as areas of mastery.
Use our free assessment template for gauging your soft skills on your own, as well as for getting feedback from a trusted colleague. Complete the form yourself, and then compare the results. You’re well on your way to becoming an even better project manager.
The team at ProjectManager.com is here to help you improve your projects with training and tools. Our project management software gives you the insights you need to measure and monitor your project performance, so you can be a better manager. Start your free trial today.