Anyone who manages projects can quickly realize that Project Management is much more than meeting specified objective cost, quality, and time constraints. That would be too easy! While a project manager (PM) can be evaluated based on those criteria, to really be successful, one must venture beyond the metrics and understand how to manage and lead people—the most important aspect of any project. In the book, Working with Emotional Intelligence (2002), Daniel Goleman revealed that 67% of the competencies required to be a successful manager are emotional competencies. While it may be tempting to ignore the interpersonal dynamics of a team, PMs who fail to develop critical people management skills will risk jeopardizing their authority and increase the likelihood of project failure. Those needed people skills include managing conflict, motivating, and providing coaching/feedback. The University of Maryland’s Collaborative for Applied Positive Psychology in Project Management (CAPP-PM) does an excellent job of teaching PMs the people management skills critical to creating and sustaining top-performing projects. However, for those looking for a cursory overview of key people management skills, the following 3 topics can provide a good start:

1. Conflict Management: No matter how well run the project, conflict is generally inevitable. Bringing together team members with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and working styles together (often for the first time) can invite a host of team building challenges. In order to successfully manage conflicts, a PM needs to understand the dynamics that are contributing to a conflict as well as to select an appropriate conflict resolution approach (see Conflict Resolution in Project Management by Amy Ohlendorf).

2. Employee Motivation: As PMs, we know projects may have team members who are not motivated by their work. This might be a result of perceived attitudes about the project’s leadership and/or a shared sentiment that work performed was not meaningful, recognized, or appreciated. It’s a myth that most employees are only motivated by financial compensation. In fact, most employees are motivated by things that can be freely given such as greater autonomy, receiving positive / constructive feedback, and being recognized for their contributions. PMs should endeavor to these motivators (and others) throughout the project’s lifecycle.

3. Coaching: According to the Dale Carnegie Training Center, 71% of employees describe themselves as either not engaged or actively disengaged. While the reasons for disengagement vary by individual, the most commonly cited include such things as a poor relationship with a direct manager, a lack of confidence in the executive leadership, and a lack of pride in the company’s work. Although a PM cannot directly resolve all of these issues, he/she may consider providing active coaching and feedback as one lever to help to improve the level of team member engagement and performance. By focusing on interactions and interpersonal skills – rather than personalized or individual development – a PM can improve team engagement by fostering a project environment where employees are encouraged to communicate freely. This will help leadership communicate the project’s vision clearly and acknowledge the positive contributions being made by project team members. Likewise, in working with management, PMs can be instrumental in coaching others on how to improve their relationships with direct reports and helping those managers communicate to their employees that they are valued team members.

The topics discussed above are in no way comprehensive. Anyone interested in becoming a more effective leader or manager might consider developing emotional intelligence competencies. Your ability to build and lead effective teams, understand how to get the best from others, and deliver quality on time and under budget can all depend on your mastery of the ‘people-side’ of the project.

REFERENCES

Mindtools.com; http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_58.htm; The University of Maryland, Project Management Center for Excellence

Goleman, D. (2002). Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.