Are people skills the final project management frontier?

I was going to start this blog with a couple of questions; how good a driver are you and how good a lover are you. But, I decided against it….

I have been running project management courses and working with project sponsors, project managers and project teams for many years.

The focus of many of these courses, coaching sessions, or workshops has been to ensure that everyone follows the same project management processes alongside further developing their project management skills.

It’s people who deliver projects

But to repeat a well worn phrase: it’s people who deliver projects. No matter what processes you use (one person told me that they had a 300 page project management manual which every project manager was supposed to follow), no matter how simple or complex, it’s still people who deliver projects.

So I ask myself, why is there so little emphasis on ‘soft skills’ training within companies? Soft skills are the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.

Do project staff need soft skills training?

Recently, I ran an event for a client which included a fair amount of soft skills training. I gradually introduced people to topics and got them to try out different things either face to face or in open discussion.

The key thing I noticed though was the difference in ‘atmosphere’. I find this quite a common experience. I explain that we are going to explore some of the ‘soft skill’ issues. Guess what? The room goes quiet. People who were openly contributing do not contribute anymore. Eye contact is greatly reduced and people seem to shrink away from getting noticed.

Positive feedback from those on the project management courses

However, feedback from those who have participated in such courses is really positive. They see soft skills training as essential and in some cases want more – a great success.

But what about your people skills; how good are they?

This brings me back to the questions at the start of this article. Why include them? The reason; evidence from course delegates suggests we do not develop our people skills sufficiently. The questions get to route of what this is about – openness, honesty, the ability to listen, ask questions as well as communicate, know yourself etc.

So back to the question: how good are your people skills and a supplementary one how do you know?



Image courtesy of – Stuart Miles

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3 Responses to Are people skills the final project management frontier?

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