How to Improve your Project Management Skills

Just because you’re in a leadership role, doesn’t mean that you should stop trying to improve. Project leadership skills go beyond just having theoretical knowledge. You need to know how to organise and motivate, get the team working together towards the same goal and manage priorities. This requires communication skills as well as emotional intelligence.

In this blog, we will look at a couple of practical tips as well as a few theoretical ideas to help you improve your project management skills. Although we’re going to be primarily focused on project managers, some of these points apply to leadership positions in general.

  1. Visual organisation

As a project manager, it helps to simplify your responsibilities. You’ve got your tasks and you’ve got your resources. Your job now is to reconcile these two in the most efficient way possible.

One way to do this is to organise your tasks and resources in a visual manner. You can do this through charts, coloured spreadsheets, flowcharts or mind maps. Information that is conveyed visually is much easier to understand. Seeing all the tasks set out in front of you can help you think things through clearly. It reduces the chances of certain tasks slipping your mind, running into budgeting issues and missing deadlines. Additionally, it is much more engaging than someone just reading out a bunch of tasks and statistics.

It can also help your team visualise the goal. Planning things verbally can lead to misunderstandings and just general confusion. With visual tools, you can rest assured that everyone is on the same page.

  1. Use project management software

Sometimes, what you’re managing requires a little bit more than just a chart. With project management software, you will be able to keep track of various aspects of your project.

For example, certain programs will allow you to keep track of your budget in real-time. This can help project managers avoid the dreaded scope creep. Scope creep occurs when the full extent of a project is not clearly defined by the client at the beginning. As a result, there are unexpected and abrupt changes to the project’s workflow, resources and timeline. These changes often cause managers to lose track of the finances, which in turn, leads to a budget overruns.

By having a software that helps you keep an eye on your expenditure in real time, you can avoid this problem. Project management software lays out key financial metrics and updates them regularly. This will help you notice and mitigate cost overruns before it’s too late.

  1. Improve your listening skills

Many people forget that communication has two sides: speaking and listening. Unfortunately, there are a number of project managers and team leaders who neglect the latter.

Active listening will help you better understand the needs of your team as well as your clients. Listening to your team’s input can help build trust and thus improve productivity. Additionally, it will help you understand the strengths of each of your team members, allowing you to delegate work more effectively. One the other hand, actively listening to the clients will allow you to understand what they want, which in turn, will help you set clear goals for your team.

Keep in mind that listening goes beyond just hearing the words. It also includes understanding body language and the team’s overall mood.

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  1. Ask for feedback

Criticism can be difficult to hear regardless of how high you are in the corporate ladder. However, if you want to improve as a project manager, as a CEO or even as a team member, it’s necessary to seek constructive feedback.

When we work by ourselves, we can easily overlook our weaknesses. This leads to stagnation or worse, a decline in performance. Therefore, it’s a good idea to ask your boss, your colleagues, your team and your clients about what you can improve on. This process can be uncomfortable. However, it is one of the best ways to get better at anything that you do. It gives you a solid understanding of where your skill level is and what you need to do to improve it.

Also, be sure to ask those who will give you an honest criticism. If someone gives you false compliments, you can develop a false sense of confidence. On the other hand, hearing baseless criticisms can affect your self-esteem and therefore your performance.

  1. Additional qualifications

There are plenty of project management courses that you can take to help improve your technical skills. Through such courses you will learn how to identify project dependencies, manage costs, collaborate with a project team and delegate different responsibilities.

There are also other adjacent courses that can help you with leadership skills in general. You can take courses on communication skills, interpersonal skills and even email writing. When it comes to learning, don’t limit yourself. See what interests you and give it a try. Doing this, will set you apart from other project managers who never attempt to grow beyond their title.

As you can see, project management goes beyond just the practical. You’re managing human beings, not machines. As a result, you need to be emphatic to your team’s needs. You need to understand their idiosyncrasies and what motivates them. Never rest on your laurels. As a leader, you should always strive to improve.

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Niall Kennedy

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