Recently, I was having a discussion on why project managers need to excel in people skills. On the surface, most project managers do not have people management function and tend to discount people skills.
Project managers are often individual contributors who have no people management functions. Moreover, project managers are often overloaded with overseeing several projects, which places heavy load on their time. I have seen few project managers handling 6-8 projects simultaneously.
As a result, project managers tend to discount people skills and rely on technical skills alone. This may work in certain conditions - but in the long run, to be a really successful project manager one need good people skills.
Benefits of having good people skills:
- We live in a global world where projects are being executed by a globally dispersed teams. In such an environment, it is rare and a luxury to meet people face-to-face and build rapport with various stake holders. Many project managers may never see some of the stakeholders and customers face-to-face.
- In today's hyper competitive world, there is a constant pressure to complete projects faster than before. Reduction of project cycle times has become crucial for success.
- Projects and programs are becoming more complex. In software world, new projects are being launched on unproven technologies. So for a project manager, this becomes very difficult to identify project risks. The only way to correctly identify project risks is to connect with people working on that project and then get a first hand information of all the risks.
- Engineers often multitask. Today it is common for engineers to be working on more than one project. So unless project managers can build a good personal rapport with the team, the project can suffer with unexpected delays and defects.
- Project Managers work in a matrix organization, often reporting to several stake holders. Having good people skills helps in managing several stakeholders. Having good people skills will make it easier to interact with various stakeholders and get a more positive outcomes.
- Many organization do not have clearly demarcated management roles. Engineering execution managers often step into project manager's space and vice-versa. In such cases having good people skills help in smooth interactions and reduce friction.