Term Paper: Business Project Management Project Manager Key Skills

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Business Project Management

Project Manager Key Skills

Project managers have multiple responsibilities within the organization. The demand for qualified project managers continues to rise in an ever-changing marketplace. One of the most important skills or characteristics that a project manger needs to have is "good people skills" (Decarlo, Lewis & Wysocki, 37). This is because project mangers usually have much responsibility but typically have little direct authority over the people they may be guiding on their project teams (Decarlo, Lewis, & Wysocki, 2001).

Because of this it is important that project managers have the ability to read people and have the ability to adapt their behavior in a manner that will work best with team members effectively. If a project manager is able to do this he or she will have more ability to exercise "influence, persuasion and negotiation" on team members (Decarlo, Lewis & Wysocki, 2001).

For a project manager to perform the tasks required in a project management position, which include delegation and supervision, a project manager has to not only understand team members skills and abilities but have the ability to assess what members of the project team will work well together and identify potential problem areas, whether in the form of communication or skills development (Decarlo, Lewis & Wysocki, 2001). The ability to read and understand people will help a project manager work more closely with team members. An adaptable and flexible project manager is more likely to have the ability to work with diverse populations of people, a necessary job function of a project manager in any environment.

Project Managers and Delegation

Project managers have multiple responsibilities including: providing a supportive environment, offering mutual respect among co-workers and teams, providing an organized and flexible environment to work in, establishing an honest and trustworthy working relationship, building teams and delegating responsibilities (Decarlo, Lewis & Wysocki, 2001). Of these project managers often have the most difficulty with delegation.

Often it is difficult to delegate tasks because project managers fear they will lose authority over a project and that team members will not act in a manner that will facilitate appropriate goal achievement or objectives (Decarlo, Lewis & Wysocki, 2001). Many project managers feel it is there duty to take control of a project without realizing that part of effective project management involves delegation. Fortunately effective delegation can occur when a project realizes that it is his or her role to oversee a projects activities and assure that a project team meets their goals and objectives.

A project manager can effectively delegate tasks by recognizing the unique skills and abilities that each individual team member possesses and deciding what tasks he or she can delegate effectively. Once a task is delegated it is still the role of the project manager to ensure that each task is accomplished correctly and within the specified time frame. Delegation can easily occur once a project manager realizes that delegation does not mean relinquishing authority over a project.

Poor Communication in Project Management

Communication skills are the single most important element of project management, for without them project managers aren't able to elicit cooperation with other people and aren't able to resolve problems in the working environment. Project managers must also encourage adequate and ample communication within project teams in order to facilitate a productive work environment. Because of this communication is often considered the primary skill a project manager needs to succeed in the field (Green & Knippen, 1999). Good communication skills are often associated with good interpersonal skills in the project environment.

Upward communication is particularly important in the project management environment (Green & Knippen, 1999). This means that team members in a project management environment must feel comfortable communicating information up the chain of command, directly to the project manager. This shifts some of the responsibility for communication to team members, but does not relieve the project manager of their communication responsibilities. Rather it is the role of the project manager to "facilitate communication from employees" to ensure that upward communication occurs within the project environment (Green & Knippen, 3).

Upward communication allows employees and team members to understand a project mangers needs, work with the project manager and ask managers questions regarding a project dimensions (Green & Knippen, 1999).

Studies show that many employees or team members feel that barriers exist to upward communication, stemming primarily from the project manager's side (Green & Knippen, 5). This suggests a lack of trust exists and power differences are felt between project managers and team members; this can come in the form of defensive behavior from the project manager, failure of the project manager to respond to employee problems or a delay in response that can "hinder upward communication" (Green & Knippen, 6).

To alleviate these obstacles frequent contact must be established between the project manager and team members. Typically the best way to accomplish this is through "face-to-face" contact, which enables an "effective mode of communication" between project managers and employees (Green & Knippen, 1999). In addition skills development among project managers and employees must be encouraged that enable good decision making regarding communication; employees for example must learn what information they need to communicate up the chain of command and must also learn how to communicate that information (Green & Knippen, 1999; Rue & Byars, 1995:90). Likewise managers must learn how to "receive information and address it" in a responsible and beneficial manner (Kreitner, 378).

Project Managers, Sexual Harassment, Racial Issues and the Link to Poor Communication

In many cases sexual harassment cases can result purely from a lack of clear communication. When either racial or sexual harassment occurs in the workplace it is vital that managers investigate the causes and take immediate action to resolve the problem. The best way to handle this type of situation is through direct communication with both the harasser and the supposed victim.

Achampong (1999) points out the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) recommends that clear communication be established to help prevent and address harassment of any kind in the workplace. A lack of communication often causes misunderstanding.

Lack of understanding or failure to report unwelcome conduct often also results in harassment (Achampong, 1999). For example, someone may engage in behavior in the workplace they feel is merely friendly. They may for example hug their coworkers upon greeting, as may be customary given their cultural background. However another employee may see this as harassing, and accuse the individual of sexual harassment. In this case a clear lack of communication has occurred. Not only did the one individual misinterpret his coworker's intent, but the worker may have also failed to communicate the notion that this behavior was not welcome.

It is vital that project managers establish clear guidelines for what is and is not appropriate behavior in the workplace. This will often help prevent harassment of all kinds. Employees must feel comfortable expressing what activities and behaviors they are comfortable and not comfortable with, and the project manager must create a work environment that feels safe but also embraces diversity. Clear and open communication between project managers and team members and among team members themselves can help facilitate an environment free from harassment.

Turning Groups Into Highly Effective Teams

There are many technical and administrative aspects necessary for project management to be successful, however these aspects are less important than building strong interpersonal relationships in the project management environment. A good project manager can transform a group into a highly effective team only after he or she proves their trustworthiness, shows mutual respect for all team members and provides a sounding board for people to relate to; a project manager must do this while also leading a team (Decarlo, Lewis & Wysocki, 2001).

Hansen (1995) studies the progress of transforming groups into teams in the computer industry. The researcher suggests that for a project manager to create a cohesive team the project manager must be able to create and maintain authority but also construct the group into a team by strengthening the "sense of team identity" (Hansen, 103). This can be accomplished by structuring the team in a way that reinforces authority but also ensure the project manager understands the social and group dynamics necessary to create a cohesive team. The key to this is written and oral communication between coworkers and the team lead or supervisors (Hansen, 1995). Project team meetings should also be held regularly that ensure that every member of the group is clear on project goals, time constraints and that all questions are addressed and all activities coordinated between all group members.

Teams must work together to analyze problems or situations that arise within the context of a group project, and project decisions must be explained in a manner that is not confusing or unclear (Hansen, 1995). There are many informal ways a project manager can ensure a team remains cohesive, including routine meetings, status reports among all members of the team, through regular group interactions and communication and through one… [END OF PREVIEW]

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