Master These 4 Skills to Excel at Project Management

In the Knowledge-Worker Age, everyone is tasked with thinking, innovating, creating, and executing.

We are focused less on following the process and more on creating the process, service, or product. Innovation is a key competitive edge, whether you are in marketing, IT, or many service industries. That means we are all working to start and finish something… all the time!

“Project management” is now the work and competitive edge of the twenty-first century, even for workers without that phrase in their title or job description.

We can be a technician or a VP—project management has become agnostic. If you have something that needs to be produced with a beginning and an end, you are a project manager. You need to lead that project through to successful completion. On time. On target. And within budget.

Project management may not be in your formal skillset, and leading people may not be either. You may have consciously chosen to avoid a “leadership track.” You just wanted to manage projects.

But today, projects = people.

For a very long time, it was believed that the people side of project management had little impact on the project-management process. That has since been debunked. Formal and informal project managers need to engage people in a way that inspires them to want to give their best efforts.

Most times, project managers are running matrix teams and have very little formal authority to order people to perform. Not that any manager should be “ordering” their people to perform, but you know what I mean.

Formal authority comes from a title or a position, which doesn’t always translate to good leadership.

Titles may allow someone to enforce rules or to prod team members into compliance, but rarely do they encourage the highest and best contribution from followers.

If project managers (any manager or leader) can master the skill of informal authority—where their people want to play on this team and win—the potential for a successful project will exponentiate.

There are many “leadership” behaviors out there, and here are four soft skills that serve the 80/20 rule (which is that about 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your actions) to master the skill of informal authority.

1. Demonstrate Respect

Respect is its own reward. If you’re honest with yourself and others, respect will flow both ways and you’ll be pleased with the outcome.

2. Listen First

As the project manager, don’t collapse under the pressure to know everything. Hear people out when they have complaints, problems, ideas, or request a change. Remember, listening is half of communicating effectively.

3. Clarify Expectations

Get everyone on the same page. Say it. Say it again. Then say it again. You’ll inspire your team to play and win if you keep them informed.

4. Practice Accountability

Hold your team accountable to the standards that have been set. But to inspire your people, you must “walk your talk.”

As a project manager, your paradigm—or belief—has to be that project success is about how good you are at inspiring the people on your team.

By practicing the four key behaviors listed above, your informal authority will engage people fully to achieve the project outcomes. They will want to provide their very best and make it easy for everyone to celebrate on time, on target, and within budget as you help your organization win in the knowledge world in which we live, work, and compete.

80% of your results will come from 20% of your activities—are you focusing on the right ones? Download The 80/20 Activity Analyzer tool to be more strategic in your process and more successful in your results.

About the Author

Kory Kogon

Kory Kogon is FranklinCovey's Vice President of Field Development. Kory's focus is to help strengthen the capacity of the field teams to be highly consultative, while driving revenue and renewal within FranklinCovey's new and exciting subscription model, the All Access Pass. Kory is also one of the authors of the Wall Street Journal bestseller "The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity", in addition to "Project Management Essentials for the Unofficial Project Manager" and "Presentation Advantage". She has over 25 years of business expertise from front line positions to an executive team member. Prior to FranklinCovey, Kory spent six years as the Executive Vice President of Worldwide Operations for AlphaGraphics, Inc.

More Content by Kory Kogon
Previous Article
Identifying the Right Team-Member Roles as a Leader
Identifying the Right Team-Member Roles as a Leader

What do you do when your team starts to falter or produce less than stellar results—how do you turn things ...

Next Article
3 Ways to Drive Lasting Leadership Development
3 Ways to Drive Lasting Leadership Development

Creating behavior change requires three learning and development components that drive lasting impact. Read...

6 Ways to Help Your Team Handle Stress During Times of Change

Download Guide