Project management skills are universal skills. From the C-suite to the front line, effective project management ensures tasks are accomplished and organizational goals are met. As a result, “companies of all sizes, across all industries, are looking to democratize project management skills,” says Oren Ezra, head of enterprise marketing at Monday.com, a project management platform. While designated project manager roles aren’t going away anytime soon, organizations are realizing that “employees in every role have to operate, or function, as a project manager in some way, shape or form,” whether it’s working across teams or keeping stakeholders informed throughout a project’s life cycle.
Project management skills are a valuable addition to any employee’s toolbox, and with teams working remotely and having to pivot in light of COVID-19, they can be the difference between teams that sink and teams that swim during the pandemic. These three skills, which are at the cornerstone of effective project management, can set remote teams up for success:
Effective project management requires stellar communication skills, such as active listening and consistent communication with stakeholders, says Joseph Launi, president of Project Management Experts (PME). Martyn Kinch, director at Training Byte Size, Ltd., agrees that it’s important to keep stakeholders informed throughout a project’s life cycle and to maintain communication across the business through social media and other workplace messaging tools. Training on skills like negotiation and communicating across organizational levels can help remote teams stay connected and up to date on important projects and deadlines.
Although communication skills are essential for any team’s success, they’re even more critical on remote teams: In a Harvard Business Review article on remote collaboration, author and chief executive officer Erica Dhawan and psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic write that misinterpretations create an anxiety that “can become costly, affecting morale, engagement, productivity, and innovation.” Remote teams must go the extra mile to communicate with one another during the pandemic.
Cornerstone OnDemand recommends weekly one-on-ones between leaders and their direct reports. One-on-one meetings give leaders the chance to offer coaching and feedback and to check in on key projects and priorities. To stay connected as a team, consider scheduling a quick, daily check-in to touch base on important projects — and see how each team member is holding up during the pandemic.
Resilience is defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Project managers exercise resilience to “plan, execute and control” a project’s objectives and “keep the project on track” in spite of tight deadlines and unexpected hiccups, such as turnover and budget cuts, says Launi.
Resilience can help remote teams navigate the coronavirus’ impact on the business. While it may seem like more of an innate skill or personality trait, resilience is a learnable skill. A Project Management Institute (PMI) article explains, “Resilient environments don’t happen by accident. Managers have to make the choice to approach team effectiveness as an integral part of the team process, making sure that the team has the right skills to deliver results, is aligned on a clear purpose, with established ways-of-working and agreed upon norms of behavior around how they work together.”
Managers should work to identify and fill skills gaps on their teams regularly. This task is even more important as teams adjust to remote work and adapt to changing business operations in light of COVID-19. Whether it’s training on soft skills like empathy and self-awareness, or on technical skills like cloud computing and user experience (UX) design, learning and development (L&D) can give remote teams the tools they need to be resilient during turbulent times.
3. Servant Leadership Skills
Servant leaders are leaders who are more dedicated to their teams than themselves. Servant leadership skills help project managers adopt a more human-centric, collaborative approach to project management, where customer and employee relationships take center stage.
“Project managers and their teams must remain accountable to make mistakes, seek truth and protect their integrity at all times,” Launi says. “This is why teaching servant leadership is so important.”
According to a report by Susan Parente, PMP, principal consultant at S3 Technologies, LLC and an instructor at the University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies, servant leadership skills can help project managers understand and empathize with their team members, build community with their colleagues, and respond intuitively when challenges arise.
Servant leadership skills can also help remote team members better serve one another. During the pandemic, simple actions like helping a team member with a stretch assignment or scheduling regular mental health check-ins can go a long way in building morale and trust — both of which are more essential now than ever.
Working from home is an adjustment many teams were unprepared for. By maintaining effective communication, staying resilient and embracing servant leadership skills, they can do more than survive in a remote work environment: They can thrive in it.