The Number One Project Management Skill

So you’re a project manager.

You know the unique hellish experience of having someone breathing down your neck over a deadline, while you in turn need to get on top of other people who are the ones causing the problem.

It’s human nature to just pass on the wrath we’re getting. But it isn’t effective.

Neuroscience studies show that one of the primary motivators for human behavior is the need to feel safe and loved. We all had that one teacher, boss, or mentor we can remember whose care for us motivated us to do things we might have thought were beyond our capabilities. People only fire at 100% capacity when their needs are fulfilled.

As a supervisor, you want to make this a part of the work environment. I’m not suggesting you create a kindergarten environment, and a little fear is good for the workplace. But it’s like salt – just a pinch. Too much ruins the recipe.

You want to show your employees you care. And to do that, you actually need to care about them.

People can see through things. Any tip for showing empathy, when employed cynically, backfires. I will share my tips here, but please, remember this. If you just go through the motions, you not only will not succeed, you’ll wind up alienating people further.

  1. Make sure everyone speaks at your meetings. Pay special attention to introverts. If it means halting somone and asking for someone to comment, do it. People want to feel like their opinion is important! And people need to feel heard.
  2. Give feedback, and ask for it too. People like being recognized, especially for good work. Give it to them! You don’t have to go overboard. A simple “hey, good job with that spreadsheet” really goes a long way in a corporate environment. Asking your team for feedback is a crucial componenet to knowing what works, and what doesn’t. When put together, such as “great job on that spreadsheet. How do you think the project is coming along?” you give the message that you value their work and opinion. That’s a winning mix for motivation.
  3. Hold meetings out of the office whenever possible. Getting out into the sun, or getting a chance to just feel relaxed, are great ways to break up the workday, reduce pressure, and show your appreciation for the team.