What makes a specific person a good Project Manager? Is it soft communication skills? An analytical brain that manages budgets and timelines?
High-level multitasking capabilities? If you ask me, I’d say that a pinch of everything will do the job.
If someone decides to perform a survey about the background of Netguru PMs, there will be a bunch of surprises. Not only most of the people did not start with a degree in project management, but also most of us came from different worlds. Among PMs, you can find people with technical and non-technical backgrounds, including graduates of civil engineering, law, journalism, or even forestry. What’s fascinating is that all these people, regardless of the field of study completed, will agree that it helped them to develop as a PM. Each of your previous experiences may have an invaluable benefit in your current job position. It can be an ability to easily build relationships or mastery in writing formal documentation. Each experience broadens your horizons and makes you better in what you do. Even if it's not linked to your field of work.
Taking all Netguru PMs as an example, I am quite sure that each of us has a different style of running projects. Some are more people-oriented, others are more focused on numbers and metrics. Although it does not change the outcome - we run projects to make beautiful software. Each of us uses different skills to achieve this goal.
While talking about skills and experiences, we can’t dismiss the topic of self-awareness. Let’s start with a few questions. Please take a moment and try to answer them.
- Is there a particular soft skill you could teach someone else?
- Can you point out a few soft skills which you treat as your weak points?
- Is it easy for you to set goals focusing on developing your strengths?
- Are you aware of your weaknesses and how to improve them?
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, you are lucky. You already understand your strong and weak points and know how to work on them. Impressive! Let's assume that, for some of you, it is hard to understand and work on soft skills. One way of improving it is by taking the Gallup test. What is it? Let me show you the description from their webpage.
"Gallup's Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment (GSF) is a behavioral assessment used by employers to identify prospective employee's unique strengths. The strengths, as defined by the Gallup Assessment, is a combo of skills, knowledge, and talents".
In a shorter way: it is a test that can point out your strong and weak sides. It also gives a short description how you can work on them to observe development or improvement. Cool, isn't it? With the test results, motivation to work and some digging in Gallup's Youtube channel, you can set your own goals. Choose them, so they can help you to understand and strengthen the desired skills to become a better PM.
Taking the Gallup test helped me to understand that everyone has a unique superpower. A skill that comes to us naturally, and sometimes we are not even aware of possessing it. Awareness of this skill is the first key to success, the starting point of understanding your superpower. Find it, develop it, and share it with others. You’ll see how much joy it brings to your day-to-day work. Let’s take an example based on my experience. Imagine that empathy is your superpower. You do not have trouble with understanding other people’s feelings and you can easily put yourself in their shoes. For me it was obvious, but I did not treat that as a superpower. Why? Probably because it was so natural for me that I stopped noticing it.
What is also worth noticing, I felt, is that if I have the ability to understand other people’s needs, that means others also do, right? Well, no, and that was my second lesson learned from the Gallup test. It is easy to understand that all people are different and see the diversity. But for me it was quite difficult to understand that empathy, which comes naturally for me, can be really difficult for others. With the ability you basically have in your blood, you see it as a part of every human being. Obviously it is, but probably not on the same level. So here are 3 actions you can follow with your superpower after getting familiar with it:
- Understand and develop it. Read your Gallup report a couple of times if needed. That will make you more aware of your natural behaviors. You’ll see that reading will feel a little bit weird as you can identify with almost the whole description. Try to use the tips listed in reports to take actions for maximising your potential. Talk with your leader, partner or a friend about that. Hear what they have to say - it may be an eye-opener.
- Be aware that what comes to you naturally may be hard for others. Be understanding and patient.
- Share your superpower with others. Try to teach people what they can do to develop this particular skill of yours. How? Honestly, I do not know yet. I am still learning myself. But I know that sharing knowledge about empathy with others will be an amazing experience.
Let me promise you, knowing the skills you’re good at, reading them out loud, and developing them may become a really life-changing experience.
Besides superpowers, the Gallup tests also show you the less attractive aspects of your personality. And here we come to weaknesses. Reading about your failings is not a pleasant thing. But, as a whole, the test makes you realize some things and notice your behaviors. For me, assertiveness has always been something I struggled with. Now I can admit that it was my weak point and believe me, lack of assertiveness is not a super useful skill for a Project Manager. This time the Gallup test also came to the rescue. I decided to ask people in my organization and find someone who can support me with some good advice. Luckily for me, I did not have to search for long as I have a team leader who is amazing and assertive at the same time. She helped me understand my behavior and together we found ways to address this. I took a bunch of tips from her and gained loads of knowledge.
What we need to understand is that PMs, just as all people, need to work on themselves to become better in a particular field of work. There is no perfect manager among us who does not make mistakes and is an example to all of us.
To become better, we should work together as a team, share knowledge, talk to each other, and help others grow. I can share my example as proof. When I started working as a PM, the biggest challenge for me was contact with the client. I was terrified every time I had to speak during business meetings. I assumed that I'm not professional enough. With help from my assertive and professional leader, I was able to walk out of my comfort zone. With baby steps, I changed my attitude, gained awareness of my expert position, and learned how to use it.
Now, I see amazing progress. It was a long and tough journey, but now I'm proud of this success.