2 Surprise Skills Project Managers Never Knew They Needed

Posted by Ariella Saucier on November 16, 2017

Like pretty much every other professional duty, project management has its ups and its downs. On the plus side, there are many moving parts and no shortage of curveballs thrown, keeping you on your toes. The down side? …There are many moving parts and no shortage of curveballs thrown, keeping you on your toes.

Even on those days when the curveballs pile up and you can’t seem to get clear direction, you’re still expected to keep your project progressing–sometimes to the point that you may wonder why “reading minds” isn’t listed as a necessary skill in your job description.

And while I have yet to figure out how to fully tap into my psychic abilities (I’m working on it!), the good news is that there are a couple of workarounds to help achieve the same result.

Predicting the Future: Know What’s Ahead

It’s impossible to gaze into a crystal ball and know exactly what’s coming, but you can still put this mindset to good use. You might not know exactly what lies ahead, but you can usually take a good stab at it to let you start planning. Besides, it’s safe to assume that not everything is going to go according your plan anyway.

So while I can’t predict the future exactly, I can try to see what’s around the corner, envisioning likely scenarios for what could go right or wrong. I use previous experience from similar situations to predict how this time might end up. If all goes according to plan (yay!), then I can keep chugging along smoothly. But if something goes wrong, then I’ve already spent some time thinking of solutions in advance, so now, all that’s left to do is execute them.

There are a few things you can practice to really hone this skill:

  1. Think about similar situations you’ve experienced in the past and find parallels to today’s projects.
  2. Mentally walk through the entire path of a project. Where do you see potential pitfalls or challenges?
  3. Remember that you might be wrong – but that’s okay, because the mental preparation will probably pay off somewhere else.

Mind Reading: Know What’s Needed

Part of being a successful project manager is being able to work effectively with different kinds of people. They’ll all excel in different roles, and whether you’re dealing with a superior, a client, a vendor or a coworker, chances are good that not everyone is going to communicate what they’re looking for in the exact same way. Yet despite this, you’re still expected to have everything prepared and on track.

So in order to manage your team and foster a collaborative, efficient environment, you have to understand each person’s role and how they fit into the overall project. As the lead on the project, it’s imperative to take a look at the bigger picture and predict what your team will need in order to succeed each step of the way. Even when you’re not explicitly told, you’ve got to have an idea of where your team is at and how they’re progressing.

This little bit of foresight and “mind reading” can be a bit trickier when it comes to checking in on overdue deadlines or taking new requests from a superior, but it’s just as important. In a previous blog post, we talked about the importance of establishing goals before you get started on a project. Having that understanding of what needs to be accomplished will help you even when the day-to-day direction gets a bit fuzzy, or the short-term deadlines start to slip.

Here are some tricks you can try to brush up on your mind reading:

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of the other players – what decisions might they make? What obstacles might they run into? What would you need if you were in their shoes?
  2. Think about your past dealings with a particular coworker or stakeholder – what kinds of questions did they ask, and what points did they seem really interested in that could potentially come up again now?

Without a doubt, it takes a special kind of person to manage projects successfully, but if you do ever come across “reading minds” or “predicting the future” as a required job skill, you’ll be prepared to handle it!

Ariella Saucier, Project Manager at AAC

Ariella Saucier
Project Manager