What makes a good Project Manager?
Why empathy is an important trait!
We’ve been undertaking a lot of interviewing of late, and one of the questions that I often ask is “what do you think makes a good Project Manager?”.
There is really no right / wrong answer to this question, however, I do like to see what comes to their mind first. Often, people respond by mentioning the importance of communication, stakeholder management, regularly tracking progress, etc.
I did however have a great, and simple, response to this question recently that I was particularly impressed with – empathy.
And they were right. Empathy is an important characteristic to have as a Project Manager, or any type of Consultant really, as having empathy for clients, teams, and their projects does help with success.
Now I’m certainly not the first to write about this subject but I do think it’s important to remind ourselves every now and again!
When we’re in the throws of delivering a project, it’s easy to just focus on ticking off tasks… but at the core of every project is people.
Why is empathy important?
Empathy helps to create a healthy working environment and builds teamwork. Taking the time to listen and care about what is happening in your team’s world helps to build relationships, understand what makes them tick, and can be invaluable to building a committed and effective team.
As Dr Brené Brown, researcher and best-selling author, says “empathy fuels connection”.
To build connections with our teammates, and clients, we need to ensure that we are listening to ‘understand’ rather than just ‘respond’. This means being vulnerable and genuinely caring about our clients (as people) and each other.
Empathy helps people feel heard and valued. It helps to ensure that we have a good first impression, and a lingering lasting impression. People will often remember you more than the project or output you produce.
As Maya Angelou is quoted as saying: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Here at 2PM, one of our core values is ‘care’ and we’re committed to recruiting and developing our people based on this quality. Yes, we want our staff to be qualified and experienced, but we also want them to care about our clients and their team mates, because ultimately we believe this leads to better results!
How to be more empathetic
A good place to start is to try to get to know your team members and stakeholders as ‘people’ and understand what is happening in their lives. Take them out for a coffee. Be vulnerable. Listen.
Try to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective. As a Project Manager, it’s sometimes easy to just focus on the end goal, but how you get there is also important, especially for those helping deliver the project.
How do you know if you’re not being empathetic? Dr Brené Brown makes a great observation: “Rarely does an empathic response begin with: At least…”.
Need a Project Manager who understands the importance of people? Reach out.