Skills vs. Personality in Project Management

In most industries, especially IT, technical skills are often considered to be the most important criteria for hiring. When recruiting managers, a lot of companies think that the candidate must meet a long list of important skills in order to be able to perform the job efficiently. In reality, this may not be the best approach to hiring project managers.

Project management isn’t just about having a set of programmed skills; it also requires certain vital personality traits. In fact, sometimes, the personality of an individual may outweigh their skills in the project manager selection process.

The interview of a potential project manager

The point made above will become clearer with this real-life example wherein a potential candidate went to give his first interview for the role of a project manager. He says that he does not recall any conversation regarding the ‘technical’ aspect of his job. There was no detailed discussion on planning and overseeing a project.

So what was the interview focused on? Well, the individual was asked everything about his personality and the different ways in which he would use it and/or modify it to manage a situation. The job interviewee recalls that he was quite surprised by the turn the interview had taken.

A study by Purcell and Hutchinson, published in 2007, suggested that a direct correlation existed between the project manager’s personality and the successful delivery of a project. Another report, released by the Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management revealed that the success of a project manager depends on his ability to showcase perceiving and extrovert personality traits.

Today most companies place a very high value on what is termed as ‘cultural alignment’. This means that companies want candidates who can promise a suitable personality fit. Also, while technical skills might not be as critical as the personality of the individual, studies suggest that user experience (designing user interface), innovative technology, analytics and programming are some of the most desirable skills in managers looking to get hired in the IT job industry.

Takeaway

Project management is a very important role in any company and involves extensive team building for delivery of products that can transform organizations. In reality, it enjoys as much importance as other operations like strategy, HR and accounting, maybe even more. Therefore, it might be quite naïve to hire someone as a project manager immediately after they have completed a course or a workshop. It requires someone with sufficient experience and honing of personality traits to be able to successfully manage all kinds of projects and the entailing challenges.

The implication here isn’t that skills are unnecessary or less important for project management. But skills are perhaps secondary to personality when it comes to effective management of a project. After all, the project manager is responsible for leading teams, adapting to change, handling conflicts and several such tasks which require a greater play of personality than skills.

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