Being an Effective PMO Leader

Even though methods, processes and technologies are important, the best PMO Leaders have the right soft skills to lead their organizations as well.  Unfortunately, many PMO leaders just see their project team members as units of production and fail to see their capabilities, potential and passion.  Through developing these five critical soft skills, PMO Leaders can see more success.  Here is a table which shows the five critical soft skills necessary for an effective PMO Leader.  In addition, this article gives you a cliff notes version of what each of these five critical soft skills mean for you as a PMO Leader.   

Critical Soft Skills

1.     Listening

Listening is not a skill that comes naturally and it was one of the skills I had to learn over time because as a leader, I was always the one telling my team members what to do.  However, great leadership involves making collaborative decisions based upon the input of others. It is impossible for a single person to make decisions in a vacuum and you are most effective as a leader when you receive feedback from your customers, your team, your bosses and anybody else you interact with.

The best advice I can give is that listening involves putting the other person’s needs ahead of my own.  You should always approach listening as how you can help the other person and how your actions will help the organization instead of how that person can help me achieve whatever task or goal I might have. 

2.     Empathy

Empathy is a skill that should be utilized more as a leader.  Simply, empathy is understanding and connecting with the feelings of others.  Many people mistakingly equate empathy to sympathy but the two words are not the same.  Empathy is much closer to the word compassion.  In order to be empathetic, you must recognize the other person’s needs and how their feelings are forming their emotions.  Empathy does not mean that you agree with everything that a team member might convey. 

However, your team members deserve your empathy and compassion.  Studies show that an emphatic leader creates a loyal and engaged team while a lack of empathy creates a climate of distrust, poor morale and employee turnover.  Empathy allows you as a leader to understand the challenges facing your team.  The reason empathy is so important for a PMO Leader is that it allows the leader to put him or herself in the mind of the other person and experience the problem from that person’s perspective.  

3.     Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is a term that has been thrown around quite a bit the past 10 years or so and I think that many people do not understand what it really is and why it is such an important skill for leaders.  EI as it is called is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.  By being a leader who can manage his or her emotions, this leader can better manage the emotions of others.

Having Emotional Intelligence is so critical because a leader could do everything else correctly but if leaders are unable to steer emotions in the right direction, their effectiveness is considerably lower.  Goal fulfillment involves motivating the whole team and understanding the needs and feelings of others to make sure that the team remains committed to the tasks they are responsible for.  Much of Emotional Intelligence is around self-awareness and social skills and the ability to create an environment where teams can collaborate and suggest new ideas without fear of punishment.    When you establish that type of environment, you see highly performing teams.  

4.     Creativity

Creativity is using imagination and original ideas to create something of value and for the PMO Leader really means to find innovative ways to utilize existing resources.  Creativity is so important in today’s digital environment because the leaders and organizations that succeed show differentiation.  One of the challenges of some PMO Leaders is that when they are asked for solutions, they fallback into quoting PMBOK or shallow cliches. 

Even though PMBOK is a body of knowledge, it is not exhaustive.  Many times issues arise that are not black and white issues.  That gray area often involves creativity being more of a trial and error exercise.  Creativity involves innovation and that can take people out of their comfort zones.  The biggest challenge for the creative leader is that many in the organizations happy with the status quo will be skeptics.  Skeptics many times are resistant to change because it threatens their authority.  It is important to build effective communication skills that allows you to convey the benefits of your innovation.     

5.     Servant-Leadership

Servant Leadership is another one of those misunderstood terms that has become part of our vernacular the past ten years or so.  One of the best definitions of servant leadership is that it is a leadership philosophy in which an individual interacts with others with the aim of achieving authority rather than power with the intent to promote the well-being of the whole team over self.  Some people see the term servant leadership an oxymoron but the practical aspect of the term has been used for thousands of years.  For example, the Japanese word samurai means to serve. 

The practical way to  a person shows servant leadership is by putting the needs of those under your authority before your own needs.  This could mean your team, your clients or your stakeholders.  A Servant-Leader is motivated to help those under his or her authority grow.  This helps to create better producing teams where decision making is made within an atmosphere of trust and gratitude.  In addition, when your team members see you trying to help them,  they will more likely want to return the help that you will need.    

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