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What are the Major Team Leader Skills?

As we discussed in the part of this chapter describing the differences between management and leadership, the project manager is also often required to be able to fulfill the functions of a project leader. As such, he has to be able to:

  • Set clear goals and make certain that they are followed.
  • Assist other team members in gaining the overall vision of the project and in maintaining the vision throughout the course of project realization regardless of the problems and confusion.
  • Create and maintain motivation and a feeling of ownership and involvement in the team.

Among the many tools that the project manager, in the role of a project team leader, has to be able to use well are presentation skills, negotiation skills, and conflict resolution skills.

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The project manager often has to be able to use her negotiation skills in the informal negotiations with project stakeholders and the external project environment. Negotiating ability is often critical in the course of staff acquisition for project tasks and in dealing with other project managers and the functional managers of the organization. It is also extremely important to stakeholder and team management during the process of planning the project scope, schedule, and budget as well as in implementing a change management process with new changes of scope, schedule, or budget that are suggested by the client and/or other project stakeholders.

Conflicts are considered to be inevitable in the complex project environment, especially in matrix organizations. Some managers consider it as a sign of organizational health because the large amount of discussion and argument going on in the project often shows a creative approach and a strong involvement of the team members.

However, a long and aggressive conflict atmosphere can strongly inhibit the project team from being productive. Therefore, one of the important skills a project manager has to perform is to be able to track down the sources of conflicts and solve the problems resulting from them.

The best-known practices of conflict resolution involve:

  • Forcing. One of the sides of the conflict forces his or her opinion on the others.
  • Smoothing. A third party makes it seem as if the problems are less then they are.
  • Compromise. All the sides give something up.
  • Problem Solving. Discussion goes on and the conflicting sides try to get additional information to support their position until one of the sides agrees to understand the position of the other side.
  • Withdrawal. One of the conflicting sides just "shuts the door" and removes himself from the conflict.

Withdrawal and smoothing represent temporary approaches to conflict resolution while compromise, forcing, and problem solving provide permanent solutions. Because only problem solving leaves all the sides of the conflict satisfied, it is considered to be the best and most preferable approach to managing conflicts. In forcing, the only party satisfied with the result is the one who forced his opinion on the others. With smoothing, the person who tries to present the conflict as less than it is knows it is a temporary condition and does not satisfy the conflicting parties. In the case of compromise, both sides are slightly dissatisfied because they have to give something up; and finally, in the case of withdrawal, everybody seems to be strongly dissatisfied with the result including the person who withdraws.