Project managers play increasingly important roles in America’s healthcare industry. These individuals wear multiple hats and are responsible for everything from hiring specialist doctors in areas of need to designing a new hospital wing. As mammoth entities strive to lower costs while improving patient care, these folks largely determine the success of their organization’s goals.
It goes without saying that you need certain project management skills to succeed in such a role, and you can’t learn them all in school. Many of these “soft” skills are forged in the fires of other demanding positions, although you can take proactive steps to improve them.
What essential skills for a project manager should facilities look for when hiring for such roles? Do you have what it takes to succeed in this challenging position? Here are four categories that can help you decide if this field matches your strengths.
1. The Five Project Management Methodologies
You can learn the theory of the five project management methodologies in college — and undoubtedly will. Understanding how they work in practice and when to apply each takes the kind of finesse that only grows with experience. Here’s an overview of what you should understand about this important project management skill.
This method is the most straightforward and linear. Those involved in a project complete one segment at a time, awaiting completion before moving on to the next.
An example of a project that often follows a waterfall approach is constructing a wing for the hospital. You can’t build the walls before you lay the foundation.
Agile approaches are much faster-paced than projects using a waterfall methodology. They often include multiple interested parties, all experts in their unique fields working together toward a common goal.
An example may be staffing that new hospital wing. How many doctors and nurses are needed and in what specialties? What support personnel do you need, and how do their roles elevate patient care? Your head of nursing will coordinate with leaders from the building maintenance, budget, and nutrition departments to make these decisions.
If you’re someone who considers problem-solving their strong suit, you might gravitate toward six sigma project management. This methodology concerns itself with identifying areas of inefficiency and defects in operational processes and addressing them. It’s a continual refinement process.
An example of six sigma project management could be figuring out staffing needs in times of increased demand, as many facilities faced during the recent pandemic and may again as cold and flu season approaches. Is it better, for example, to use travel personnel or offer better pay and incentives to local doctors and nurses?
Scrum is a variation of agile project management that divides phases into short sprints. One feature of this style is frequent status updates between team members to keep morale high and ensure accountability.
An example might entail staffing two new wings at once. Members of respective teams could coordinate daily to measure their progress, share their triumphs and challenges and push each other toward goal completion.
Hybrid methodologies do what the name implies, uniting elements of the various project management styles. They’re often employed in large projects to provide a clear roadmap for investors and stakeholders to gain approval and remain focused on the overall mission.
Leadership is perhaps the most vital of all skills for a project manager, as it’s an inherent part of the job description. To see any project through to completion, you must motivate everyone to work toward the common goal. You need to develop within them the internal drive to do their best work, even when no one is looking, to ensure quality results for everyone else invested in the outcome.
Despite how important leadership is among project manager skills, it’s challenging to develop. You might be well-intentioned and highly educated, but your innate desire and background don’t necessarily translate directly into the emotional intelligence needed for managing other people.
If you grew up in a home or worked in toxic environments where the only way to “motivate” was through threats and hostility, you’re likely to use a similar approach.
Sadly, this management style results in low morale and high turnover. People expect to be treated like fellow professionals, not children who need scolding, and top talent will flee for brighter shores. The folk wisdom that most people leave bad managers, not jobs, is true.
Fortunately, you can develop your emotional intelligence and improve your project management skills by working on the following four components:
- Self-awareness: Do you understand your strengths and weaknesses? Do you know how your words and actions affect others? Can you take criticism without becoming defensive?
- Self-management: Leadership means making tough decisions not everyone will like. Can you regulate your emotions when faced with irate staff members, taking time to cool your head before responding instead of reacting in anger?
- Social awareness: How well can you read a room? Stories abound on social media of tone-deaf managers who fail to listen when those under them are pushed to the limit and have legitimate concerns.
- Relationship management: You’ll eventually face conflict, even if you prefer to avoid it. Do you know how to manage it when it occurs and minimize the resulting gossip that invariably eats up hours of company time? For example, do you take disgruntled or underperforming staff aside for a private chat or chastise them in front of everyone? Respectful treatment of all workers is a core component of job satisfaction.
3. Risk Management
Being a project manager means making weighty decisions that entail risk. While some error is inevitable — for example, it’s impossible to predict precisely how hard the flu season will hit or how many beds you’ll need — you need to know how to minimize potential harm.
That means you need to sharpen your chess-playing skills. To succeed at that game, you need to contemplate more than your next move but think several ahead. Get used to chasing yourself down a rabbit hole of questions and discovering the answers:
- How many additional staff could we need on hand if infectious disease rates reach the worst-case scenario?
- What will that do to the overall budget? What else needs to be cut to add the staff we require?
- What can we do if the needs prove less? How can we reallocate those funds, and how disruptive will scheduling changes be to current staff members?
- What if the needs change yet again throughout the season? How can we adjust?
4. Communication and Negotiation
Communication is also one of the most essential skills for project managers, and it’s, fortunately, one of the easiest to develop. Technological advances have led to a world of free programs and apps that can improve your written communication, going beyond grammar and spelling to evaluate your overall tone and reading level difficulty. You can even find those meant to help you hone your writing skills.
Oral communication often boils down to expressing what you need to say so that other people are receptive to your message. Please don’t cringe, bemoaning your need to be “politically correct” — using language that doesn’t offend others is a matter of mutual respect and demonstrates your emotional intelligence.
Part of this entails your delivery. For example, many people cheerfully lend an extra helping hand when asked. They become surly and disagreeable only after you act entitled to their service. There’s a world of difference between “put this away,” and “could you please put this back in the storage cabinet.”
The same rules apply to successful negotiation. People don’t like to feel coerced into a deal, and threats and power play often backfire. Even if they agree to your terms, you can bet they’ll actively seek ways to make your life more difficult. Instead, emphasize the mutual benefits of proposed arrangements. If the other party raises objections, ask questions to unearth the causes of their disagreement instead of turning up the sales pitch heat.
Level Up Your Project Manager Skills
Project management is essential to health care, and its importance continues to grow. Do you have the essential project management skills to succeed in this role?
You can improve your chances by leveling up these four skills for project managers. You might not learn them all in school, but you can develop these qualities by committing to personal growth.
Author – Beth is the Managing Editor and content manager at Body+Mind. She is passionate about writing about fitness, diet, fitness, mental health, and parenting. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness routines and recipes.