Vince Mirabelli
January 23, 2017

Don't Sweat the Soft Skills

Screenshot 2017-01-23 16.51.47.pngOne of the most frequently asked questions I get as a Lean Six Sigma coach and mentor is about project leads or candidates, and more specifically, what type of person I'd like to help guide to project execution. My answer has become so standard, I should probably put it in an FAQ or something...maybe we'd benefit from a blog post about it...

But I digress.

In my experience, there are really two types of project leads; those that are technically proficient, and those with what we commonly call soft skills.

(As an aside, I don't totally buy into the notion that these skills are "soft" in any way. While some of them are inherent in the lucky few, they can nonetheless be learned or honed, so I don't see anything soft about that. But again, I digress...I generally try to keep my digressions to 2 or fewer, and I've already blown that in the first 150 words)

If I have my way, I'd rather take the latter than the former...soft skills over technical proficiency, any day. Seems contrary to the norm, since Lean Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to problem solving, often requiring in depth statistical and graphical analysis, which takes many of us back to the miserable days in university stats class. Yet here's the thing...I can teach the technical stuff. In fact, I expect nothing more from a technical standpoint than a willingness to learn. But the ability to communicate up and down to various stakeholders, the ability to manage your project and your team, the ability work with and get support and buy in from people is absolutely critical. If a candidate can't get support for a project, because they didn't do the work, they missed something, or worst of all, they didn't engage all of the necessary stakeholders...well, they're dead in the project water.

So what are the qualities I look for in a potential candidate? What are the skills and characteristics (at least in my opinion) that make people great project leaders, regardless of whether in the lean six sigma or project management spaces? Well, there are really 5 traits that separate the best from the rest (Each of these 5 are deserving of their own posts, which I think is fair since countless books and texts have been written about each, so forgive me for covering at the high level below, and in more detail in the future)

1) Coaching

We all come with various strengths, and accompanying weaknesses. The best project leads know this, and exploit it for gain, instead of complaining. This one has taken me a while to wrap my head around, to my own detriment. One of the biggest responsibilities of a project lead is making sure feedback is given to your team, and that appropriate guidance (maybe in the form of training, or not) is given to develop and grow their skill set.

2) Communication

Communication is key. Being able to scale our communication up or down, as the situation calls for, prevents confusion, which could be the difference between an ongoing or cancelled project. Being able to use examples, terms, etc., that are relevant and understandable for your audience is also an incredibly valuable asset. Most people think they are great communicators, but this one is much easier said than done.

3) Personal Drive

This is the "get off your ass and go" part. We all have that proverbial little man (or woman) inside of us, pushing us to achieve greater and greater heights, whether in our personal or professional lives. Drive, or initiative, or self-motivation; whatever you want to call it, is what causes us to step down on the gas to achieve something great.

4) Leadership

When I think of leadership, I think of the ability to build a following, not through coercion or threat; not because a team or group has to follow, but rather because they want to. Leaders find a way to light a fire within people, as opposed to under them. And leadership means celebrating the good things that happen, but also acknowledging and addressing the failures we are all bound to experience.

5) Teamwork

Project teams would be perfect if not for the fact that they require people (aren't people just the worst sometimes?!). And this may surprise you, but sometimes project team members don't get along, falling somewhere along the adversarial continuum between "he never pays for coffee" and "mortal nemesis"...though depending on your feelings about coffee, those could be one and the same. The best of the best know how to manage cohesion within the ranks. People don't have to like each other to get a job done, though admittedly, it helps. 

We all tend to think of the technical side of our disciplines. That is, after, largely what makes up the certification exams. But in order to rise above, to hit a new become a true professional in our respective fields, we need to continue to build and develop the skills that allow us to get there.

And there's nothing soft about that.

Vincent is a principal at Global Project Synergy, working with clients in the fields of project leadership, business analysis and Lean Six Sigma. He has many years of direct senior-level experience in various aspects of project life, including Project Management, Business Analysis, Business Process Improvement and Enterprise/Organizational Design and Planning.

Contact Vince:

Follow Vince on LinkedIn

The Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Industry Awards

The Largest Leadership-Level Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Event



Proqis Digital Virtual Conference Series

View our schedule of industry leading free to attend virtual conferences. Each a premier gathering of industry thought leaders and experts sharing key solutions to current challenges.

Download the most comprehensive OpEx Resport in the Industry

The Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Industry Awards Video Presentation

Proqis Events Schedule

Proqis Digital

Welcome to BTOES Insights, the content portal for Business Transformation & Operational Excellence opinions, reports & news.
Access all 75 Award Finalist Entires
Subscribe to Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Insights Now
ATTENDEE - Proqis Digital Event Graphics-2
ATTENDEE - Proqis Digital Event Graphics (2)-1
ATTENDEE - Proqis Digital Event Graphics (1)-1

Featured Content

  • Best Achievement of Operational Excellence in Technology & Communications: IBM
  • Best Achievement of Operational Excellence in Oil & Gas, Power & Utilities: Black & Veatch
  • Best Achievement in Cultural Transformation to deliver a high performing Operational Excellence culture: NextEra Energy
Operational Excellence Frameworks and Learning Resources, Customer Experience, Digital Transformation and more introductions
  • Intelligent BPM Systems: Impact & Opportunity
  • Surviving_the_IT_Talent_deficit.png
  • Six Sigma's Best Kept Secret: Motorola & The Malcolm Baldrige Awards
  • The Value-Switch for Digitalization Initiatives: Business Process Management
  • Process of Process Management: Strategy Execution in a Digital World

Popular Tags

Speaker Presentation Operational Excellence Business Transformation Business Improvement Process Management Business Excellence Continuous Improvement process excellence Process Optimization Process Improvement Award Finalist Case Study Digital Transformation Leadership Enterprise Excellence Change Management Lean Premium Organizational Excellence Lean Enterprise Lean Six Sigma Insights Article Execution Excellence Capability Excellence New Technologies Changing & Improving Company Culture Enterprise Architecture Agile end-to-end Business Transformation Execution & Sustaining OpEx Projects Leadership Understanding & Buy-In Lack of/Need for Resources Culture Transformation Adapting to Business Trends Changing Customer Demands Failure to Innovate Integrating CI Methodologies Lack of/Need for Skilled Workers Lack of/Need for Support from Employees Maintaining key Priorities Relationships Between Departments BTOES18 RPA & Intelligent Automation Live BTOES From Home Financial Services Process Mining Customer Experience Excellence Technology Healthcare iBPM Healthcare and Medical Devices Process Automation Cultural Transformation Webinar Culture Customer Experience Innovation BTOES Video Presentations Exclusive BTOES HEALTH Strategy Execution Business Challenges Digital Process Automation Report Industry Digital Workplace Transformation Manufacturing Supply Chain Planning Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Automation IT Infrastructure & Cloud Strategies BPM Artificial Intelligence innovation execution AI Lean Manufacturing Oil & Gas Robotic Process Automation IT value creation Agility Business Speaker Article Systems Engineering RPAs Insurance Process Design Digital Speaker's Interview data management Business Process Management Intelligent Automation digital operations Awards thought leaders BTOES Presentation Slides Transformation Cloud Machine Learning Data Analytics Digital Transformation Workplace Banking and Capital Markets Data Finance Professional Services Education IT Infrastructure IT Infrastructure & Cloud Strategies Live Blockchain Interview Solving Cash Flow with AI BTOES White Paper investment banking Analytics Insight BTOES19 Consumer Products & Retail Enterprise Agile Planning Government Operational Excellence Model Project Management Algorithm Automotive and Transportation Banking Business Environment Digital Bank Enterprise architecture as an enabler Hybrid Work Model Primary Measure of succes Relationship Management Sales business expansion revenue growth Adobe Sign Agile Transformation CoE Delivery solution E-Signatures Electricity Global Technology HealthcareTechnologies Innovation in Healthcare Transportation Accounts Receivable (AR) Big Data Technology CORE Cloud Technology Cognitive learning Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) Logistics Services Operational Excellence Example Reduce your RPA TCO Risk Management Six Sigma business process automation transformation journey Covid-19 Data Entry Digital Experience Digital Network Digital Network Assistant (DNA) Digitization Drinks HR Internet Media NPS Net Promoter Score Program Management Portal (PgMP) Sustainability TechXLive The Document is Dead The New Era of Automation Automated Money Movement Banking & Financial Services Biopharmaceutical Blue Room Effect Building Your Future Workforce in Insurance Business Process Governance Capital Market Creative Passion Digital Transformation Workplace Live Digital Workforce Digitalization ERP Transformation Effective Change Leaders Finance Global Operations (FGO) Financial Services Software Frameworks Hoshin Planning Human Capital Lean Culture Natural Gas Infrastructure Natural Language Processing Organizational Change Pharmaceutical Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences Project manager Supply Chain Management Sustainable Growth The Fully Automated Contact Center Transformation Initiatives Workplace Analytics eForms eSignatures 3D Thinking BEAM BFARM BTOES17 Big Data Processing Business Analytics Business Growth Centralized Performance Monitoring System Communication Creativity Digital Technologies Digital Technology Educational Psychologist Energy Management Health Insurance Health Maintenance Organizations Hospitality & Construction Human Centered Design Integrated Decision Approach Integrated Decision Making Intelligent Document Processing Kaizen Medicare Moodset for Excellence Natural Language Processing (NLP) Offering Managers Oil and Gas Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences Photographing Price and Routing Tracking (PART) Process Design Document (PDD) Product Identifier Descriptions (PIDs) Python Quote to Cash (Q2C) Resilience SAP Sales Quota Team Work Telecommunications Text Mining Visually Displayed Work Culture master text analytics virtual resource management