The Top 6 Soft Skills the Best Life Sciences Project Managers Have

November 11, 2021 by FlexPro

Creating an effective project plan isn’t the only type of skill a project manager should possess.
Come with us as we take a deep dive into the most valuable soft skills a project manager has while managing any life sciences project.

Gantt charts, work breakdown structures, project charters- oh my!

Oftentimes, companies may rely on their employees too heavily to acquire essential hard skills in order to perform their job. There is a huge emphasis on people and teams to encompass hard skills -like having great technical expertise and scientific rigor. There is one type of skill that people forget about: soft skills.

Soft skills are about building trust with stakeholders and fostering a collaborative team spirit. These “people skills” are sometimes hard to measure, but they lead to positive outcomes like improved communication between teammates, the enhanced ability to manage a wide variety of people, and fast resolutions to challenging problems.

After surveying our elite project management professionals at FlexPro, a Network Partners Company, we’ve conducted a list of the six most important soft skills a project manager in the life sciences industry encompasses in order to lead a team to success.

1.   Communication

Smooth communication sets every project up for success. It’s a crucial part of building effective teams because open, honest communication helps people feel much more invested in the process.

When there’s an expectation of transparent communication, fear is diminished and people feel comfortable opening up to their project manager about concerns and challenges they may be facing. Of course, this goes both ways and the entire team should feel that their project manager is also sharing communication frequently, honestly, and effectively.

2.   Listening

The life sciences industry’s best project managers are excellent listeners. The cross-functionality of the role requires them to know how to resist the urge to speak, while listening closely to what their stakeholders are saying about the project.

This is a form of active listening, a communication strategy that gets the most out of feedback by re-stating what you hear and asking short follow-up questions. Active listening minimizes the chance of misunderstandings and helps people feel that their concerns are being heard.

3.   Organization

It would be easy to underestimate the value of organization because it sometimes exists behind the scenes of a project. A skilled project manager might be spending hours organizing and prioritizing hundreds of important tasks, yet their organizational magic is somewhat invisible to others.

Results of good organization skills can be shown through elements like task lists, questions, problem resolution, action steps, and milestones. In their day-to-day work, this often takes the form of emails, messages, and in-person chats.

Paradoxically, a project manager’s organization skills are most noticeable when they’re missing. Poor organization can lead to critical errors, quality control emergencies, and regulatory noncompliance.

4.   Decision-Making

A top-notch project manager is also an expert decision-maker who can make savvy judgments to keep projects rolling along without interruption. They can also estimate the impact of these decisions and form a decision tree or flow chart that tracks the downstream effects.

Generally speaking, a life sciences project manager requires three levels of decision-making –

  • Routine: Day-to-day decisions that move the project forward
  • Emergency: Urgent decisions regarding critical turning points
  • Strategic: High-level decisions that take a broader, longer view

Stakeholders are involved at all levels of decision-making, but a project manager is usually expected to handle most routine decisions to keep things on track. Emergency decisions typically involve key stakeholders who have a direct role in resolving difficult situations. A good project manager facilitates the decision-making process and ensures all actions are thoughtful and strategic.

5.   Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is one of the most important aspects of project management. Conflicts are inevitable, especially during times of high stress and dramatic change.

Soft skills in project management can prevent and resolve conflicts –

  • Interpersonal conflicts among stakeholders
  • Conflicts over scarce resources, work interruptions and downtime
  • Lack of clarity that leads to misunderstandings
  • Gaps in communication that create confusion
  • Overall lack of project focus that allows conflict to arise

Project managers with excellent soft skills address conflict head-on through openness, communication, and understanding human nature. Conflict is at its core an opportunity to get to the bottom of persistent problems and resolve them through teamwork, achieving project goals, and building a successful environment.

6.   Time Management

Stakeholders involved in life sciences projects are typically extremely busy professionals who are handling heavy workloads. The mission of a particular project is not necessarily top-of-mind for them.This makes time management critically important for a project manager. It is important for a project manager to show respect for stakeholders’ schedules, while still accomplishing the goals of the project.

Time management is an essential  skill to help with resource analysis, task planning, and collaboration to keep deadlines within reach. If someone is unlikely to hit a critical deadline, the project manager must be able to sense their struggle and address it tactfully.

Lead a Project to Success

FlexPro provides world-class project management services and stands out in the field for our soft skills. Our collaborative and communicative style helps us move projects forward quickly as you accomplish your company’s goals for transfer planning, product recalls, auditing, inspection readiness, pharmacovigilance, gap assessment, and remediation.

If your company needs stronger soft skills in project management, FlexPro is here to help. Schedule a 15-minute call today to connect with one of our talented project managers.

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