Project Management

Project Management: Talent or Skill?

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Project Management: Talent or Skill?



When my son was a little boy, he was a great enthusiast of world-class soccer players and enjoyed questioning me: "Is a great soccer player born with talent, or did they practice harder than the others?"

Being the native consultant that I am, I replied to him with another question: "What do you think?" From then on, I was amazed by his train of thought being developed through this old yet complex question.

Through my many years of experience in consulting (and my licentiate degree), I got close to many people who were interested in growing their careers as project management professionals. I acknowledge a sense of pride in having collaborated in different ways with many of these stories. But, as an outside observer, every now and then I find myself asking the same well-grounded question brought up during that talk with my son: "Can a project manager achieve excellence through training and experience, or are there innate characteristics to this professional?"

Perhaps I should begin this reflection by attempting to identify what makes a project manager a successful professional. As it has already been written about before by many others, and aware that the list takes many characteristics into account, I will stick to those traits that I most like to see in a professional:

  1. As I like to put it, "projectized thinking," which is basically a mental model where one considers the actual risks and ramifications of these paths. This is someone always seeking to look at what is expected to happen next—they envision a sequential view of activities that consider the troubles inherent to the path and serve as balance points.
  2. I also like to emphasize the mental organization capacity of the professional. This ability keeps topics from being forgotten, or having their importance miscalculated.
  3. Interpersonal skills are also vital—such as common sense, negotiation capacity and politeness—in addition to other techniques such as communication and technical expertise in project proposals.
  4. All of that—as if it were not enough—must be supported by a strong skill to "read" other human beings, which enables us to minimally understand what is going on with stakeholders and what their real interests are.

We probably think that we have some (or all) of these skills. By admitting shortages, it is also natural to imagine that these skills may be developed through some specific training. I agree with that. However, I believe that we may recognize how rare (and challenging) it is to identify all of these characteristics at a high-level within the same professional.

The truth is that there are no effective tools to identify how great we really are in these skills. That's probably why it’s so difficult picking the ideal professional for the job. This is neither good nor bad. Bottom line: We were not born with a binary code that always allows us to go beyond expectations and break the simplistic view that we were destined to become something that we will be until the end of time.

Posted by Ramiro Rodrigues on: August 24, 2021 05:01 PM | Permalink

Comments (8)

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It seems to me that talent plays a big role, but you shouldn't forget about skill either, without it there would definitely be nothing!

Thanks for your comment @Alex Forest!

Dear Ramiro
Very interesting theme that brought to our reflection and debate
Thanks for sharing and your opinions.

It's curious, but for some years I asked myself the same question you ask yourself

Until I had the opportunity to read this reflection:
"Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Accordingly, a 'genius' is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework." -Thomas Edison

I've gone to the trouble of people watching and I've come to the conclusion that Thomas Edison was absolutely right

It's impossible to be a chef (one, two or three Michelin stars) without having 1% talent

I believe we think similar Luis Branco.
Thanks for your comment!

Talent no doubt is a big initiator, talent separates you from the others, but practice sharpens the talent to deliver. Talent Practice =Success, Practice=Success (might take time).

Talent is good, for project management. A person without Talent but with great enthusiasm hardworking is better But a person with Talent enthusiasm hardworking is = to near perfection.

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