7 Ways to Use Power Skills for Conflict Resolution (and Improved Project Success)
Updated: Jan 23
The latest Pulse of the Profession® report from the Project Management Institute (PMI) examines the link between ‘power skills’ -- interpersonal skills related to leadership and teamwork -- and project success. The results make a strong case for organizations to prioritize these skills: 92% of respondents agree that “power skills help them work smarter.” Working ‘smarter’ involves not only effective collaboration but recognizing and resolving thorny issues before they become major conflicts that can derail project progress. Conflict within teams and between teams and stake holders is among the top obstacles to project success. The PMI reported that among companies with highly effective communication, 80% of projects met their goals, compared to a 52% success rate for those with minimally effective communication. The more effective communicators enjoyed much higher rates of on-time and on-budget performance, as well (72% vs. 37% and 76% vs. 48%, respectively).
By making power skills a priority, organizations can minimize conflict and harness the competitive advantage of improved project performance.
What are power skills?
PMI defines power skills as “abilities and behaviors that facilitate working with others and help project professionals to succeed in the workplace.” You might have heard these skills previously defined as ‘soft skills’, but the PMI report emphasizes that “calling these abilities and behaviors ‘power skills’ signifies the value they bring to project professionals, teams and organizations.” In the PMI survey, project professionals rated “communication, problem-solving, collaborative leadership and strategic thinking as the most critical power skills” in helping them fulfill organizational goals.
Power skills are important in project management because they enable project managers to lead and manage their teams and projects. These skills help project managers to effectively communicate with team members and stakeholders, make decisions, solve problems, negotiate, and resolve conflicts.
How can power skills help resolve conflicts?
Conflict is inevitable on complex projects when you have many people grappling with many variables including resource allocation, task allotment, and budgetary constraints. Project professionals who hone their abilities in the most critical power skills -- communication, problem-solving, collaborative leadership and strategic thinking – will have a better chance of resolving conflict and achieving improved project performance.
Some strategies using power skills for resolving conflicts in project management include:
1. Identify the root cause of the conflict: It's important to understand the underlying issues that are driving the conflict, as this will help you to develop an effective resolution strategy.
2. Encourage open communication: Encourage team members and stakeholders to openly and honestly communicate their needs, concerns, and issues. This can help to identify and address the causes of the conflict.
3. Use active listening: When people are in conflict, they may be more likely to focus on their own perspective and less likely to listen to others. As a project manager, it's important to actively listen to all sides and ensure that everyone is heard.
4. Look for win-win solutions: Try to find solutions that address the needs and concerns of all parties involved in the conflict. This may require compromise, but it can help to build trust and strengthen relationships.
5. Mediate the conflict: If the conflict is not easily resolved through open communication, consider using a neutral third party to mediate the conflict. This can help to facilitate a resolution that is fair to all parties involved.
6. Follow up: Once a resolution has been reached, it's important to follow up to ensure that the conflict has been fully resolved and that there are no lingering issues.
7. Demonstrate a commitment to quality and continuous improvement: Encourage the team to understand conflict as a ‘bump in the road’ rather than an impenetrable obstacle, and to strive for excellence in their work both individually and as a team.
It’s imperative for organizations to prioritize power skill development. According to the PMI report, one important step organizations can take is to “focus on the power skills most tied to fulfilling organizational objectives — communication, problem-solving, collaborative leadership and strategic thinking — and bake them into the organizational DNA.”
Our subsidiary, Project Controls Solutions (PCS), helps organizations do just that. Our subject matter experts coach project controllers on how to deploy power skills using our proprietary, case-based curriculum – the ELITE® Practicum. Our curriculum cultivates key power skills by challenging students to apply project controls concepts throughout the whole life cycle of a project, working in groups with shifting project roles weekly. In under two years, PCS has provided hundreds of Project360® assessments and customized learning modules for federal and commercial clients. Our bespoke curriculum helps project controls professionals develop their emotional intelligence and use power skills to communicate with empathy and clarity.
By building project controllers’ skills in communication, problem-solving, collaborative leadership, and strategic thinking, the PCS program prepares project controls professionals to maximize the chances for project success.