Sales and Leadership Emerge as the Skills to Master

"Like it or not, we're all in sales now," said best-selling author Daniel Pink, a keynote speaker at PMI® Global Congress 2013 -- North America in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. And that includes project practitioners looking to demonstrate the value of project management.

But sales isn't what it used to be. In today's world of information parity, buyers can easily confirm or reject sellers' claims. It's no longer "buyer beware," but "seller beware."

For project practitioners, that parity translates to opportunities to showcase what they bring to the table. If customers know they have a problem, they can find a solution, Mr. Pink said. But if they don't even know they have a problem, a project practitioner becomes more valuable, shifting from problem solver to problem finder.

Sales skills also help gain buy-in from sponsors, stakeholders and team members. Part of that power of persuasion comes from knowing the audience and then tailoring language to the target audience instead of using specialized lingo. Limiting options -- to a project sponsor, for instance -- can also help secure buy-in by making the options less overwhelming. And project practitioners should focus their pitch on what motivates the team. Have fewer conversations about how and more about why.

Project managers should even reconsider the way they talk to themselves, Mr. Pink said. Interrogative ("Can I do this?") trumps the affirmative ("I can do this") because it elicits an active response. If the answer is self-doubt, then it calls for more preparation, which is ultimately a good thing.

Today's project practitioners also need to be leaders who can influence others even when they don't have formal authority, said author Mark Sanborn, another congress keynote speaker.
 
"Titles should confirm leadership, but they can never bestow leadership," he explained.

No matter the title, Mr. Sanborn said leaders win followers instead of just being given employees. They create change instead of reacting to it. They implement ideas instead of simply having them. They build teams versus directing groups. They make heroes instead of trying to be ones themselves. They create shared focus versus just being focused. And they persuade, versus communicate.

Mr. Sanborn said leadership comes down to six elements:
1. Self-mastery: Take responsibility and be trustworthy.
2. Shared focus: Focused attention beats brains and brute strength.
3. Power with people: Managers have power over people. Leaders have power with people.
4. Persuasive communication: Use a combination of rapport, logic and emotion.
5. Strategic execution: Do something with the information you have or let it go.
6. Service: Give back.

True leaders know what really matters, Mr. Sanborn said. And they make that matter to others.

Read more posts from congress. And if you attended congress, we'd love to hear what you thought of these speakers in the Comments section below.
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