Is Managing a Project a Natural Talent or Acquired Skill?

  • 11 September, 2014

"The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft." - Will Smith
Successful project managers are people who have polished their skillset into a talent.
Project Management

Project Managers who are good at handling a project from its initiation to completion are praised as talented Project Managers. Is it talent or skill which is most needed for a Project Completion? Project Management skillsets such as subject matter knowledge, effective time management, knowledge in project management tools, organization, communication, political savvy, and leadership qualities are the most required for the Project Managers. These skillsets are acquired through actual on-the-job work experience. Even the most talented Project Managers should have functional knowledge of managing a project.

Talent Vs Skill: A Talent is a natural ability of a person and whereas, Skill is a person's learned ability.

Inference on the Dispute

Let's take the two different abilities and we can understand the differences more clearly. A project manager may have talents in certain project management skillsets but may lack in others. Whereas, the skilled project managers have worked on their inborn talents and their acquired managerial skills to perform well in a project.

Skillsets such as knowledge, organization, and communication can be learned over a period of time. When a project manager with mere natural ability is handling a project, then there are possibilities for the project to be faced with a lot more challenges. When a project manager with learned project management skillsets is handling a project, then it would be finished within the given project constraint. Thus, an acquired skillset is easily available for anyone who is willing to learn and gain from it.

Project management skillsets can be learned with good and structured training. Earlier these skills were only learned through on-the-job experiences. A person can sit for the Project Management Professional Exam, only if they have fixed years of experience in the field. But with the growing number of Project Management Training institutes, it is now possible to learn about the basic through a self-guided online course. Alternatively, it is possible to gain knowledge and experience from joining a Project Management Office (PMO) within your organization.

Skillsets Needed for Project Managers

So what are these learnable skillset that Project Managers should have? Here is a mention of just the most important skills:-

1. Knowledge of Business Process: A good project manager is aware of all the latest business processes that are currently in function in the business environment. The business process tends to keep changing at fast-pace with the growing project needs and client's requirement. A sound knowledge on the various management methods helps a project manager to excel in completing a project. The best way to be updated with the latest Project Management related information is by allotting time in your schedule for reading up on the topic. This is a strenuous effort where talent plays no part.

2. Technical Knowhow: A project manager with a specific role in the project needs to have certain types of technical knowledge, which would enable them to clearly understand how the project should be directed. These technological skills can be acquired with extra training or continued education. Here also, the talent doesn't play any part but conscious hard work is needed.

3. How Project Management works: An efficient project manager is well aware of the different stages of project management and is able to execute it properly. This various stages of project management form a part of the detailed project management procedures, which the project managers should be aware of. Even this does not indicate talent, but just a hard earned ability that is developed into an acquired skill.

4. Leadership Skills: A commanding voice and a personality to match cannot immediately mean that the person has leadership skills. A Project Manager needs to have soft and hard skills in commandeering a project to its closure. If the person works on their basic character and makes relevant modification, then they are sure to learn leadership skills. Leadership skill is learnable and retainable for a determined project manager.

In all this, what can be seen clearly is - to become a project manager, it is not so much about talent but it is about acquiring a skillset through strenuous and hard work. When you continue to work relentlessly on your acquired skillset, then it will turn into a talent. In this way you can learn to become a talented project manager. We, at School of PM, believe that you can also become a Talented Project Management Professional and gain a certification to excel as a Skilled Project Manager, if you take our PMP Exam Prep Course.

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