The Must-Have Skill for Project Managers

Dick DeBlieck 1500x400

Successful project managers have a number of competencies: they’re good problem solvers and negotiators, they know how to manage their time, and they’ve got to be organized.

There’s one skill that rises above the rest, though, and that’s leadership.

So says longtime project manager Dick DeBlieck, an instructor for a handful of College of Continuing and Professional Studies (CCAPS) Project Management Certificate courses. A project manager for over 30 years, DeBlieck started his career in the private sector, where he developed an application to help companies estimate the return on investment for any project being considered. He started a consulting business in 1991, with clients that include large and small businesses, federal agencies, the state legislature, and large school districts.

We turned to DeBlieck with a few other questions about the profession: here’s what else he had to say.

The good news is that the economy is strong and the need for people who can plan and successfully execute projects will remain strong going forward.

What new skills are you seeing a need for in the field?

Leadership is emerging as the most important skill for project managers. The ability to lead cross-functional project teams has become more critical than ever. Many organizations are functionally organized and most projects inevitably require the project manager to pull in people from different functions. So, the ability to influence people over whom you may have limited authority is a key component for success in today's world of complex, fast-paced projects.

What challenges do people entering the field now face? And what do they have to look forward to?

Limited experience in any field is a barrier to entry. The good news is that the economy (and demand for project managers) is strong and the need for people who can plan and successfully execute projects will remain strong going forward. The Project Management Certificate from the University of Minnesota will give those entering the field a leg up in establishing themselves in their project management careers.

What’s more, all of the instructors at CCAPS have extensive, real-world project leadership experience and have proven their capabilities both as project managers and as classroom instructors.

What has it been like partnering with CCAPS on these project management courses?

The CCAPS staff are highly professional and committed to the success of these programs and to creating a positive experience for participants. If you attend a CCAPS course, you can be assured of a high-quality learning experience. It has been a pleasure for me to work with the CCAPS organization for over 15 years.

How do you perceive the student experience of taking one of our courses?

One of the things I truly value about teaching at the U of M is the interesting and diverse mix of participants attending the programs. We get people from a variety of industries, from the public and private sectors, from for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and from businesses large and small. This creates opportunities for participants to learn from one another and expand their professional network. The diverse backgrounds and experience represented in the classroom add energy and learning perspectives you are unlikely to find elsewhere.

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Dick DeBlieck teaches project management and leadership courses for the CCAPS Project Management Certificate.

Dick also presented the webinar "Think and Act Strategically" on June 13.