Here is an email I sent to someone I am helping out a little. I thought this might be interesting and might trigger some good thought processes. I just copy and paste it:
… Before you attempt to get the PMP certification I suggest, you get a substantial amount of PM knowledge. Take your time, check some books and podcasts and learn different methodologies to understand the entire picture (SCRUM, Waterfall, Xtreme Programming…). I would even suggest that IF you really want a certification, maybe forget about the PMP for now and look into the Agile Certificate from PMI as this will be more relevant for software projects. There are SCRUM courses as well which will help you.
Before you decide about that, really start reading and understanding. This is not like math, where you have to learn some inputs and outputs, functions and formulas. PM is more like an art form. The techniques like scheduling, estimating, procurement… that is the easy part. 90% of PM work is communication. Taking influence, facilitating, knowing how to align goals, motivational techniques, stakeholder management, dealing with difficult people… all of the soft skills that can be learned but really only grow by using self discipline and gaining experience.
Instead chasing a certification, I suggest you start reading and understanding opinions and mindsets of successful people. PM is a lot like GM and a lot like live. You deal with people and make things happen. The PMBOK gives you a good framework but it can’t teach you the soft skills.
You are managing already, so you are in the perfect situation to learn. Check out PM podcasts, maybe read a course on organizational behavior (I can send you one) and try to use the things to learn. Implement changes and try to grow as a manager and as a person – at least that is my approach. Being a good manager has IMO a direct link to being a good human being. Giving your team respect, reassurance and trust is more important then creating charts and forecasts. Obviously you will have to be able to do the latter as well.
For the technical part: The material from Cornelius Fichtner (free podcast, PMP prepcast and PMP pducast) helped me a lot. There are other good resources out there. Try to find as much good stuff as possible. This is live long learning. Ask people you look up to for reading lists. Books that are a “must read” are:
Good to great
7 habits of highly effective people
how to make friends and influence people
build to last
There are many more, just check some reading lists. All time business classics are almost always a good read even if they are old.
I guess what I am saying is that there is no short cut to become a good manager. It is constant growth and lots of experience.
If I boil it down for myself, I would say the one thing that makes me (hopefully) a good manager is that I genuinely like and believe in people. The more I put trust in someone and the more I like the person the better the work becomes. It is about minimizing what you do. Most of the time you just stay out of the way, remove road blocks and be the servant of the people that are working with you. IMO a manager does not stand above the team but below them. The guys are doing all the work, the manager just clears the road and gives them the resources they need.
Sometimes I feel a bit like a bit of father for my team members (sorry for the terrible analogy). I give the the tools and keep their backs free but then I let them go, make mistakes, learn and deliver as independently as I can. This is all gathered under the principle “theory Y management” which does become best practice.
This all is obviously only my personal opinion and might not work for you at all. It also depends a lot on the people who are working for you and what motivates them.
I guess what I been saying is that the technical part of PM and GM is easy to learn. Just read the PMBOK… no help needed there. Becoming a good manager really is all about the soft skills. Everyone is learning. I am learning from Kevin (I see him as my mentor – if he want’s or not) and I am sure, Kevin has people he is learning from as well …