More than 20 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District project managers engaged in a soft skills workshop here Tuesday.

Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person's relationships with other people.

"A recent assessment conducted throughout the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended soft skills training as an essential element in project management" said Jorge Nadal, Norfolk District Programs and Project Management Division deputy chief. "To most effectively meet our stakeholders' and the nation's needs, we convened this workshop to further foster teamwork and strengthen the myriad of specialized skills necessary to deliver the project."

Dr. Rafael Landaeta, associate dean at the College of Engineering and Technology at Old Dominion University, served as facilitator for the training session. Throughout the lecture, Landaeta addressed the following topics with the district project managers: stakeholder administration, communication, conflict management, mitigating behaviors and selling/influence.

"All of the topics covered are integral to the role of a project manager and form the basis for many of the challenges we face on a daily basis," said Gwendolyn Bunn, who attended the event. "Dr. Landaeta provided pertinent information on why all of these areas are inherently difficult, as well as effective ways of managing these obstacles in our daily tasking."

The six-hour workshop began by challenging attendees with analysis, as well as aligning stakeholders and project interests. Drills in identification, prioritization and response provided hands-on material application
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"Stakeholder analysis was very engaging," said Bunn. "We covered how project managers can categorize our stakeholders to discern the level of information that they require for each project. Establishment of a stakeholder matrix can assist with ensuring no stakeholders are overlooked, as well as establishing the types of data that need to be relayed to them."
Communication management was addressed. The tutorial began by recognizing the foundations of effective communication, evolved to messaging channel appraisal and concluded with an applied assessment.

According to Landaeta, conflict is inevitable, having both positive and negative effects during a project.

The group discussed potential consequences and sources of conflict. They reviewed resolution strategies before engaging in real-world case studies. Dispute management proceeded to discussion about engagement with challenging behaviors.

Landaeta made the following recommendations:
- When working with challenging co-workers, "We work together toward common goals."
- When dealing with challenging stakeholders, "We serve them."
- With challenging subordinates, "We help them get our jobs done."
- When it comes to challenging bosses, "We help them get their jobs done."

Before a post-workshop Q&A session, the group addressed eliminating stakeholder setbacks and addressing influence.
The training proved to deliver skills that district project managers can use immediately.

"Even though many of the participants have well over 20 years of experience in the field of project management, many stated they will immediately put to use the concepts presented," Nadal said.