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11 Project Management Skills Every Project Manager Should Have

06 May 2022

To be an effective project manager, you must possess the traits and competencies crucial for the role and responsibilities of this position. There are several tasks that demand far more than merely controlling and keeping a project on schedule for this job title.

11 essential project management skills

Much research was done by the project management institute to categorise various project management skills together into groups.

A study of successful management abilities conducted by Katz proposed three elemental talents for development: 

  • Technical skills are defined as specialised knowledge, analytical abilities, and facility with the tools and techniques of a specific discipline. 
  • Human, or the ability to operate well as part of a team and establish a cooperative effort within the group 
  • The conceptual skill, defined as the capacity to see the enterprise as a whole, includes understanding how multiple functions are interconnected and how changes in one component might affect the rest.

There are also other categorisations of project management soft skills too.

3 Types of Project Management Skills

The Project Management Institute (PMI®) identifies three different competency dimensions: knowledge, personal and performance. These three project management areas are how the project managers' competency is measured. 

Keeping this categorisation in mind, we will list out project management skills every project manager should have. 

Project Management Skills Based on Knowledge

The knowledge area contains soft skills that are usually the first thing most people think of when the role of a project manager is mentioned. Even though there was much debate about whether you had to be born with these hard skills, the skills are learnable. The most significant probably is a leadership skill.

good project manager skills

1. Leadership 

As a project leader, you can help a project move forward and have a successful outcome by guiding, coaching and motivating your project team. This allows team members to develop their own project management skills and build a constructive work atmosphere. Teaching team members how to assign responsibilities, provide constructive comments, set goals, and evaluate individual and team performance can make them feel more impactful. Encouraging proper communication and teamwork helps employees feel like they are making a significant contribution to the project. Make a point of recognising your team members' accomplishments so they know you value their contributions. Combining these aspects with your unique leadership style can help you manage projects more effectively while improving your leadership skills. 

2. Effective Communication 

To be an effective project manager is to have the ability to articulate what you need that your project team have to do. Poor communication leads to inefficiency and missed deadlines. Therefore, project managers should prioritise successful communication to reduce the likelihood of this happening. 

This skill involves approaching team members and forming meaningful relationships with your coworkers. But project managers do not only need to know how to talk to their team; they are also responsible for communicating with the stakeholders and customers as well. Therefore, effective communication skills for project managers are a necessity. Holding every meeting, from kickoff meetings to status updates, the project manager's duty is to manage facilitation during the project's process. They need to have a clear communication plan to ensure everyone involved in the project (team, stakeholders, customer, contractor, etc.) is informed about the process, timeline, and budget. This also makes it easier for a project manager to keep up to date with everyone who needs to know about projects' newest developments. 

3. Negotiation 

Tied to communication skills, project managers need to master being good at negotiation as well. This skill is also essential for conflict resolution and stakeholder management. You need to learn to diplomatically turn scope change requirements down and how to present your data convincingly. 

Leading a project requires ongoing negotiation, from managing resources to engaging suppliers to resolving team disputes. An effective project manager is generally a skilled negotiator who can always keep all parties involved happy and focused on a common goal. 

Budget, scope creep, resources, and deadline disputes are unavoidable, and a skilled project manager knows how to use persuasion tactics to drive solutions and avoid harming workplace relationships. Depending on the situation, they will apply different negotiation styles, so the project manager needs to know which to choose. 

4. Team and Conflict Management 

The project manager is responsible for ensuring everyone is on board with the vision and motivated to do their best work through each project phase. In addition, they must help the team work together and align their personal goals with the organisation to ensure successful project completion. Their team management skills include effectively delegating responsibilities, handling conflicts, evaluating performances, and coaching team members to help them improve their own skills. 

But there can sometimes be a conflict between team members. That is why a project manager must also have strong conflict management skills. A project may suffer if there is a hitch in teamwork, and it is the project manager's responsibility to avoid any potential project harm. Therefore, they need to be able to help conflicted team members resolve their problems so that the project process remains functioning as planned. 

Project Management Skills based on Personality Traits

Technical skills examples

The personality of a project manager is, arguably, more important. Anyone can learn a new skill, but you must have certain traits to be a successful project manager. The best project managers possess personality characteristics such as a can-do attitude, confidence, enthusiasm, open-mindedness, adaptability, personal integrity, and people management skills. 

In the project management field, developing the right set of personality traits is just as important as learning, for example, how to create a project plan or facilitate a successful meeting. 

5. Problem-Solving and Critical thinking 

During a project's life cycle, difficulties will arise that demand the project manager to apply their problem-solving skills. Critical thinking is the most crucial problem-solving skill. Taking the time to comprehend the issue and conduct the necessary research to make an informed choice, a critical thinker is more likely to overcome every project's challenges. Your project is more likely to succeed if you have the expertise to solve those difficulties. 

The greatest project managers are proactive rather than reactive, and they use their critical thinking skills to navigate complex or unclear tasks. In addition, project managers are able to tackle complicated problems by keeping impartial, analysing data, and weighing solutions without bias. 

6. Adaptability 

In project management, change is unavoidable. So, while planning is one of the primary skills, possibly a more important trait for a project manager is to be adaptable. If a project manager (and their strategy) is rigid, it runs the risk of everything falling apart as soon as something unanticipated happens. If you are unwilling to change, the project will suffer. Project managers must be able to adjust to new product trends, technology, user demographics, and other factors. Of course, you must have the insight to recognise when adaptability is beneficial to the project, but on the other hand, you also know when you must persevere. 

7. Patience 

Even though projects are thoroughly planned, there is always a risk of getting derailed weather by stakeholders' unrealistic expectations, change requests or missed deadlines; getting frustrated that the project is not going according to plan will not help anybody. Instead, continuing to motivate and help your team will help things run more smoothly and continue moving in the right direction. So, Patience is a personality trait that is often overlooked but can sometimes be the difference between a successful project and a project failure. 

8. Motivation 

Motivation is an essential project management soft skill. The best project managers must possess this soft skill to keep their team happy and motivated, ensuring that everybody works together effectively. There are many different tactics to be used to keep the team satisfied and tasks on schedule. Most often, it is using positive reinforcement and team-building activities.

Project Management skills based on Performance

organizational skills

Official PMI categorisation discloses proven experience and technical skills in two separate skill sets. Years of experience do not necessarily mean having good project management skills. But experience is something that helps build better skills. 

The project managers' track record, all the hours of project management exposure, size and complexity of projects managed, etc., can be an insight into their level of competency. 

Seeing as project management is present in almost every industry, their familiarity in specific industries can be helpful in accurately estimating costs, schedules and resources - and those scope management skills are a necessity for every project manager. 

9. Time Management 

One of the biggest causes of project failure is poor planning. That means that managers must be able to manage their own time and the time and capacity of all of the project's key team members. Scheduling is a core facet of the project management function, so it is a valuable project management skill to attain, juggling multiple schedules and anticipating roadblocks before they occur. That helps increase the chance of delivering successful projects. In addition, project managers must be able to create a project timeline and maintain those deadlines throughout the project lifecycle. 

10. Cost Management 

One of the most important tasks for the project manager is to develop an attainable budget and keep track of it throughout the project's lifecycle. Project managers must be aware of financial restrictions and operate within them by employing budgeting and financial management abilities to execute successful projects. They need the ability to keep track of expenses, create spreadsheets, and decide how the budget should be spent. 

11. Risk Management 

Risk management, which is detecting and planning for potential risks, is a vital ability for project managers because there is no project that is risk-free. Therefore, the most successful project manager is someone who can recognise risks early in the project and implement appropriate mitigation procedures if the risk does occur. 

Risks are unavoidable during a project, even if they aren't always obvious. Hence a project manager needs to have the experience and ability to identify what could go wrong and apply a risk mitigation strategy. They should take advantage of the tools and team to assist them in analysing this. 

Knowing project management methodologies and software 

There are a variety of project management strategies and approaches to choose from. Each of them provides particular guidelines for project management and completion. Those with experience are already familiar with these approaches and can easily identify which is best suited for projects and team. 

They need to use their performance tracking and monitoring skills to ensure projects are running according to plan, and most of the time, they will use project management software to plan, organise and communicate with the team. These programmes are also helpful with managing resources, finances, and schedules simultaneously. This means that project managers must constantly improve and stay current with the newest technology.

How to Develop Key Project Management Skills 

Becoming a skilled manager requires education and training. The three primary areas we explained in this article consist of different skills. You can target the area of skills you think you are lacking because most of the necessary project management skills are learnable. 

1. Learning/training/courses 

One of the best proofs of knowledge is obtaining a recognised certification. Many courses focus on a specific project management skill set, depending on what you wish to improve.The Institute of Project Management offers a large variety of training programmes across many functional areas. We provide students with the practical skills needed to lead complex projects to completion. Click here to learn more. 

Good project management skills

2. Observing/coaching/consulting 

Learning these skills takes time, just like learning any new skill. To start, pay attention to how you can use these tools for your everyday responsibilities and look for opportunities for hands-on learning that will help you develop and enhance your skills. Surround yourself with other great project managers. Schedule a meeting and learn what project management skills they are willing to share. By nourishing these interpersonal skills, you can also help other project managers by sharing what you have learned from them.

3. Seminars/workshops/conferences 

Whether local or online, attending events allows you to stay updated with the latest in project management software skills and trends. In addition, getting involved in the project management community is a great opportunity because it allows you to expand your professional network and introduces you to other skilled professionals/project managers from whom you can learn the best practices for your future projects. By surrounding yourself with other project management professionals, your soft skills and interpersonal skills will improve. Understanding successful project managers also means understanding what specific skills they've learned from the experience so that you can gain a wealth of knowledge.

- Katz, R. L. (2009). Skills of an effective administrator. Harvard Business Review Press.
- Project Management Institute