7 Important Skills for Project Managers

In today’s service-based environment, success largely depends on how successfully you complete projects and create value that sustains for a longer period of time. According to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession Report”, it says that organizations are losing close to USD 109 million for every billion dollars spent on projects and programs. There are many projects that fail due to various reasons, but we are here to address building the right skill set for greater project success and successful projects need skilled project managers and teams that are supported by proper project sponsors. In this article, we will discuss various project manager skills.

Top Project Manager Skills

Under certain circumstances such as office politics, timelines, and new project requirements, it is easy for the project manager or the team to overlook certain project management skills which can be detrimental to project success. Let’s take a look at them in detail.

1. Project Environment Skills

Holistic progress is possible if project managers can lay focus on creating a project-friendly environment in an enterprise. We are not talking about the physical environment with regards to infrastructure, tools, techniques, resources, etc. But, we are talking about creating an environment where the interrelationship between project managers, the team, project sponsors, and other key stakeholders is at an optimum level.

With ever so increase in global projects, the people who comprise such project teams are from multicultural backgrounds and a project manager needs to assess the impact of culture on the project and be proactive to create an effective work culture. Hence, for this reason, it is very important to assess the current project environment that drives certain behaviors which can then be addressed to achieve a higher success rate.

2. Embracing Green Organizational Skills

Many might wonder what “Green” organizational skills are. The usage of ‘Green’ terminology in this context is about non-physical, intangible relationships that affect our work environment among the workforce in an organization. More of an informal organizational structure based on camaraderie where there is an immediate response from individuals. The traits of a green organization are:

    • Constant support and trust among employees and senior management
    • A shared vision among the workforce
    • Open communication channels
    • Better cooperation than ruthless competition
    • Where individual’s views are respected and taken into consideration
    • Where creative freedom is given to express themselves etc On the other hand, a toxic environment breeds cutthroat competition, mistrust, failure to communicate, improper metrics, and decisions that are short-sighted. Even too much red tape creates an unfavorable project environment and breeds dissent and frustration among the workforce. Hence, project managers who embrace green organizational skills can bring harmony and strive together to create a project environment that empowers individuals to reach their fullest potential and create a long-lasting value for their projects.

3. Skilled Negotiator

On many occasions, your project goes from being good to great due to your negotiating skills as a project manager. If you get it right, negotiating is fun and with practice, you can address your team and organization’s shortcomings through your negotiating skills. People outside of their work environment negotiate all the time, but when it comes to projects, they shut shop and just get on with unrealistic expectations which pull you and your team down.

Negotiating with your team, stakeholders, and project sponsors will create a win-win situation where a project discussion will yield better results. While negotiating, the other person can always say no to your argument or may even come up with their counter-proposal for the same issue that you were discussing and reach a better consensus. Project managers have to master their negotiating skills to ensure the successful completion of a project and create long-lasting value.

4. Building the Right Political Skills

A project manager should understand the power structure in the organization. A simple look at the organization’s hierarchical chart will give you an idea, but how to get things done with those individuals goes far beyond that. The presence of power among decision-makers derives from legitimacy than from authority.

Any enterprise performance for that matter depends on successfully completing business-critical projects. Every enterprise will have its own political scenarios and what gets accomplished in an enterprise comes under the acumen of power and politics. If you want to be an effective project manager, then you need to understand the political context of the organization and encourage excellence by managing the organization.

It is important to properly assess the existing environment of an organization and develop an effective political plan which acts as a foundation. By doing this you will be addressing the power structure in the organization and identify key areas to focus such as identifying critical stakeholders, performing stakeholder analysis, developing a guiding coalition, etc. A successful project manager not only develops project plans but also creates a robust political plan that helps hassle-free completion of business-critical projects.

5. Sales Skills

A successful project manager understands the continuous sales cycles during the project’s lifecycle. You have to embrace sales to ensure you get the necessary commitments from your stakeholders, customer, and your team for that matter. So pitch them a classic sales approach that covers benefits, advantages, features and what’s in it for me, etc.

As a project manager if you are able to know how to address ‘what’s in it for me?” for your stakeholders, team, and customers, then your project will have the least trouble during its lifecycle and you will be able to complete them on time and within the budget allocated. You may have to as well describe the features of your product/solution. It would be even better if you ask questions and then listen to them and tweak your sales pitch accordingly. Project how these benefits will help the enterprise to gain a competitive advantage over others and helps them to bag business-critical projects.

6. Change Management Skills

In an enterprise, change is inevitable and people who do not embrace change will be left far behind where coming back is a difficult prospect. Even project managers do not like change unless it is their idea and want everybody on their side. But, then you cannot move ahead if you are stuck in an archaic way of doing things and expect to meet the demands of the next generation.
People resist change because:

    • Fear of the unknown
    • They were not involved in the decision-making process
    • Because of tradition (where projects were run without a formal methodology)
    • It was badly timed
    • Exposure to new and uncomfortable situations etc A successful project manager will take into account all the above-mentioned reasons and incorporate effective change management techniques to address them. You should be able to demonstrate the conditions to change, make change happen and ensure they stick by it. Without change, it is difficult to move ahead and take your organization to the next level.

7. Leadership

The most important project management skill is the leadership quality that a project management professional must possess. Every team has to lead by example, the motivation that it requires, and equal proportions of inspiration are guided by a true leader.

A great leader always ensures the team’s welfare and helps them overcome any hurdles and shortcomings. One of the examples, where a great leadership quality can save your project is when the team encounters a conflict. An efficient project management leader will ensure that the conflict is resolved without hampering the project and the welfare of their team members.

8. Communication 

Effective communication in any organization is the most essential aspect for taking the projects to their conclusion. The collaborative effort from all the teams with a guiding leader is all that it takes for a good project to run its course. An efficient project manager can use the project management tools for effective communication through chats and other channels.

But, the main focus is to reduce the communication errors within the team to a minimum. And, with an efficient communication strategy and planning, the project will reach its goal much earlier than anticipated.

9. Risk Management 

A great leader who has accomplished an effective communication strategy will always consider the project risks and contingency plans to counter them. Thorough risk analysis and responses make sure that the project is safeguarded from any discrepancies, shortcomings, or dependencies in the future that may seriously jeopardize the progress of the project.

10. Conflict Management 

What happens when two parties are involved in a conflict? Which party is always on the receiving end of it? Who actually pays for the damages that occurred? It is always the project.

As a great leader, a project manager will always try to resolve a conflict keeping in mind the welfare of both parties and at the same time keeping in check the minimum damage to the project’s progress. For resolving a conflict, the project manager will have to listen to both parties and come up with a solution that solves both of their problems. Sometimes, the project manager may have to seek external help to resolve any conflict. In such situations, a great leader will never hesitate to reach out for help and move on.

11. Scheduling 

Another great aspect of the project management cycle is the scheduling of tasks, processes, and resources that are associated with the project. Creating a schedule or a timeline for the project is how scheduling works. The project managers create efficient plans keeping in check all the objectives of the project. Because at the end of the day, the project objectives and goals are the primary concern for any project, and delivering it on time is the secondary concern.

12. Budget Planning 

Creating effective budget plans from scratch to manage the expenses of the project is another project manager skill that helps the project managers to reduce costs and bring in improved results within a given cost and timeframe.

After analyzing the project needs, a budget plan is laid out. And the pressing need to make sure that the project does not cross the estimated budget at any point in time is where the project managers play their role. Constant monitoring and resolving issues that may hamper the project budget while making sure the quality is not compromised is how the budget planning works.

13. Quality Management

What good is a project without meeting set standards and quality requirements? A pressing need to deliver the project along with quality assurance is increasing in recent times.

A project manager’s responsibility is to manage the processes in such a way that at each stage of the project management life cycle the proper quality assurance is in place. This practice helps to reduce iterations to meet the required standards and keeps the project’s integrity in check.

14. Project Planning 

A project plan is a structured and systematic approach to a project. There are certain factors that are ensured before you can start making a project plan. All the stages in the project life cycle will be thoroughly analyzed and taken into consideration for the whole project plan to work efficiently and effectively.

The following steps can be taken for making a project plan.

  1. Define your project – Defining the project will also include making sure that you have analyzed the project scope, objectives, requirements, deliverables, and project schedule.
  2. Define Project scope quality – this will cover the necessary measures that must be taken before the project begins so that any setbacks can be handled. Identifying risks, dependencies, and how they would affect the project is basically handled in the project scope quality. It basically ensures a standard or a quality for the project.
  3. Organize the people for the project – In this, you will basically create a structure where each role and responsibility is clearly defined and there is no confusion in the project.
  4. Define project resources – Defining project resources is basically identifying all the required resources that will essentially complete the project.
  5. Project Communications and Change management plan – ensure an effective communication plan among the teams and stakeholders along with an effective change management plan.

The project planning skill is what will drive the whole project from the beginning to the end. And for a project to finish within time, the plan has to be followed at each stage in the project management life cycle.

15. Time Management 

What if the requirements given by the client have groundbreaking potential in the market? But, instead of taking 2 months, the project has been stretched for over 6 months. How happy do you think the client would be with this development? Let’s not imagine the worst.

A project manager ensures the project’s delivery within the specified time frame by managing the teams accordingly. The best practices like calculating the story points for every work item and making the plan accordingly. These practices help the teams to keep the progress of the project on track.

16. Team Management 

Managing teams is another responsibility that is the backbone of any project. Imagine having all the resources, skills, team members, and project plan in place, but the teams aren’t managed properly resulting in delays and iterations.

For any effective project management team, the leader takes care of the communication, planning, and schedule to make sure the teams are functioning according to the plans and yield the maximum results.

17. Organizational Skills 

In a project management environment, an efficient leader will be always familiar with how the organization works. They will be familiar with the various roles and responsibilities in the organization. They know the whole organizational structure inside out.

In case of divided dependencies in the organization, they will be able to get out of it because they are aware of other options and solutions that are useful to them.

18. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving 

Last but not least, a professional with critical thinking and problem-solving skills in project management can get the project out of tricky situations where spontaneity with experience can be very beneficial in terms of costs and value.

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Project Manager Skills That Often Get Overlooked 

  1. People Management Skills

    Today, project managers realize that project management is not just about meeting specified costs, quality, and quicker to the market. It has evolved beyond metrics and project managers need to understand how to manage people. Industry experts believe that one of the core competencies that they look for in a project manager is emotional competency. Many organizations ignore the interpersonal dynamics of the team, and project managers who fail to inculcate people management skills will jeopardize their authority over the project which increases the chances of project failure.

    Some of the important people management skills required in a project manager are managing conflicts in a team; motivating; and training. These are some of the top people management skills that are critical to the successful completion of projects.

  2. Horizontal Management Skills

    Project managers bridge the gap between the project team, stakeholders, and sponsors. Though these people are not under the control/jurisdiction of a project manager, they need to be managed to ensure the project offers value as per the requirement. This is where horizontal management skills come to the fore where you get people who work laterally above you in the organization structure to abide by the project plan. It is best to embark on a positive note with people who have vested interests in the project and create a robust communication plan to ensure everything runs smoothly in your project.

  3. Managing Expectations

    Managing expectations in a project act as one of the key contributors to project success. It requires emotional intelligence from a project manager to gauge what the client is expecting from the project even before it has been started. Another critical aspect is to manage the expectations of your project team members. Understand what are the roadblocks, and what motivates them, and get behind your team by supporting them in their project endeavors. Similarly, if you manage expectations from all your project stakeholders which are realistic, then the project outcome will be a successful one.

  4. Technical Skills

    There are some instances where the project manager plays no role in actual project work, but still, they should have some level of expertise for the project undertaken. It helps the project manager to have a holistic understanding of the project. His expertise in the technical aspect of the project will come in handy by not taking risks with unacceptable deliverables.

    Moreover, do not use your technical expertise to micro-manage the project. As a project manager, it is your responsibility to lead your team through difficult situations. While selecting your project team members, including people who have some degree of technical expertise that relates to your project.

  5. Have a Good Sense of Humor

    Handling a project can be an arduous task for any person, so it is good to let your guard down at times and enjoy your work by having a good sense of humor when something unexpected pops up in your project. One thing is for certain, your project will never go exactly as planned, so when you see scope creep happening, get behind your sense of humor to keep you clear-headed/balanced at all times. If you let too much stress take its toll on you, then you will surely end up spending long and stressful nights at the office which is not good for your health. Remember to put a smile on your face at unexpected project change, it sends out positive vibes to your team members who are already in distress.

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Top Unexpected Project Manager Skills Recruiters Often Look For

Recruiters have heard a lot of I am a team player, a great communicator, and how organized you are for eternity, so avoid these as they are by default expected in their job role criteria. They would not have selected you for the interview if you did not match those requirements in the first place. Traits that recruiters look for in a project manager.

  1. A Great Listener

    He or she should be a great listener if they have to thrive in the job role of a project manager. But most of the job candidates only talk about how good a communicator they are and then they just talk and talk and talk even more. There is another important aspect of communication skill, is listening.

    In fact, project managers who are good listeners will be able to successfully complete their projects on time and within budget. Being a good listener helps project managers to respond than react to a situation during a project. Again a project manager who is fully aware of what the project requirements are from the customer and what the team is asking them will come down to how good listeners they are. As they have to listen to everything that is being told and then comprehend/act towards it in the right manner.

  2. Taking Ownership of Work

    Many project managers just act as mere delegators of work than showing their complete involvement in the project. Delegating the work to the teams and managing stakeholder expectations is not enough in today’s dynamic project management environment. A project manager needs to own the project, he or she has to be on top of things right from the planning stage to the closing of the project. They must showcase their abilities as an important part of the project, and without which the whole project spirals down to obscurity. Taking ownership is an important tool in a project manager’s arsenal and this is what separates them from the rest.

  3. Should Embrace Failure

    ‘Interview’ and ‘Failure’ do not go hand in hand. But when recruiters ask you to share your success stories with them, they are not just looking at how successfully you completed a project on time and within budget. But they are more looking at how you successfully handled a disastrous situation and came out from it.

    Many projects fail for various reasons, but mentioning your failure / failed projects in an interview can be instrumental while assessing your candidature. It showcases your maturity that you learn from your mistakes. In turn, you would have showcased to the recruiters why the project failed and what you would do differently to avoid such a thing in the future. It is this quality that every recruiter looks for while hiring a project manager.

  4. Ability to Take Risks

    Project managers run far away from the word Risk. It is the one word that they do not fondly associate with. It just brings too many bad memories to the picture during an interview. So, why is it that recruiters are looking for project managers who have the ability to take risks? The answer is simple; the business market is evolving and getting more and more competitive. Businesses are required to compete at a global level where they have to release products faster to the market and push the existing boundaries toward being more creative and innovative.

    Project managers will become obsolete if they fail to align themselves with this ever-changing business landscape. Yes, a project manager’s job is to safely navigate the project through the choppy waters, but they also need to take one are two calculated and educated risks that will help the project to achieve greatness.

  5. Creativity Matters

    When was the last time as a project manager you solved something with your creativity? If you are taking more than 30 seconds to recall, then you have not been creative in your approach for a very long time, and this is where you are missing a trick or two.

    Being creative helps a lot and you can solve problems that seemed tricky earlier. A project never runs smoothly and it is bound to get into some difficult situations as and when the project progresses through its lifecycle. An experienced project manager will demonstrate his or her skills to safely navigate the project during a crisis. But what project managers can do is add some creative spark of theirs to the project and come up with surprising and ingenious solutions to problems. Now that is the sort of skill that recruiters wish for when hiring project managers.

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Building greater project success depends on the individuals who are part of the project and who incorporate robust project management methodologies. A project manager who can integrate all the elements in an enterprise to come together and integrate skills from multiple disciplines will achieve greater project success. There are infinite combinations of skills that are possible, and as a project manager, you should be open to change so that it can happen around you and help the project achieve its greatness.

Know more about project management best practices through Invensis Learning’s Project Management certification training on PMP Online Classes, CAPM Certification Prep Course, Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner Course Online, Project Management Fundamentals, P3O, and MSP. We are a trusted training partner for Fortune 500 companies and Government institutions globally.

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Lucy Brown has many years of experience in the project management domain and has helped many organizations across the Asia Pacific region. Her excellent coordinating capabilities, both inside and outside the organization, ensures that all projects are completed on time, adhering to clients' requirements. She possesses extensive expertise in developing project scope, objectives, and coordinating efforts with other teams in completing a project. As a project management practitioner, she also possesses domain proficiency in Project Management best practices in PMP and Change Management. Lucy is involved in creating a robust project plan and keep tabs on the project throughout its lifecycle. She provides unmatched value and customized services to clients and has helped them to achieve tremendous ROI.


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