Project management skills are wide-ranging and highly sought-after across all industries. Gaining them can be a boon for your career.
A project manager is part coach, tactician, accountant, risk manager, counselor, and sometimes a nagging parent. The skills required by a project manager can partly be acquired through study and experience, while other attributes are more intuitive and integral to a person’s personality.
This article explores the essential project management skills, why they’re important, and how to attain them.
What is a Project Manager?
A project manager oversees a process or product from start to finish. They are professionals who manage, direct, coordinate, and ensure the delivery of work.
What are the Roles of a Project Manager?
While we are covering project management skills, let’s look into what project managers actually do.
1) Plan and develop the project
A project manager works with management and other stakeholders to define the project and then devise the workflow to bring it to a successful conclusion.
2) Assemble and lead the team
Project managers bring the right individuals together to ensure the project’s success. The project manager provides guidance, coaching, and help along the way.
3) Monitor project progress and set deadlines
A project manager must always be on top of a project’s progress. They must anticipate delays and keep the team and stakeholders aware of changes.
4) Solve issues that arise
Team members and stakeholders go to the project manager when a snag or problem arises. Being adaptable and engaging in problem-solving help a project manager keep control of a project.
Project managers ensure a job’s completion within budget parameters. They also advise stakeholders if a budget is unrealistic or if costs change.
6) Ensure stakeholder satisfaction
Keeping an honest and frequent flow of communication is essential to meeting stakeholder expectations.
7) Evaluate project performance
When the project is complete and the dust settles, the project manager reports on the project using data acquired during the process.
The Soft and Hard Skills of Project Managers
Due to the critical responsibilities involved in bringing a project to fruition, a project manager must have soft and hard skills. Let’s examine these, as well as personality traits, individually.
Six Soft Project Management Skills
A university may not teach the following six project management soft skills, but they are the skills organizations look for in a project manager candidate.
1) Leadership Skills
Project managers are not only in charge of a project’s success but also need to guide and motivate team members to meet timelines and achieve their goals. Some individual project managers may have better people skills than others, but practicing active listening, patience, and open communication will go a long way toward keeping a team engaged and motivated.
2) Communication Skills
Project managers must communicate openly with their team, stakeholders, vendors, contractors, and management. It’s also a project manager’s task to put a clean communications plan in place to use throughout the project.
3) Negotiation Skills
Project managers need effective negotiation skills to resolve conflict within and outside the team and to deal with stakeholders. An example is when stakeholders want to change the scope of a project midstream, and diplomatic pushback is required.
4) Organization Skills
A critical skill is the ability of a project manager to manage time and tasks — both their own and team members. It can be crucial in keeping a project moving forward and meeting deadlines.
5) Interpersonal Skills
Knowing how to deal with different personalities, resolve issues, and keep everyone engaged in meeting project goals is a tremendous intangible talent. Successful project managers make each team member feel like a contributor.
6) Problem-Solving Skills
This skill speaks to the ability to solve issues that arise. Project managers must be open, inventive, and decisive in addressing problems that inevitably appear in projects.
Four Project Manager Personality Traits
Along with project management soft skills, successful project managers often possess the following four personality traits.
Being flexible will help keep a project on track and keep the team members from being frustrated. Because change is a constant in any endeavor, the project manager’s ability to adapt and keep a project moving will often impact team morale and determine a project’s outcome.
2) Critical Thinking
Sometimes, a project manager has to take a broad view of an issue, do research, solicit expert advice, and make an informed decision.
3) A Sense of Humor
An injection of humor can help alleviate stress and keep perspective. Project managers often use team-building activities to keep things light.
Even with a healthy amount of planning, issues will arise, stakeholders will try to change the project’s scope, and the unexpected will occur. Project managers who demonstrate patience show team members and stakeholders they’re competent and in control.
10 Hard Project Management Skills
Project management hard skills are critical because they are the tools and techniques project managers use to do their job. These are the tools project managers use to plan, schedule, and manage projects.
1) An Understanding of Project Management Methodologies
Project managers know about the different project management methodologies, especially those with a Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. Many are specific to an industry and require additional certification. Some of the more common methodologies are:
a) Waterfall – This is a linear project management method. It gathers all the stakeholder and customer requirements at the project’s beginning, and then a sequential project plan is put in place to meet these requirements. The waterfall is often used in IT, software development, and construction. This approach often uses a Gantt chart, a bar chart that shows the schedule with tasks, their durations, dependencies, and milestones.
b) Agile – This method uses self-organizing, cross-functional teams collaborating with customers or end users of the product. Agile can pivot as needed and is more adaptive than other approaches.
c) Lean – This project management approach emphasizes delivering a project with more value and less waste. Lean relies on continuous improvement and has five principles: value, value stream, pull system, continuous flow, and perfection.
d) Prince2 – PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a process-based project management method. Using this approach, project managers consider the following:
i) What are we trying to do?
ii) When will we start?
iii) What do we need?
iv) Can we do it alone, or do we need help?
v) How long will it take?
vi) How much will it cost?
A structured project management approach orders the project into defined, logical, and organized steps. PRINCE2 is the written description of this approach.
2) Proficiency with Project Management Software
Project managers should know how to use project management software. There are plenty on the market to help chart a project’s workflow, costs, and timelines. Some examples include Jira, Minitab, Microsoft Excel, and so on.
3) Team Management
Project managers need to have the ability to keep their teams working together productively. Team management incorporates having skills in conflict resolution and team-building.
4) Time Management
Time management is one of the most important technical skills. Without the ability to stay on task and help team members meet their deadlines, a project can experience delays. It’s about keeping an eye on the prize: meeting the deadline and completing the project on time.
5) Project Planning
Project planning includes the project schedule, resources, and costs. Effective project managers plan and work to manage potential impacts to ensure the project reaches completion.
6) Project Scheduling
The project manager is responsible for the project schedule, which organizes tasks, teams, and the time needed to complete a project. Project scheduling is more than scheduling, deadlines, and deliverables; it also involves resource and risk management. A Gantt chart is a popular project management tool for this task.
7) Project Budgeting
Budget management involves tracking costs throughout the project’s life and ensuring the costs don’t exceed the planned budget.
8) Risk Management
Project managers create a risk management plan to identify, assess, and control risk before a project begins. The more a project manager can anticipate and mitigate risk, the more likely their project will succeed.
9) Cost Management
Creating a budget is a critical part of planning in project management. Once a budget is created and approved, a project manager has to use budget management to ensure that costs are managed and controlled throughout the project’s lifecycle.
10) Task Management
Project managers have to plan and track all the large and small jobs that are part of a project. These tasks must be designed, organized, assigned, and tracked to meet project requirements.
How to Build Project Management Skills
Prospective project managers can develop their skills by volunteering to lead an initiative or project for a community or charity organization, offering to lead a special committee at work, or taking on a project or campaign for a professional organization or club.
The Five Principles of Project Management
A project manager’s approach to a project is key to its success. These are the five principles of project management.
1. Address essential questions at the beginning of the project.
2. Sketch out a scope and goals for your project.
3. Communicate roles, expectations, and objectives to the team.
4. Monitor progress and identify roadblocks.
5. Make sure all deliverables have been met and finalize the project.
Project Manager Skills: How to Become a Project Manager
Many professionals have engaged in project management if they’ve ever led a project, campaign, or special initiative. It could either be in their workplace, their community, or for a professional organization.
A wealth of materials, educational resources, and even practice tests are available for those considering a career in project management.
Note:Thoroughly preparing for Project Management interview questions, such as those related to leadership, communication, and problem-solving, can help candidates confidently demonstrate their suitability for the role.
Get a Project Manager Certification
Professionals with a bachelor’s degree should consider getting a Project Management Professional certification, considered the industry standard by employers. Certified project managers have more significant career opportunities and growth. First, candidates need the right training to prepare for the exam.
Get Trained for a Project Management Career
Any professionals in management or non management roles who want to gain the skills of a project manager should enroll in the Project Management certification by Umass and Simplilearn. This six-month Project Management Bootcamp is aligned with PMI-PMP® and IASSC-Lean Six Sigma certification bodies.
UMass Amherst offers live, online interactive classes in project management, leadership skills, Agile management, customer experience design, digital transformation design thinking, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (LSSGB), and project risk management. A bachelor’s degree in any discipline is the only requirement.
UMass Amherst partners with Simplilearn to offer its nationally-recognized online professional programs. Simplilearn’s award-winning applied learning model uses a blend of live virtual classes, online self-learning, and hands-on projects in interactive labs to help learners grow their skill sets and careers.