The Top 12 Project Management Skills

Nov 8, 2018
Post Masthead

Every career involves a certain skill set.

Regardless of whether it is being a scientist, doctor, financial analyst or a teacher, there are knowledge, experience, and skills that allow you to be good at your job.

Project management is no different.

Being a project manager requires a combination of certain skills in order to get the job done.

Many project managers become project managers in order to meet the demands of an organization; however, few actually possess the necessary skills to be successful.

Among organizational and time management, exceptional interpersonal, and communication, leadership skills are among the top skills needed to be a five-star project manager.

Do you have the skills to be a great project manager? Read on to learn about the top 12 project management skills.

1. Leadership.

Most aspiring project managers believe that project managers are incredibly organized and exceptional planners. This is 100 percent true, however, among the most important project management skills is leadership.

Projects are SOCIAL. They involve working with different skill sets, personalities, learning and working styles, and relationships. These could be relationships with project team members or clients.

Therefore, a successful project manager recognizes that people are by far the greatest asset to any organization and project. The best project managers have great soft, or people skills, which include communication, active listening, compassion, and encouragement.

They also build and follow a solid leadership framework. Here is an example of what a leadership framework looks like:

  • Set direction
  • Create trust
  • Clarify work expectations
  • Clarify relationship expectations
  • Inspire, motivate, and influence others
  • Find a healthy balance between personal competence (knowing and managing self) and social competence (awareness of others)
  • Produce results
  • Empower growth
  • Lead by example

2. Influential.

Similar to the point we outlined above, successful project leaders are influential. They inspire, motivate, and influence team members, which boosts morale, productivity, and also leads to successful project outcomes.

Project managers can achieve this by displaying a positive, flexible, and open communication approach to managing projects, which encourages others to follow suit. Project managers should always lead by example.

3. Communication.

Next to leadership, communication is at the top of the list of the most important project management skills. In fact, practicing good communication and leadership often go hand in hand.

Not only should project managers understand his or her own communication style, but he or she should also take the time to recognize others’ communication styles (project team members, stakeholders, and clients).

There are four major communication styles (according to DISC):

  • Thinker
  • Driver
  • Relater
  • Socializer

By understanding the different communication styles, project managers can adjust and tailor their communications according to the team member, stakeholder, or client.

In addition to recognizing others’ communication preferences and styles (or lack thereof), successful project managers can also recognize where misinterpretations and miscommunications may occur during a project.

For example, if a particular client is difficult to get a hold of, or seems to miss key project details, avoids making decisions or answering questions, then a project manager would recognize these communication risks and address and respond to them in an appropriate, effective manner.

4. Critical Thinking.

Critical thinking is another crucial element of project management. The good news is project managers can develop critical thinking skills over time and with experience. Critical thinking involves thinking differently about projects, such as keeping an open mind, thinking objectively, and questioning what might be true.

Project managers can do this by gathering information, questioning sources and witnesses, assessing evidence, and then taking a step back and allowing time for things to incubate before reaching a decision or solving a problem.

5. Creative Problem Solving.

Project managers are also great problem solvers. This is because most learn to think critically about projects. However, much like critical thinking, creative problem-solving skills take time to develop.

Here are some things you can get into the habit of doing on a daily or regular basis in order to develop or sharpen your creative problem solving and brainstorming skills:

  • Change or refresh your working environment. A change of scenery can help you take a different approach and think of things differently, which just mind be what you need to solve a problem.
  • Have “free association” time to write down or draw a mind map of ideas (Don’t worry about them being good or bad!)
  • Build a “swipe file” of ideas, helpful resources, or other sources of information to refer to or that you might find helpful when solving a problem.
  • Don’t forget to take breaks! If you spend too much time focused on one problem, you end up overthinking it, missing obvious details, or forget the big picture. Take a break from time to time, go for a walk, and allow the information enough time to incubate or digest before reaching a solution or conclusion.

6. Organization.

Yes, project managers are highly organized. They plan out all the intricate details of a project and are master schedulers. This helps them not only organize project details, documents, tasks, and subtasks, but to also build and manage project schedules, planning all milestones and deadlines accordingly.

Not every project manager in the world is a super organizer or planner. Although this skill can be developed and improved with practice, having some organizational tendencies and planning is a project management fundamental.

7. Time Management.

In addition to being incredibly organized, project managers have keen time management skills and abilities. They pay attention to the amount of time certain tasks take, they prioritize tasks and projects, and use their time wisely. Time management also allows them to realistically and effectively plan, prioritize, and schedule project tasks and subtasks.

8. Detail-Oriented.

Project managers focus on minute project details, ask questions, and organize those details with extreme precision. This is important for identifying, managing, and responding to risks, and also quality control and management.

9. Forward-Thinking.

In today’s day and age, it’s important for project managers to be forward thinkers. Forward-thinking project managers are open to new ideas and innovations, have a strong and clear business vision and entrepreneurial mind, and are also highly recognized as leaders. Having an open mind is key to becoming a forward-thinking project manager.

10. Business Acumen.

Because many project managers work with clients and stakeholders, displaying proper business acumen is important throughout the project lifecycle. Today, business acumen has a unique and powerful impact on all project phases.

Project managers can apply business acumen to prospect and generate interest from clients and stakeholders as well as present, propose, and agree on solutions. Ultimately, these solutions will determine how particular solutions will deliver business and project value to clients and stakeholders.

11. Agile.

Project managers should also be agile, flexible, and open to change. This is a challenge for many project managers since they are often avid and disciplined planners from the start. However, allowing some flexibility when working with clients and projects is important.

We aren’t suggesting that project managers completely ditch a project plan when a client calls up and wants to make a change to the scope. Rather, project managers should find a balance between being open to the client’s ideas, while also clearly communicating how specific changes will impact a project (in terms of budget, timeline, and outcome).

12. Sales.

We know what you are probably thinking… What does "sales" have to do with project management? It may not be obvious, but strong project management skills are essential for helping clients make purchase decisions as well as leveraging project resources in the process.

No, we aren’t saying that every project manager needs to have traditional cold-calling or door-to-door sales experience, but rather adopting and taking a consulting-like approach to working with clients and stakeholders.

For example, a project manager may speak with a client, really listen to the clients’ needs, and then make recommendations related to particular project features that the client may find beneficial. This might evolve into an opportunity to upsell the client on value.

Apply and Expand Your Project Management Skills with Rindle

As one can clearly see, you don’t have to be a scientist, mathematician, or have an MBA to be an effective and successful project manager. By having some basic organizational skills, business and sales knowledge, professional business acumen, and good leadership and communication skills, you can be a top-performing project manager.

And for everything else, there’s Rindle…

Rindle is a project management tool that is easy to use, understand, adopt, and implement in any project team. It is designed with team collaboration features, such as comment threads, messages, and email updates to streamline communication. Rindle is also a visual tool, which is appealing for those with different working and communication styles.

Allow Rindle to give you the tools that you need to become the project manager you want to be. Give Rindle a try today.