Project management is often underappreciated. At first glance, it seems purely technical and administrative. But seasoned project managers know that there’s more to the job than just creating and following procedures. Alongside them are human elements that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Project management isn’t just about managing resources, after all. It also has a lot to do with working with people. To be an exceptional project manager, you’ll need a solid arsenal of competencies that involves technical know-how and people skills. Let’s dive into 10 essential project management skills.
10 Must-Have Project Management Skills
Technical Knowledge & Systems Thinking
Project management isn’t just about technical systems. But that doesn’t mean they’re negligible — quite the contrary.
If you want to start a career in project management, your first step should be familiarizing yourself with tools and methodologies that can help you in this trade. Taking courses is an excellent way to do this.
Getting an internship will be helpful, too. Coupled with systems thinking, having a good grasp of project management’s foundational concepts exposes you to various solutions that you can turn to when certain situations arise.
Critical Thinking & Resourcefulness
Problem-solving and decision-making are part of every project manager’s core responsibilities. If you want to be good at this, you’ll have to practice objective and unbiased critical thinking. Critical thinking is the ability to discern relevant pieces of information and using them to make sound decisions.
Resourcefulness is knowing how to gather data most efficiently and effectively. Hand in hand, these competencies can help you inspect situations with clarity, so you can lead your team to the best course of action.
Read more: How to Read the Room As a Project Manager
Foresight & Perception
Anticipating issues and bottlenecks is a valuable skill to have for any leader. But contrary to popular belief, you can’t just build this skill through experience. Instead, you build foresight with perception, which is a keen awareness and understanding of events that happen around you.
In short: don’t be a passive observer when problems arise. Even after solving problems, take time to examine what caused them, how they could have been avoided, or how you could have prepared better for them. This way, you can be more equipped for your future projects.
Communicating is easy when things are going well. But when the going gets tough, there comes the danger of triggering ego or panic in your line of questioning. This can cause your team to clam up, hindering problem-solving. Mastering the art of asking questions is valuable to maneuver situations like this.
In his book called Humble Inquiry, author Edgar Schein talks about how asking instead of telling can help you build relationships. Done right, inquiring can allow you to gather information and give advice without demeaning or offending anyone. Best of all, it encourages collaboration, which is a good way to maximize your team’s abilities.
Clarity & Presence Of Mind
Things rarely go according to plan. And as a project manager, it’s essential to never lose your cool — even when everyone else does. Self-mastery goes a long way in this profession. The power to keep your emotions at bay can help you see situations objectively and make sound decisions.
Staying present on your day-to-day is also important. This allows you to process information and facilitate meetings effectively. To stay present and maintain clarity, practice mental discipline and self-awareness. Always check your stress levels and cultivate healthy ways to manage them.
Facilitating Trust And Rapport
Collaboration, trust, and rapport spell the difference between a team of rock stars and a rock star team. The latter tends to attain bigger success. As a project manager, you need to foster an environment where people in your team respect each other’s abilities. This will allow them to work independently and solve problems effectively.
Equally important is your ability to build trust between yourself and your team. To do this, start with the little things. Be honest, consistent, and reliable. Show care and appreciation. When your team sees that they can trust you with small things, it’s more likely that they’ll also trust you with bigger things.
Project proposals, progress reports, project documentation, and consolidating post-mortem findings. At every phase of a project, writing is a constant task for project managers. Writing clear and cohesive reports isn’t just about grammar and language mastery. It also involves insight into storytelling and organizing information in a way that’s informative and engaging.
As with most skills, deliberate practice and asking for feedback are good ways to improve your writing skills. Exposing yourself to good material through reading and study can also help you continuously collect points for improvement to enhance your work.
Tact & Negotiation
A project team’s journey isn’t always smooth sailing. More often than not, the task of sharing bad news falls into the lap of the project manager. In times like these, tact can dictate how your team will perceive these issues. Will they be defensive and hold a grudge? Or will they respond with hope and resolve?
On the other hand, negotiation is the ability to initiate a compromise so that both parties can find win-win situations. Whether it’s on managing new requests, lobbying for additional resources, or negotiating operational workarounds to maintain morale, negotiation skills can help you salvage as much as you can when things are bleak.
Projects and deadlines are important, but so are people. When the going gets tough and the pressure is high, many teams and project managers forget that. Diving into crunch time and overtime may get the job done for the time being. But if it comes at the expense of mental health and wellbeing, it goes without saying that this won’t serve you in the long run.
As a project manager, taking care of your people is part of your job. Strive to find balance and practice empathy — even when it’s hard. When your team sees that you value them and their contributions, they will be more inclined to work their best.
Contrary to popular belief, good project managers aren’t bosses. They’re leaders. And true leadership is about being of service. To be exceptional in your craft, you need to be willing to do what others don’t want to do.
Whether it’s painstakingly processing data for reports, organizing trackers, or dealing with difficult stakeholders, your job is to handle them with unwavering diligence so that your team can be free to focus on their respective tasks.
There’s more to project management than just prestigious titles and certifications. While these are also important, it’s crucial to see beyond them if you want to be great at what you do.
The true superpower of an exceptional project manager is the ability to make their teams work at their best. And to do that, you must be able to work with both the technical and human elements of project management.
Recommended Project Management Software
If you’re interested in learning more about top rated project management software, the editors at Project-Management.com actively recommend the following:
Tackle complex projects with Wrike’s award-winning project management software. Break projects into simple steps, assign tasks to team members, and visualize progress with Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and calendars. Manage resource allocation and forecasting with software that’s easy to launch. Automation and AI features strip away time-consuming admin tasks so you can do the best work of your life. Streamline your practices, align your team, and ensure you hit deadlines and stay on budget.
monday.com Work OS is the project management software that helps you and your team plan, execute, and track projects and workflows in one collaborative space. Manage everything from simple to complex projects more efficiently with the help of visual boards, 200+ ready-made templates, clever no-code automations, and easy integrations. In addition, custom dashboards simplify reporting, so you can evaluate your progress and make data-driven decisions.