Project managers often wear many hats over the course of their careers. There is a lot that goes into project management, such as budgeting, delegating, team building, setting and meeting deadlines, managing communication between the team and the client, etc. If a project manager is lacking in one or more of the essential skills needed to perform well, the whole project can suffer. Review our project management skills list and see what areas you can work on.
Good Skills to Have for Any Job
The skills needed by a project manager are honestly good skills to have in general, whether or not you’re a project manager. Anyone can benefit from working on these skills, from freelancers to teachers to computer engineers. These skills are essential for project managers to do the best job they can do.
Project managers do more than just tell people what to do and do nothing themselves. Some people think that is all a project manager is and honestly, it might be because they’ve worked with a project manager like that! If you are a project manager, you know that isn’t true of everyone, though. There is a fair amount of telling people what they need to do and managing but there is so much more to it. You could create a project management skills list that was many pages long but these are some of the key skills:
Knowledge of Many Fields
Many of these go hand-in-hand. You can’t be a good leader without good communication, for example, and you can’t manage a task or your team properly if nobody has a good grasp of time management.
Leadership and Communication
Leadership may seem like a no-brainer on a project management skills list but not everyone has good leadership skills. There is a lot more to being a good leader than just bossing people around. If that is all you do as a project manager, you aren’t going to be a very successful one.
On the flip side, if you don’t tell people what they need to do at all, the project isn’t going to get done. Nobody wants to listen to and work with a manager who doesn’t demonstrate good leadership skills. Good leaders motivate their teams and help them along the course of the project. Leaders are with their team every step of the way, making sure that things are on track.
Good leaders also ensure that everyone is on task and is meeting deadlines. You may also have to make tough decisions, such as re-delegating if a team member is failing to meet deadlines or telling a client that their due date isn’t realistic. Good leaders also know when they need to step in and do part of the project themselves.
Communication goes right along with leadership because, without effective communication, you can’t lead your team. You need to ensure that not only does your team understand what you are asking them to do but that you are listening to them as well. Communication is a two-way street.
If you just bark orders all day and never actually listen to the concerns or questions from your team, you could end up missing some key problems with your project management plan. Employees who feel that managers don’t listen to or respect them also just don’t do as good of a job because they don’t feel like it matters. You need to be clear about what your expectations are, of course, but you also need to be respectful and let your team know that you value their input, even if you do have the final say.
In addition to communicating well with your team, you need to communicate with your client. Project managers who give clients frequent updates about how the project is going are more likely to be successful. Don’t stop checking in with your client after you’ve finalized your plan with them. Let them know how things are going at least every few days if you can.
That way if you ever deviate from what they want, they can tell you early on. Nobody wants to get weeks into a project only to find out the client wants it completely redone because there was a miscommunication about their needs. If your client has to call or email to ask you for an update, you aren’t communicating enough.
Negotiation Between Team Members and Clients
Clients and the people they employ to do jobs for them don’t always see eye to eye. You may even have multiple people acting as clients for the same job who aren’t able to sync up on what exactly they want from you. Maybe the owner of your company is not on the same page as the rest of you. This is where negotiation skills come in.
It is your job as a project manager to secure the use of the funds and resources your team needs. This means you will have to negotiate with senior management, company owners, or other project managers in order to get what you need. You can’t just walk away from the deal you’ve made with your client if you can’t come to a compromise with an owner who isn’t willing to get your team the resources they need. You need to reach a middle ground and get what you need to do the project.
Successful negotiating is done when you understand the interests and needs of everyone involved. When you know how a client thinks, you can use that knowledge to speak with them and explain why something they want from the project isn’t feasible, in a way that they not only understand but are receptive to. When you understand how your senior management thinks about their budget and finances, you can use that to convince them that giving up a little of their resources now will benefit the company in the long run.
Time management is the key to finishing successfully. This isn’t just about getting the project done on time. You can do a rush job and technically meet a deadline without actually doing a good job. Before the project even starts, you need to have a schedule for how the project will go. This schedule needs to be properly communicated to everyone on the team. They need to know what they need to have done and when.
Part of time management is also figuring out what tasks are the most important. These should be done first. Teams may have multiple projects to do at one time and they also have their day-to-day tasks. Sometimes you need to cancel a meeting in order to allow your team to actually work and get things done.
You need to prioritize not only your time but the time of everyone else on the team. You also need to be sure that you’re delegating properly. If you give too much to one team member, they may fall behind. If urgent matters come up while your team is working, you may even need to attend to those in order to let your team meet their deadlines.
Knowledge of Many Fields
Project managers don’t just work on projects that fall in line with whatever they studied in school or whatever areas they have knowledge in. If your company builds websites for construction companies, you need to know a little bit about different areas of construction. If you manage large events for art galleries, you need to know about art. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need to know enough lingo to be able to effectively speak with clients and understand what it is they want.
You also need to know the systems your team uses. If you have absolutely no knowledge of the software they use, the skills they have, or how long it takes to perform certain tasks, you might end up asking them to do something impossible. You can’t ask a videographer on Friday afternoon to have a video made by the end of the day, for example.
This also helps with setting deadlines. Maybe part of the project requires that graphics or logos be made by the graphic designers on your team. If you don’t understand the process it takes to make what your client is asking for, you can’t give them a proper deadline.
You risk not giving your team enough time to complete the graphics to the client’s satisfaction if they can even meet the deadline. This isn’t good for the relationship you have with your clients and it isn’t good for the relationship you have with your team. When you understand a little bit about everything, you can better navigate the project.
Improve Your Project Management, Improve Your Company
Every project manager has some skills they can develop more and nobody ever gets to a point where they can’t develop any longer. Part of being a project manager is constantly adapting, changing, and learning new skills. You have to learn how to communicate with each new team member, manager, and client you come across.
As technology changes, you will need to learn new systems in order to better work with your team. If you take on a client in a field you have no experience in, you’re going to need to learn about that field. Of all the things that could end up on a project management skills list, adaptability and the ability to learn new skills are probably the most important skills you can have.