The 7 Essential Project Management Skills

What skills do you need to be a great project manager? How do you develop those skills using training and coaching?

Project management is a challenging role. You sit between upper management giving you demanding targets and the production teams telling you how difficult it is to achieve them. It's rather like being the filling of a sandwich of flak!

Coping with Project Management stress requires a range of skill sets:

1 - Flex Effective Communication Skills

The project management role is at the fulcrum point of many lines of communication. These lines go to a range of stakeholders from the business, the user community, a range of suppliers and other parties with vested interests. 

The project manager has to act as a project telephone exchange, ensuring that all these parties communicate with each other effectively and cohesively.

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2 - Use Great People Management Skills

Projects are about getting people to work together. 

As such, the project manager must be able to build effective teams, motivate people to work productively, delegate clearly and deal with the likely conflicts that will occur.


3 - Develop your Emotional Intelligence

Projects bring about large-scale change that people react to in many different emotional ways. 

The project manager needs to be aware of these emotions both in themselves and others and deal with them rationally. The project manager should be a calm rock in the storm of the project environment.


4 - Demonstrate Political Savvy

Projects can be a political minefield where there are winners and losers. 

The Project Manager must demonstrate an ability to identify these two groups and understand what influences them to move the project forward.


5 - Practice Time Management

There is a whole array of things to do, and most are urgent. You're responsible for dividing your workload into manageable chunks and ensuring your project teams aren't overwhelmed. Assigning start and end dates for project chunks allows you to examine deadlines visually (such as in a Gant Chart) and make better decisions about your available resources.

illustration of a clock with people and technical imagery

The project manager must be a great juggler of tasks and use their time as effectively as possible.


6 - Employ Best-Practice Knowledge

A thorough understanding of best project practices, such as PRINCE2 Agile or the PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge, helps the project manager to see what should be done at any point in a project's life. 

The Project Manager should perform a health check by comparing their project plan against the best practice and see what is missing.


7 - Explore Project Management Software Tools

Much information flies around a project environment: budget updates, task updates, lessons learned and specialist knowledge. It's critical to track, store and communicate this information. The best way to do this is to use the right tool. 

A project manager must understand how to use tracking tools such as Microsoft Project, knowledge-sharing tools such as Sharepoint and collaboration tools such as Slack to enhance project communication.


This is just the start

We could carry on with this list. For example, financial skills are needed to track a project's budget and business case. In addition, a specific project or field may require technical skills and expertise to understand the project environment, such as in IT, construction or engineering. But even the range of skills listed above conveys how difficult the role is to do well and also how challenging it can be to develop your project management skills.


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This piece was originally posted on March 10, 2020, and has been refreshed with updated styling, title, and resources.

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