10 Essential Project Manager Skills

I have identified ten essential project manager skills that will make you a better project manager. The reason I identified project manager skills is to allow you to make a self-assessment of your current skill stack. Once you understand your strengths and weaknesses you can seek additional training. The training can be in reading books, attending conferences, or taking a class. One of the project management best practices is continuous skill development. You can maximize your strengths and find ways to compensate for your opportunities for improvement. Below are the essential project manager skills.

1. The ability to lead

Leadership is a skill many careers require. As a project manager, it is your job to manage all the resources and activities. You will need to be able to lead your project team to the successful completion of the project. Fortunately, if you are not a strong leader, project managers have the ability to use tools and techniques to keep everyone on track. To become a stronger leader, you can attend classes, read related books, or find a mentor.

2. Be an effective communicator

As with many careers, being able to communicate effectively is a key skill. This means a project manager needs to actively listen to the project team and understand what they are saying. Being able to communicate effectively will ensure priorities and task expectations will be clearly communicated. A project manager must be able to communicate project status to stakeholders both verbally and in written form. Effective communication will also improve the collaboration with and between project members. To become a better communicator, you can join public speech support groups. These groups are very helpful in providing feedback, support, and knowledge to improve you public speaking performance. To improve your written communication there are many books and classes on the subject.

3. Keep things on schedule

Establishing timelines and schedules are key fundamentals for project management. Breaking down a project into realistic milestones and tasks are so important. Being able to accurately estimate duration of tasks is critical. Plotting the tasks on a Gantt chart will visually represent the task over time. This will allow a project manager the ability to project a finish date, dependencies, and resource needs. The skill of creating accurate schedules can be learned and improved over time. To improve your schedule management skills you can use a project scheduling application which has built-in wizards and support.

4. Keep everything organized

Proper organizational skills are very important for project management. A project manager that is disorganized and letting things go will surely run into problems. In project management there is what is called the triangle. This consists of three items, which are scope, time, and costs. Failure to organize and manage these items will lead to scope creep, delays in project completion, and spending more money than was budgeted. Allocate some time each workday to perform a status review and update of documents, tasks, risks, and other frequently changing items.

5. Ability to understand the technology

Some people are naturally good at using computers, websites and applications. Successful project managers are able to use technology to organize, control and execute projects. If you are not a technical whiz, don’t worry. The technology used by a project manager does not have to be complex. At a basic level, a project manager should be able to store documents online, create a project plan, organize tasks, track time, and send communication. For the more advanced technology users, there is project management technology and applications that can save a lot of time and make you more efficient. The Project Management Office (PMO) at your work will have technology standards and will most likely provide training of its use. Off the shelf project management applications will have internal documentation, website support, and many associated publication on how to use the application.

6. Basic financial understanding

Monitoring and controlling the cost of a project is critical. Exceeding your project budget repeatedly will impact your reputation as a project manager and could lead to negative performance reviews. For that reason, understanding project financial information is an essential project management skill. Large projects can have complex financial data tracking. However, starting out as a new project manager your smaller project should only require basic financials. These basic financial tracking items may include;

  • Establishing a budget
  • Calculating resource cost
  • Determining burn down rate
  • Controlling vendor orders
  • Reporting the current project budget

7. Negotiate everything

There are many situations where a project manager will have to negotiate. Most people will think this mainly occurs when working with vendors over contracts and delivery details. However, a project manager will have to use persuasive communication when working with all of the people associated with the project. This is very true when working with stakeholders. They want everything immediately for the least amount of cost.

8. Critical Thinking

When leading a project team, a project manager can be subjected to pressures to avoid delays and get the project done. When an issue arises, the project manager is expected to lead a project team to develop a solution for an issue. While a project manager may need engineers for complex issues, just using critical think can help resolve most issues. By using logic and reasoning to analyze an issue, a project manager is exercising their critical thinking skills.

9. Enjoy the moments

Projects can be stressful and full of long challenging days. When a task or activity goes really well, the project manager needs to celebrate the moments. Recognize project team members that really are performing well. Communicate via email, verbal, and handwritten notes words of appreciation and recognizing accomplishments.

10. Coaching skills

A project manager is like a coach for a team. They help develop project team members in many ways. A project member frequently will help project team members work through tense situations and how they interact with each other.

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