Skills You Need As a Project Manager

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

You could be new to project management and just learning the skills required for the profession, or a long time professional frustrated that certain things aren’t working and trying to Skills You Need As a Project Managerlearn new skills. Either way, it helps to clarify the skills needed by project managers today. There are so many different terms used in the industry so before we begin let’s look at what the word skill means. According to Dictionary.com, it is the ability to do something well, like expertise. If you think about project management, there truly is both an art to it and a science behind it. We use the right brain to perfect the art of people skills, and the left brain to develop the craft or science of project management. Basically, the areas of expertise needed can be broken down into behavioral and technical skills.

Behavioral Skills                                                               

Influencing behaviors requires leadership skills. Project managers must know how to influence others to follow them on the team. Specifically, leadership skills are needed in the following areas:

Change Management – it’s not just about managing the process of change effectively within an organization, it’s about the art to get others to buy into initiatives and therefore create massive change. Where change occurs, fear usually occurs, so it’s important to have skills to navigate those waters.

Process Management – it’s not only a discipline to manage projects, it’s understanding and having a clear way of managing processes effectively for your project.

Problem Solving – being able to take a problem and break it down, understanding what the real issue is and solving it with decisive actions.

Communication – having the skill to communicate effectively with different levels (team, stakeholder, change control board and executives) and in a variety of formats (written, verbal, etc.). Project managers need to literally communicate up down and all around.

Organizing and Planning – being able to look at a project and organize things into different components and plan correctly and effectively.

Reading Systems – being able to read when things aren’t going well or sounding right. It’s looking at what’s being done, hearing what’s said, and seeing how they line up. It’s being able to tune into the system.

Team Building being able to get team members to work together and understand each other even when emotions and sensitivities are high. Projects run long or short, and can be intense or begin to fail. It’s bridging the gaps, possibly between skill and culture. It’s doing what is needed to get the team to work together towards a common goal.

Commitment to Task – staying committed throughout the project. When things don’t go well you may want to get out of a project as quick as you can but it’s important to stay committed to the project during tough and good times.

Diplomacy – knowing how to be diplomatic with people at all levels in order to get things resolved. Diplomacy doesn’t mean selling out or conflict avoidance, its navigating the politics you are dealing with in order to get things done. 

Technical Skills 

Tools – know the tools, which can be anything from Excel spreadsheets to Microsoft Word documents; it’s whatever you need to get things done. You need software tools to manage your projects effectively and give others access too, like ProjectManager.com.

Techniques – know how to build out a GANTT chart or map out a decision making process.

Methodology – have a clear methodology for communicating to the team.

Mastering these skills will develop the right qualities of leadership needed for the difficult role of the project manager. They are the skills that you need to handle people issues, process issues or technology issues.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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