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6 Skills Project Managers Must Master

project manager leading team in the office

Project managers must use a wide range of skills to successfully bring their projects to completion on time and under budget. Every day, organizations around the world need project managers to lead critical change initiatives, to problem-solve, and to motivate their teams.

If you’re just stepping into the role of a project manager, or you simply want to brush up on the essentials of project management, there are many ways to improve your skills. But which skills are the most important? These 6 are crucial in nearly every project management scenario.

1. Communication Is Critical

Management roles are all about communication, and project management is no exception. In fact, communication is the single most important skill for a project manager to master. Productivity, teamwork, and morale are all affected by good (or bad) communication.

Miscommunication can also be very costly for organizations, ringing in at around $5200 per employee annually. Project managers need to be able to avoid common communication pitfalls and misunderstandings in order to keep their projects on track.

Giving clear, specific, and positive instructions to team members helps to facilitate productivity and inspires people to do their best work. Positive feedback should be given regularly, and constructive feedback should be delivered so that it helps team members grow.

2. Project Managers Are Leaders

Project managers aren’t just managing projects—they’re managing teams as well. In a project management role, you are a leader and you have to take on all of the responsibilities of a leadership role.

As a leader, you’re responsible for motivating your team. You’ll have your own leadership style, but it’s essential to lead with respect, integrity, and transparency. You must be a role model for your team and help them through the inevitable challenges that will come up along the way.

3. There’s No Project Without Your Team

It’s important to stay humble and to remember that a project manager can’t stand alone. You need your team to complete your projects successfully, and you need them to work together harmoniously, as a team, to reach those goals.

It’s up to you to get to know your team members on an individual level and as a group. Understanding the different skills and personalities on your team will help you assign work, strengthen bonds within the team, and motivate everyone during the good and bad times. Never take your team for granted!

4. What’s a Project Without Problems and Problem-Solving?

Every seasoned project manager knows that it’s not a matter of “if” problems will pop up, it’s a matter of “when.” Of course, you should always try to anticipate problems and prevent them whenever you can, but this isn’t always possible. That’s why you need to have strong problem-solving skills and an unflappable attitude in the face of adversity.

Obviously, many of the problems you’ll be called on to solve will be new to you. But if you have developed a problem-solving process and you aren’t afraid to jump in right away, it shouldn’t matter if you’ve dealt with that specific problem before. Remember, more complex projects come with more problems.

5. Haggling Towards Objectives

There are lots of compromises and negotiations that take place during most large projects. You might have to haggle with vendors on pricing, work with leadership on budget or timeline, and sort out disagreements between team members—sometimes all in one day! Although negotiation does fall under the umbrella of communication, many people do not feel comfortable negotiating and need extra practice in this specific type of communication.

6. Keeping It Together

To manage other people and all of the moving parts involved with a large, complex project, you first need to know how to manage yourself. Personal organization is an important skill for project managers to master, both in their personal and professional lives.

Being organized in your personal life allows you to focus on work when you’re at work. Likewise, being organized in the office will allow the project to run smoothly so that you can shut down your laptop at the end of the day and get some much-needed rest.

The Most Important Skill of All

These skills are important, but remember, communication is your most important skill as a project manager. Clear communication can mean the difference between a successful, on-time and on-budget project and one you need to scrub off your resume.

As you build your communication skills, make sure that you’re spending time communicating with people offline as much as possible. It’s easy to hide behind a shroud of digital anonymity. Although it’s counterintuitive, you’ll have to put that shroud aside and learn how to work with people face-to-face to be a truly effective project manager.

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