6 Essential Project Management Skills

Search with Ctrl + F Last updated: 2022-08-14

Guest post by Dan Matthews

Do you have what it takes to become a project manager? It is not a title that should be taken lightly. This field involves guiding every step of a complex project from initiation to completion while managing many moving parts and work styles, all before an agreed-upon deadline. It is not always an easy job, but it is very rewarding.

If project management is something you are interested in, then you will have to master several essential skills. Leadership, active listening, and the ability to think on your feet are all necessary attributes that you must have to succeed. Let’s discuss these and other necessary skills below.

1. Leadership

Before even getting into the nitty-gritty of the project, a manager must first and foremost be a productive leader. There are many factors that go into being a great and professional leader. When it comes to a complex project with many moving parts, you need to have a positive attitude, stay organized, and keep your team motivated.

Being a leader also means knowing each team member’s strengths and delegating work to those who can deliver the best results. It means creating realistic goals and being honest with employees who are not carrying their weight or are falling behind. In the end, the leadership of a project management team means taking a large-scale operation and orchestrating it towards success.

2. Ability to Set Realistic Client Expectations

Two businesswomen sitting at office desk having meeting and discussing paperwork.

Depending on the size of the project, the chances are that you have many different benchmarks and moving parts to manage, so you want to set realistic expectations for your clients when it comes to the final product. Ensure that you have a complete understanding of what the client is looking for and that your team has the capability to fulfill the requirements. Even if a project seems relatively easy to complete, complications can always arise, so do not over-promise.

As a project manager, you want to be realistic with the client. If you know that there are potential obstacles, mention them beforehand, which will lessen the blow if they do come true. Then, set flexible deadlines. Give them an ideal date along with a backup date, which will give you a little leeway and reduce the stress of running late.

3. Formulation of Contingency Plans

Regardless of the size of the project, there can always be unexpected pitfalls that may set you back. Rush orders, late work, and even sick team members can cause delays, so you want to have contingency plans in place ahead of time. Start by looking back at past projects and the common issues faced then, so that you can create a risk management plan.

This plan must include all potential risks, the likelihood of each one happening, and your plan of action if they occur. This plan should also estimate costs and additional workforce needed if you face an issue. A good project manager will also assign owners to all potential risks so they can keep an eye on them and act if necessary. It is essential to create this plan before the project starts so you can have all the possibilities covered.

4. Ability to Work on the Go

As a project manager, you will have to be available at all times in case there is a question from the client or an issue on the team. That means that you must have the tools necessary to assist from anywhere. Luckily, technology has made communicating from outside of the office easier than ever, and if you are serious about this line of work, you should have these tools installed and ready to go.

You never know when a client or manager may want a face-to-face meeting, so you should install any number of meeting apps on your mobile device that allow you to chat over video in an instant. Many of these apps also include digital whiteboards and chat functions, so you can work as if you were sitting in the boardroom.

There may also be times that you have to sign or fax paperwork, and technology exists for that as well. Mobile faxing apps allow you to scan, sign, and fax paperwork to anyone in the world with ease, and saving these documents on the cloud ensures that this vital paperwork stays secure.

5. Time Management

As a manager, you not only have to keep the project running smoothly, but you have to ensure that your team is running on all cylinders and making the most of their time. As part of the overall time management strategy, look at your members and consider their pace, and then assign tasks accordingly.

There are different strategies for effective time management, and it all depends on your team. You may decide to assign the most complex work at the beginning. Doing so can allow you to accomplish major goals first, which your stakeholders will appreciate, and leave the smaller stuff for closer to the deadline. Another approach is to shrink project goals into smaller pieces, which may make managing the goals easier, and the feeling of recurring accomplishments will keep the team motivated.

6. Communication Skills

You could have the best people in the world on your project, but if you cannot communicate effectively, then the work will stall. In your role, communication could be on the phone, over email, face-to-face, or via online conferencing, so you have to know how to lead and listen on all platforms. When speaking verbally, be clear, avoid distractions, and be ready to actively listen so your conversations remain productive. Written communications should also be clear and concise and void of spelling errors.

Successfully managing a project can be quite an accomplishment, but doing so does not come without a fair share of hurdles. Hone these skills, learn from experience, and push the best attributes of every team member, and you will accomplish your project mission.

Author Bio:  Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.