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Nine Essential Project Management Skills

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At Velociteach, our goal is to prepare you to become the best Project Manager that you can be. We have well-seasoned PMP-certified professionals who want to share their experience with you because that’s our passion – preparing people who are interested in Project Management as best we can. 

There are a lot of skills that make a fantastic Project Manager, and some might even have their own particular style of management. 

We’ve created a list of what we think are some of the most essential skills someone can develop and work on to be the best Project Manager that they can be, so strap in and let’s talk about management!

Communication

Healthy communication is paramount. It’s literally what ties the whole team together. And as a Project Manager, it’s your job to communicate with every department and team member to ensure that your goals are being met. 

Communication isn’t just speaking with your team members; it’s making sure that everyone is on the same page with each other and understanding the tasks at hand. If you have multiple departments that are in the dark when it comes to what the others are doing, you run the risk of misunderstandings and errors. 

Encouraging communication within your team helps avoid these mistakes and slip-ups, which even on the small end can add up and cost you valuable time and resources.

Not to mention, half of the communication on your part as a Project Manager isn’t talking but listening. Receiving feedback from your team, regularly checking in on specific individuals, and allowing your team members to discuss how the project is going (and why) are all essential aspects of a professionally operating team.

Studies show that 90% of the project manager’s time is spent communicating – it’s that important! That’s why we have dozens of online courses that touch on communication, and a handful dedicated to diving deeper on this topic alone. 

Organization

This one plays a role in just about every other project management skill on this list, so we really want to emphasize its importance. 

Organizational skills prevent everything from flying off the handle; by keeping easy-to-read notes and plans together, you and your team can know exactly what you’ve done, what you’ve discussed, and what you plan on accomplishing at any given time. 

Organization within your communications, whether it’s email logs, shared calendars, or spreadsheets, maintains a level of shared knowledge within the team. This prevents time wasters like overlap or confusion amongst departments. 

When organized and filed correctly, notes and documentation from meetings or presentations will become essential assets in the process when moving forward. 

There are plenty of tools available to help project managers keep important project documents organized. Pick the tool that works best for you. And, remember: your team and sponsor are expecting you to organize all the project chaos and make good things happen!

Planning

While you might be filled with excitement to get the engines revving on a new project, it’s important to take the first step: Plan it out

Planning is a major part of project management, and it applies to all project types – predictive, adaptive, and hybrid. (If you are not a “planner”, then project management may not be for you.)

Having a realistic scope for your project and creating an organized (see how that term is always around) schedule for your team will provide healthy and realistic goals to meet. 

By planning out the project, now you have expectations of how things should go, progress-wise and financially. You really can’t tell if you’re over budget or running behind if you don’t set up an initial timeline. 

What are your strategies to complete the project? How are you going to hold your different teams accountable for assigned goals? When is aspect A, B, C and D going to be completed? And what are aspect A, B, C and D? 

These are all questions to answer that are going to help smooth out your project from start to finish. Need help developing your project plan? Consider taking our Project Planning Series, a step-by-step guide through the 5 major components of the Project Plan. And if your team would like to dive deeper, our instructor-led Scope And Requirements Management course will help your team learn how to organize your projects well from the outset,

Flexibility and Anticipation

Alright, so planning and organization: Very important! However (and we promise this isn’t contradictory), flexibility is also essential to a successful team. 

Having a plan and timeline for your project is essential, but what happens if something suddenly changes? How do you deal with abrupt budget cuts or changes to the scope? What happens if you’re suddenly out a team member due to unforeseen circumstances? 

Consider a situation in which your client decides they want to make major changes to the project; what do you do? This is exactly what we discuss in our online course Six Things To Remember When Your Client Changes Direction.

Flexibility and anticipation are key. This might mean building reserves in the budget to account for potential setbacks or having multiple plans in mind if something doesn’t end up working the way you thought. Sounds like risk management, right?  If you want to learn more about managing risk, our instructor-led Applied Risk Management course takes you deeper into the  principles and methodologies of risk management and how to apply them.

Being able to think on your feet will make the difference between a good Project Manager and a great Project Manager

Budgeting

Budgeting can be a little intimidating, but the top Project Managers know this is one of the vital skills for project success. 

And by the way, budgeting applies to both time and money. Setting expectations on the entire project timeline as well as day-to-day plans will help you ensure that you and your team stay within the parameters you’ve defined for a successful project. 

Don’t go at this alone. A savvy Project Manager works with team members to build sound estimates of the time and resources required to carry out the project work. That inclusion leads to better estimates, to a frank discussion of risk, and to team buy-in for the plans. 

Establishing schedule and budget baselines help your team know when they should be where in their progress.

Problem Solving

Problem-solving skills are required daily from a Project Manager. Along with communications, problem-solving is a major part of the job. Problems arise, and it’s up to you to be prepared with solutions. 

Granted, a lot of what we’ve talked about could be considered preemptive problem solving, planning ahead, and developing contingencies for when anything comes up. 

But daily, there will be problems, both big and small, that will come across your desk. 

  • This team has fallen behind, and the delivery date is threatened.
  • The client suddenly wants something different. 
  • This tool isn’t working anymore, and you need to replace it with something else. 
  • A risk occurred, and the workaround was not effective. 

So what do you do? Have your eyes and ears everywhere. Monitor the pulse of the project. Be ready. Communicate with your team. Believe it or not, most problems have a trigger or sign that gives you the chance to see them coming. Not all of them, but if you’re doing your job well, then definitely most of them. 

Another key piece of knowledge? Know who to reach out to if you don’t have the answers. You don’t need to know every detail about every cog in the project, but you certainly better know the person who does know that detail. One Project Manager (Brad) described his role as the hub of a bicycle wheel. The contractors and other team members were the spokes leading to that hub – they knew their functional area in great detail. It was up to Brad to know who knows what, and who can help solve those problems when they crop up.

It’s your job to put out fires. Sometimes you’re prepared and know what to do, and sometimes you need to call in the experts. 

Knowledge of Technology

These days, technology is everywhere with promises of making our lives better and easier. 

Technology is a Project Managers’ best friend. You don’t have a pile of papers on your desk that you need to organize anymore; you have digitally contained and organized messages and files. 

For tracking schedules and resources, Project Managers may use basic tools like spreadsheets or Google Drive or Basecamp, or something more advanced like Microsoft Project, Smartsheet, WrikeAsana or LiquidPlanner. And the collaboration tools are getting better and better. Examples are Miro or Mural. (If you are considering using Microsoft Project and want in-depth live instruction, take our Fundamentals of Scheduling Using Microsoft Project course for expert guidance on using this tool.)

Technology can be an extremely powerful tool for a Project Manager when it comes to estimating, scheduling, communication, and organization. Being able to master it will push you and your team closer to a successful project. 

Humor and Empathy

This one depends on your own management style, but we truly believe that being a personable leader is one of the most important soft skills to have. Leaders must connect with the team.

You are the Project Manager, the team leader. You inspire and direct your team members, through good times and difficult times. As author Scott Berkun states in Making Things Happen: “Project managers are only as good as their relationships with the people on the team.”

You don’t have to be everyone’s friend or a comedian, but you’ve got to bond with the team. Build a sense of trust. Connect. Laugh together. Empathize.

We’re all people, and just about everyone can point to leaders they enjoyed working with and those whom they did not. Most people put in more effort when they like the person leading them and believe that they have their best interest in mind. 

The best Project Managers build strong relationships with the team and key stakeholders.

Leadership

Leadership is essentially the combination of all these other skills, and yet there’s something even more to it. 

Being a good leader is having a road map for where your team is going. It entails listening to them and communicating about what’s happening regularly. It’s unfazed in the face of unpredictable situations. It’s an inspiration and a guide to those around you. 

Being a good leader isn’t necessarily a set of quantifiable skills. It has to do with who you are as a person. A good leader listens and learns from everyone around them and can shape and offer that knowledge to others. 

Maybe that sounds a little convoluted, but seriously. We believe that the best people make the best leaders

In Conclusion

Being a good Project Manager requires you to wear many hats and be strong in a lot of skills. But these skills are essential. If you’re going to be the best Project Manager that you can be, and if you’re reading this, we assume that’s your goal! 

And if improving your Project Manager skills is something that you’re interested in doing, we have an abundance of online materials at velociteach.com/browse-courses/ for Project Managers of all experience levels.  And our instructor-led courses provide an opportunity to train your team on a variety of skills. 

Whether you’re new to the field and looking to expand your knowledge or a seasoned professional trying to gain new experiences, check out our online courses, reading materials, instructor-led courses, and podcast

We firmly believe that everyone can improve their skills, and we’re passionate about sharing the information and experiences we’ve had with you to do just that. 

Resources:
  1. Why Project Communication Management is Critical to Project Success | Kissflow.com
  2. 5 ways technology has changed project management | Clarizen
  3. Business2 years ago 3 Reasons Charisma Is The Most Impactful Quality All Great Leaders Have | Minutes.co

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