Essential skills every project manager should have

by Moira Alexander

Change-management and organizational-development expertise

Change is a constant in business and most certainly in projects. When asked what his clients are looking for in a project manager, Tony Kirschner, a partner at Davies Park Executive Search, had this to say: “Recently, my clients have been looking to incorporate the softer, change management and OD (organization development) types of skills into the project management function. They are asking for PMs who do more than just ‘tick the boxes’ and can provide a more integrated approach to large project management and the associated organizational change.”

Top-notch communication skills

To ensure successful projects, it is important that project managers practice and encourage clear lines of ongoing and transparent communication with key stakeholders at various levels within impacted groups. Potentially this creates an environment of trust and inclusion, which paves the way to successful project outcomes. Without effective written and verbal communication skills, project managers are missing a critical component that can easily derail a project by risking buy-in from team members and stakeholders.

Team-building and conflict-resolution capabilities

A project manager’s ability to build a cohesive team focused on meeting project objectives is a vital skill. This is not always an easy task, and teams often become conflicted, which results in a project being compromised. This requires a people-oriented leader who has conflict-resolution abilities, focus, and patience to redirect members back into a high-functioning team.

Adaptable and unflappable qualities

Anyone who has ever managed a project knows that there are always issues that cause stress, ambiguity, and conflict. Employers want project managers they can rely on, who can easily adapt to change, and who are unflappable during uncertainty and crisis. These traits are particularly valuable at times when there is a need to keep others calm because most people will struggle when uncertainty or crisis strikes.

Exceptional facilitation skills

Creating an environment where project teams and stakeholders can collaborate effectively is not always stress-free. Finding a PM with solid facilitation skills may be challenging. Employers want to know that they have hired a facilitator who can stay focused on project outcomes and not become engulfed in politics, conflicting agendas, and side issues that arise during team sessions. Having a great facilitator can make the difference between staying within the project scope or completely missing milestones and deadlines.

Effectively executing projects has become more complicated, and this will only continue in the future. Therefore, it makes sense that project managers who possess these necessary skills, in combination with PM training and experience, will become highly sought after. For the most part, these are must-have skills yet are not easy to come by.

Employers and recruiters will be on the lookout for these project managers to help their project initiatives in support of business goals. As a PM, ask yourself if you have the right skills and attributes employers will be looking for.


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