These 5 Project Manager Skills Are What You Need To Thrive

Learn how to be more successful as a project manager in delivering outcomes and building relationships.

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As a project manager, you may be responsible for various activities, from creating project plans and managing resources to leading meetings and facilitating communication. However, no matter what kind of projects you're working on, there are essential skills you can develop to become a top-notch manager.

Based on my experience, I have identified five key qualities critical for success. Understanding and applying these principles can help you develop the skills necessary to excel as a project manager.

  1. Foresight
  2. Clear and calm communication
  3. Empathy
  4. Curiosity
  5. Being active and proactive

Whether you're looking to enhance your current abilities or improve your knowledge in these crucial areas, read on to discover actionable tips and strategies that will enable you to become a more effective project manager. Let's dive in!

1. Foresight

Effective project management involves more than just planning. The real work comes in when managing a plan, including dealing with changes, risks, and issues.

As a project manager, you are responsible for actively monitoring the plan, tracking progress, and anticipating potential problems, even those that are not yet visible. But how do you become better at identifying and managing risks, and how can you involve your team in the process?

Here are some quick tips:

  • Conduct a risk brainstorming session with your team and stakeholders at the start of the project to identify potential risks and develop strategies to prevent them.
  • Include tracking of issues and risks on your weekly project status reports to ensure transparency and to keep everyone informed.
  • Communicate openly about risks, treating them as a normal part of the project management process. Doing so demonstrates your commitment to being a proactive problem solver and a good communicator.

2. Clear and calm communication

Managing a project can feel like conducting multiple orchestras simultaneously, with each orchestra playing different music in different venues. As a project manager, it's crucial to maintain a sense of calmness and clarity when communicating with your team. Effective communication involves what you say and how and where you say it.

This means being transparent, direct, and clear when discussing project details, feedback, plans, and other issues. Effective communication also means considering the words you type, where you type them, and how they're received.

To help you become a clear, calm communicator, here are a few tips:

  • Develop a communication plan that establishes expectations for what types of communications exist, who is responsible for them, where they should happen, and who should be included.
  • If you're using chat with your team, set basic usage guidelines, including response times and knowing when to move discussions to a more formal or larger group setting.
  • Establish routines for team project meetings, ensuring everyone is up-to-date on the latest work status while getting valuable facetime.
  • Refrain from responding immediately to questions or issues. Take the time to assess the situation and respond with a clear and accurate answer. As the PM, you're not expected to know everything!

3. Empathy

Project managers with high levels of emotional intelligence tend to be more successful because they think about more than checking tasks from a to-do list. They prioritize the well-being of their team because they understand how it can impact the project as a whole.

Demonstrating empathy in your interactions with team members is essential for building strong relationships and achieving project success.

Here are a few ways you can be more empathetic:

  • Keep your team's resourcing plan up-to-date to ensure a healthy work-life balance. Use Float to estimate your team's workload accurately and show that you have their best interests in mind.
  • Consider the team members' workload before approaching them with non-urgent questions or requests. This shows that you value their time and are thinking about their needs.
  • When conflicts arise, remain neutral while acknowledging that there is an issue. Instead of pointing fingers, focus on problem-solving to help resolve the issue.

4. Curiosity

As a project manager, keeping up with industry trends, new tools, and business and technology developments is essential. Maintaining a sense of curiosity about these new developments and thinking about how they might impact your work will help you stay ahead of the game. Β 

For example, AI tools are emerging, and thinking about how they might affect your work now and in the future is vital. Engaging with colleagues and experts in your industry is an excellent way to stay informed and adopt new tools and processes.

Here are a few ways to pique your curiosity at work:

  • Read industry resources and blogs, listen to podcasts, and learn more about your work to understand the industry better. Good podcast options include Sprints & Milestones and People and Projects.
  • Attend conferences and meetups, network with other project managers, and learn how they approach their work. Understanding how others practice project management can inform or reshape your practices.
  • Utilize the subject matter experts on your team and in your organization. Have casual or structured conversations about what's happening around your business and projects to get everyone excited about innovation and change.

5. Being active and proactive

Your role as a project manager is not limited to overseeing tasks but also being an active and engaged team member. Demonstrating a personal investment in your work can motivate your team and provide a more comprehensive view of your projects.

Here are some ways you can show your commitment to your projects:

  • Conduct thorough research at the project's beginning to understand the project's scope and ask questions about its formation. A well-organized kickoff meeting can get everyone on the same page and excited about the work ahead.
  • Interview stakeholders to understand their expectations and perspectives and how these factors may impact the project.
  • Participate in meetings, bringing your project management expertise to the discussion. This approach shows your team that every decision and conversation impacts the project and that you are actively looking out for those factors.

The most exciting part about being a project manager is that every project brings a new opportunity to try something new to improve. You have the power to guide your team toward success and take your projects to new heights by being more strategic and proactive. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the wins, and learn from the losses. By staying curious, empathetic, and invested in your work, you'll develop the skills necessary to tackle any project that comes your way.

Remember, the journey to becoming a great project manager is ongoing, so keep learning, keep growing, and keep leading your teams to success!