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7 nontechnical skills every project manager needs

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | June 15, 2016
Project management experts discuss the soft skills one needs to manage projects and project teams successfully.

To be a good project manager, especially if you are in IT, you need a certain amount of technical know-how. You also need a variety of nontechnical abilities that can help you navigate the challenges inherent in project management, from scope creep and delays to conflicts among team members.

Here are seven soft skills every project manager needs

1. Listens. “With every successful project comes a project manager who listens,” says Jelissa Brooks​, project manager, Creative Juice, a graphic design & Web design agency. “Listening is the key to learning and engaging with both your clients and your team. Listening allows you to ask the right questions to get to know your client and clients' needs, which is crucial when developing a scope and plan that helps deliver a product that meets client expectations with minimal project revision.”

2. Organized. To be a good project manager, “you have to be organized,” says Jose Tijam, senior project manager, Health Net/Centene. “There are a lot of moving parts in projects, and that's why organizations need project managers. Keeping track of a multitude of tasks, issues, decisions, action items [and] milestones, while ensuring resources remain accountable, is a skill good project managers must have.”

“A top skill project managers must possess is organization,” says John J. Glick, owner, Glick Brothers Roofing. “When you have a large amount of projects going on at one time, it is important to keep information about the project accurate and up to date. As the project manager, it is your job to make sure everything runs smoothly,” he explains. “Having all of the projects details laid out correctly allows the rest of your team to get the project done in a timely manner and as promised. Not only will your clients be happy with the results, but your company and its services will receive a positive reputation in return.”

3. Proactive. “Project managers need to be proactive,” says Rosie Brown, creative project manager, Sterling Communications, a tech PR agency. “This word is thrown around a lot in management books and performance reviews, but this is an essential skill for those in charge of leading and organizing account teams, programs, and everything in between.

“There’s nothing more dangerous to a project’s well-being than a project manager who has become complacent,” she states. “Project managers with initiative don’t wait to be asked for schedules, budget breakdowns or status updates. Instead, they light the way for their teams and are always prepared to tell them what’s ahead.” 

4. Detail-oriented. “The detail orientation that drives your spouse/significant other crazy will make you tremendously successful as a project manager,” says Charles Studt, vice president of marketing for Redbooth, a project management and collaboration platform. “Your ability to let no detail too small fall through the cracks while understanding how they all fit together is what keeps the project on track. But conversely, don’t let the details overwhelm you so that you lose sight of the big picture business outcomes your project is intended to produce.”


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