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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.

5. Communicates effectively. “It would be difficult to cite anything other than communications skills as the most important to have in a good project manager,” says Tijam. “Most projects are complex, and the ability to communicate with different audiences and team members is imperative to any project’s success.”

“A project manager’s primary role is as a communicator. No skill is more important,” says Ted Carlson, program manager, The Nerdery, which provides custom software design and development. “Clear, consistent communication [is essential for project success]. Artful project managers make it a priority to understand their various project members and stakeholders, and they tailor communication style and channel to best fit and reach those audiences – [and] keep everyone informed.”

5. Delegates. Good project managers know, “you cannot do everything yourself,” says Ginny Woolridge, PMP, ArcherPoint, which specializes in business solutions built on Microsoft Dynamics NAV. You have to “delegate work to others… [and] know [your] teams’ strengths, as well as their current workloads, in order to delegate properly.”

6. Anticipates problems. “As a PM, you always need to anticipate what could go wrong, what your clients needs, or what your team is going to be taking on next,” says Rachel Bogan, director of product management, Work & Co, a digital design and technology company. “If you don't [think several moves ahead and] have a little bit of fear that you may miss something, you probably will.”

“The best project managers are three steps and three days into the future and anticipate things that may go wrong and how to change paths to avoid risks, or at least divert as much as it is within their power to do so,” says Woolridge.

Good project managers “are proactive problem solvers who anticipate project changes, communicate concerns, adjust their course and keep the project on the rails,” says Carlson. “When timeline or budget or feature changes inevitably occur, projects managers who panic will turn ripples into tidal waves. Skillful project managers adjust their plans, offer options and plot a new course to success.”

7. Flexibility – and keeping calm under pressure. “Maintaining flexibility is also important,” says Tijam. “Projects can get derailed. Successful project managers [know how to] adapt… and rein in the project.”

“Scope changes, feedback isn’t always as positive as you’d like, and sometimes you just have to go back to the drawing board,” says Pete Shelly, lead project manager, Huemor, a design and marketing agency. “No matter how much planning we do, a little chaos is inevitable in a high-pressure industry with tight deadlines and astronomical client expectations. Being able to roll with the punches – [and maintain] your composure – helps your team feel more at ease so they can do their best work.”


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