4 Skills that All Project Managers Need (and How to Develop Them)

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Project managers make the world go round, as without them it would be difficult for even the simplest schemes to make it from initial concept to completion.

That’s why professionals in this arena are in high demand, and why becoming a project manager is appealing if you want a stable and well paid career.

Because people who manage projects on time have to keep many plates spinning at once, the set of skills you’ll need to bring to the table is varied. So what abilities are essential for aspiring project managers to offer, and how can you foster them effectively?

Project Manager Pointing at Graph

Communicating clearly regardless of the context

Project managers must be excellent communicators, as they’re the ones who have to bring various other contributors together and ensure that they’re all pulling in the same direction.

This includes being able to open lines of communication between different departments, as well as dealing with conflicts that might arise in the course of a project. That’s not to say that the role is solely based around playing the middleman, or mediating between other parties.

Project managers can put their stamp on an initiative, and use their influence to determine the direction that’s taken. But listening is arguably the most important communication skill to develop, and separates competent yet unremarkable managers from truly good ones.

In terms of becoming a better communicator, following good examples set by others early in your career, as well as learning from the mistakes that you see being made by colleagues when it comes to expressing themselves or listening, will stand you in good stead.

For written communication, there are various tools out there to help you with things like spelling, grammar and syntax. This can really level the playing field, and keep all of your emails and messages consistently professional, concise and clear in their meaning.

Proactively managing project schedules (especially in real estate and other complex, expensive fields)

The difference between an average and experienced project manager in real estate comes down to scheduling.

It’s not enough to set out a schedule and sit back with your feet up. You have to be proactive in overseeing the progress that’s being made, and adjusting targets and budgets along the way according to the day by day changes that occur.

This applies to real estate projects in particular, because the amount of money on the line can be significant, and the number of moving parts in any project of this kind will be greater than in other industries.

Once again the use of modern tools does take the sting out of staying on top of the responsibilities of project management. Scheduling can be organized, tracked and reconfigured with the help of software, and automation plays a major part here.

The key is to know that time is of the essence, and get into good habits for managing your own schedule, so that these can then be applied to the wider schedule for each project you helm.

Leading teams with strength and encouragement

The skills of a project manager are necessarily the same as those of any leader, because with management comes the requirement to steward teams of people and take tough decisions.

Good leaders have to strike a balance between being strong and decisive, and being supportive and encouraging to those in their charge.

Employees need to be guided, as well as given the freedom to think for themselves and act autonomously. Performance must be assessed fairly, and feedback provided supportively. Most of all, successes must be celebrated so that morale rises and there’s the drive to keep on achieving going forward.

As with many skills, leadership is something that comes naturally to some, while it’s necessary to develop through effort and mentorship in the hands of others.

Taking leadership training courses if you’re thinking of becoming a project manager is a sensible step. There’s only so much you can rely on your innate abilities or your previous experience to teach you about leading others.

Solving problems in the moment with critical thinking

There are a few facets of problem solving that project managers must encompass in their skill set. Most importantly, it’s about realizing that you cannot just hope to prevent future issues by learning lessons from past failures. Instead, being proactive is once again a must, and as a leader the buck will ultimately stop with you.

Critical thinking is part and parcel of this process, and many snafus that crop up as a project moves forward need to be tackled through an objective lens. If you’re only seeing a problem from one angle, you won’t be able to solve it swiftly.

Effective project solving is a skill that leads to other benefits from a project manager’s perspective, including keeping budgets in check and avoiding delays.

Developing critical thinking capabilities that will make problem solving less hassle is best done by not shying away from conundrums that you encounter from day to day, but facing them head-on.

Other thoughts on developing project management skills

We’ve discussed a few ways to accumulate and acquire the skills that every project manager must have, and on the job experience combined with training definitely helps.

However, there’s no question that for the most comprehensive experience, completing a degree-level course in project management is the best option.

You can do this in-person at many different respected educational institutes, as well as by completing online and distance learning courses if you wish.

Wrapping up

The best project managers know that their growth and development as a professional in this field is never over. Every day gives them opportunities to learn new skills, conquer new challenges, and become better equipped to face obstacles in the future.

While there are some industry-specific skills that you’ll have to develop within the sphere you choose to operate in, most are entirely transferrable, and so project managers can flit wherever they please, making it a flexible as well as a lucrative career.

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