project management skills

10 essential project management skills

Reading time: about 7 min

Demand for project management talent is growing faster than ever. But even as the project management labor force is expected to grow 33 percent by 2027, demand threatens to outpace supply. 

This creates an opportunity for motivated employees looking to enter the field or level up their careers. 

“Projects and the changemakers behind those projects play a vital role in the global economy and society as a whole. And while project managers are the quintessential changemaker, any individual who possesses project management skills can help steer change,” said Joe Cahill, chief customer officer of the Project Management Institute

Organizations and employees looking to bridge this talent gap will need to invest in training, upskilling, and targeted recruitment. But what skills do project managers and adjacent roles need to fill this gap and provide value to their teams and companies?

Below we’ll cover 10 essential skills project managers need to be successful and how to develop them.

10 essential skills for project managers 

Project managers not only need to be experts at managing systems and processes but people too. As a result, successful project management requires a blend of behavioral (or “soft”) skills and “hard” technical expertise. 

Here are 10 soft and hard skills project managers need to develop:

  1. Communication 

Communication lies at the heart of a good project management skill set. If communication fails, you risk confusion, missed deadlines, and unsatisfied clients. 

Project managers have to communicate with multiple people through multiple channels. This includes team members, clients and vendors, managers, and other stakeholders both inside and outside the company. 

To do this effectively, project managers should have clear systems and processes in place to ensure information is communicated to the right people, in the right place, at the right time—whether that’s through email, reports, management tools, or in person.  

  1. Time management 

Projects typically have lots of moving parts, with multiple tasks, milestones, and assignments that require careful planning and execution on a deadline. And because many tasks are interdependent, delayed or missed deadlines can throw off an entire project. 

Project managers need to be skilled at managing time to ensure projects and their components are on track. This not only includes checking status reports through management tools, following up with team members, and liaising with stakeholders, but also properly estimating the time it will take for each task so expectations are clear and reasonable. 

  1. Organization 

Project managers have to juggle timelines, tasks, resources, and stakeholders. With so many moving parts, it’s easy for a project to get sidetracked. That’s why effective project managers must be organized at every level. They need to know who is doing what, when it needs to be done, and what resources or support are needed to do it.  

  1. Problem solving 

No matter how thoroughly you’ve planned a project, problems will inevitably arise. Project managers need strong problem-solving skills to successfully navigate those issues when they come up to move the project forward. This requires critical thinking skills and an ability to assess and analyze a problem to understand the best path forward and adapt as necessary. 

  1. Risk management 

Every project comes with risks. During the planning stage, a project manager identifies and assesses potential risks to the project and includes steps to mitigate them. But not all risks can be completely avoided. 

So when issues arise during the project—such as a delay caused by the client—the project manager must be ready to assess the risk that poses to the rest of the project and manage it accordingly.  

  1. Negotiation skills 

Whether you’re negotiating prices with a vendor or managing expectations with a client, negotiation is an essential part of a project manager’s skill set. Project managers who are good negotiators are diplomatic but firm, enabling them to effectively manage costs and even save the company money over the course of the project lifecycle, making negotiation an especially valuable skill. 

  1. Budget management 

Budget or cost management is key to a successful project. After all, you can’t get the project done if you don’t have the money to pay for it. 

Project managers are responsible for setting realistic project budgets that the company can afford to pay while still meeting the business goals of the initiative. As the project moves forward, the manager must then carefully manage costs throughout to ensure resources are properly allocated and the company gets the most bang for their buck.   

  1. Knowledge of project management methodologies

Project management methodologies are frameworks that guide managers and their teams in organizing projects and delivering the highest quality results. There is no one-size-fits all when it comes to managing a project. So project managers should be familiar with a variety of methodologies in order to choose the best approach for any given project. 

Some of the most common and useful project management methodologies include:

  • Agile 
  • Scrum 
  • Kanban 
  • Lean
  • Waterfall

Each methodology outlines specific principles and practices to manage a project. Experienced project managers will be able to evaluate the needs of the project and their team in order to determine the right methodology for the job.

  1. Collaboration

From running meetings to communicating with different teams, collaboration is a central part of a well-managed project. Project managers should be experienced collaborators who can facilitate planning and brainstorming meetings, and ensure clear communication for synchronous and asynchronous teamwork. 

The right collaboration tools can help a project manager keep project assignments organized, communicate clearly, and surface important ideas and insights. 

A virtual brainstorming tool like Lucidspark can get your project started off on the right collaborative foot by allowing you to uncover your team’s best ideas and talk through high-level strategic decisions together before kicking the project into gear.

  1. Leadership

Project management is a leadership role. Leading a project isn’t about bossing people around though. It’s about inspiring, motivating, and supporting your team throughout the project and bringing the best out of your people.

Project managers are responsible for communicating the project vision, setting expectations and assignments, and securing buy-in from stakeholders. Project managers are also in charge of ensuring their team has the support and resources they need to do the job, and goes to bat for the team when they need to. 

Ways to develop project management skills

Project managers are made, not born. No matter what stage you’re at in your career, you can always gain new skills and hone your expertise. If you’re looking to improve your project management skill set, dedicate time to study and train.

  • Talk to your company about educational or mentorship opportunities.
  • Review past projects to identify what worked and areas you could improve.
  • Get advice from other project managers. 
  • Take advantage of project management software like Lucidspark to simplify and streamline your management processes.

For companies looking to bridge the skills gap, investing in your people now will reap long-term benefits in the future.   

“Upskilling the workforce and empowering a new generation of talent with project management skills will be critical in narrowing the talent gap and creating positive impact,” said Cahill. “Organizations can help empower employees by providing learning opportunities, but can also spot qualified candidates by seeking out those who hold project management-related certifications.”

Upgrade your project management performance today with Lucidspark’s infinite canvas and extensive template library, and make it easier than ever to lead a project at every stage of the project lifecycle.  

project management skills

Upgrade your project management performance today with Lucidspark’s infinite canvas and extensive template library, and make it easier than ever to lead a project at every stage of the project lifecycle.   

Try now

Upgrade your project management performance today with Lucidspark’s infinite canvas and extensive template library, and make it easier than ever to lead a project at every stage of the project lifecycle.

Try now

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