Project managers have their work cut out for them — they must manage all the various project stakeholders and keep the project on track by successfully juggling and directing their roles and responsibilities. It's easy to get bogged down by office politics, looming deadlines, and last-minute project changes.
As a project manager, focusing on professional development and cultivating important skill sets can be vital to work success. These five project management skills are frequently forgotten, but equally important for project managers if they want to do the best they can for their project and their team.
Important Project Management Skills to Work On
1. Horizontal Management Skills
Project managers are typically the link between the project team, the sponsors, and the people who will be affected by the outcome. These people are not always under a project manager's direct jurisdiction. That means you need horizontal management skills to get people who work laterally or above you in the company hierarchy to go along with the project plan. Learn the best way to work with these people in your company in order to make project communications run smoothly.
2. A Good Sense of Humor
Your sense of humor is your armor when "what you wanted to happen" becomes "what actually happens". Things are definitely not always going to go exactly as planned, so when the project schedule starts to stray, rely on your sense of humor to keep you sane. If you don't, you're going to spend many long, stressful nights crying, biting your nails, and pacing the office floor. Learn to smile at unexpected project change, and you'll be better off for it.
3. Change Management Skills
Project management is not just managing the project, it's also managing the people involved. Change management skills help you manage the emotional and psychological side of people during your project. If you know what makes people tick, then you can apply that knowledge to encourage and inspire better work habits in your colleagues.
4. Expectation Management Skills
Try to dig deep into what your clients expect from a project before getting started. Ask project teams what roadblocks they have hit in similar, past projects. Take this feedback into account when finalizing the project plan. If you manage all your project stakeholders' expectations, and ensure they have realistic expectations for the project outcome from the get-go, then you are less likely to face disappointment in the final outcome.
5. Management Soft Skills
You've read about the best soft skills and traits for managers before — and (no surprise) they still apply to project managers. Your job will be infinitely easier if you work on being: a good listener, trusting and trustworthy, an open communicator, willing to keep learning, good at delegating, etc. Management soft skills are not something you can perfect, they are something you continually work to improve.
What project management skills do you think are most important?
Whether you're a client facing project manager yourself, or someone who interacts with project managers regularly, you probably have your own opinion. What management skill do you think project managers can't succeed without?
We asked our community of project managers about their #1 piece of advice for new project managers on LinkedIn. Check out what they had to say, and add your own ideas to the conversation by joining our PM 2.0 LinkedIn group.