In the modern workplace, you don’t need to hold the title of project manager to be one. Whoever is leading a project, an initiative of any kind, is a project manager - whether they hold the title or not. If you are leading an initiative of any kind, you need to know what separates a good project manager from a bad one. 

Here are 10 essential project management skills you need - whether they hold the title or not - need to be effective: 

1. Be flexible and responsive to change

As a project manager, the one thing you can always expect is to run into something unexpected. Based on new information you get throughout the project, you might have to rethink the scope of the project. You need to be able to let go of the initial plans if it comes down to that, and come to terms with the fact that you will never be able to predict things exactly. Of course, you will need to make plans and to estimate and schedule tasks, but understand that your planning will never be exact. 

Not only will you need to change how you manage the project, but you will probably need to change your approach to managing the people on your team. Staying flexible and open minded about all possibilities is key to choosing the best path for the project’s success.

2. Be likeable, yet assertive

A good project manager needs to motivate people and keep teams working together effectively, but not be a people pleaser. As the leader of the project, you want to be respected and well-liked by your team members, but you don’t want to shy away from taking tough decisions because of how your team might perceive you. You need to be able to make unpopular decisions with grace, while keeping the team focused.

3. Be results-oriented

A good project manager doesn’t only get things done efficiently and moves the team toward the goals, but also measures the effects of the work and analyses the results.

4. Have great communication skills

This is not just a project management skill - it applies to all management. You need to communicate frequently and concisely with your team. Understand what communication tools work in specific circumstances, and how in-depth you need to go for your team to understand the ‘why’ of the project and the decisions being made. Emotional intelligence is key in adapting your communication style to the situation, as you need to deliver both the good news and the bad.

5. Have the ability to allocate resources effectively

This is not just about delegating tasks to people. A good project manager will understand that they need to find the right person for the task, communicate with that person’s manager if needed to make sure they are available for the project and not overwhelmed by the workload, and organize training or coaching if team members need additional skills.

6. Be detail-oriented

The more complex a project becomes, the more details there are to overview. The project manager needs to be able to overlook all of these details and keep them in mind as the project grows or changes direction.

7. Be creative in problem solving

This is truly one of the key project management skills. A project manager is primarily a problem solver who needs to look at issues creatively and from different vantage points, then bring in solutions that were not obvious before. 

8. Have the ability to recognize problems before they happen 

You don’t need to have a crystal ball to be a good project manager, but you do need to be able to recognize problems before they happen. Project management involves some degree of foreseeing, which really comes from the ability to see the details but also keep the big picture in mind. A good project manager will be able to anticipate problems and move swiftly to solve them as they arise.  

9. Have the ability to discriminate between good and best 

“The enemy of the best is the good.” ~ Steven Covey 

A project manager should be able to say no to actions that are just good, and not the best for the project. This includes being able to say you’re not going to support things that, even though they might be good, are outside of the scope of the project. 

10. Have technical knowledge about key areas of the project 

Finally, a good project manager should have some solid knowledge of the platforms and software that the team uses, even though the project manager’s job is note exactly technical. This is not only because the project manager needs to assign tasks to team members. A project manager who will assign herself some of the tasks and complete them on time will earn the trust and respect of the team. 

Are there any other skills you think are essential to being a good project manager? Let us know in the comment section below.