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What Are The 10 Essential Soft Skills for Project Management? - HRDQ

What Are The 10 Essential Soft Skills for Project Management?

Project managers are responsible for initiating, executing, and finishing projects– following projects from ideation to completion. There are several hard skills that project managers must have to succeed, some of which are particular to the industry and field they are working in.

Beyond that, though, all project managers can benefit from having a well-rounded set of essential soft skills. That is because project managers must be able to interface with clients and teams in a way that ultimately helps support the goals of the project and company.

What soft skills do project managers need to succeed? Can these skills be acquired, or are they something you're born with? Let's take a look at what you need to know.

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1. Leadership

Project managers need to have well-developed leadership skills to guide teams to achieve the goals outlined for a specific project. Through this soft skill, managers can help set the tone for the project, identify and communicate a vision for the project, and engage and motivate team members to that vision.

Even if you don't have a role in team management or necessarily think of yourself as a leader, anyone managing a project will want to know how to offer guidance, support, and leadership to their team.

When developing leadership skills, a great place to start is to practice approaching situations with deep understanding and empathy. Try to determine what steps you can take to help your team feel supported and bring everyone together. The more you can do this, the more you will foster teamwork and collaboration.

A Project Manager Guiding Their Team

To take your project management leadership skills to the next level, check out our What's My Leadership Style assessment, training workshop, and management development tool. By helping participants gain awareness of their personal leadership styles, they can learn how to deliberately choose the most effective way to lead in a wide variety of circumstances.

You can also learn more about the soft skills of leadership in our recent posts about leadership theoriesDaniel Goleman's Six Leadership Styles, and the importance of knowing your leadership style.

2. Communication

Project managers will need to communicate regularly with team members, managers, and clients. In our digital age, communication skills need to run the gamut– including video calls, phone calls, emails, chat, and in-person conversations.

Project Manager Communicating With a Team Member

Communication doesn't just ensure everyone is on the same page and has a clear sense of their responsibilities. It also helps leaders earn the trust of their teams, which is an essential ingredient in successful outcomes.

One tool that can help improve your communication skills is our What's My Communication Style learning event. With a set of flexible tools that can be used for in-person or online training, participants will learn how to flex their personal style to improve communication.

3. Conflict Management

Conflicts are a certainty in the workplace. Maybe you are lucky enough to lead a team that has worked together for so long that there aren't any bumps in the road, but most project managers will benefit from having sophisticated conflict management skills.

It can be useful to have a conversation before the project begins to discuss how conflicts, potential problems, and disagreements will be handled. By simply laying out a road map to how these types of issues will be handled, you can help prevent unnecessary conflict among your team.

If a scuffle arises amidst your team, having the right skills can let you lead the conversation and drive toward a resolution.

A Team Resolving a Conflict

This skill is vital for any manager or supervisor as it helps improve communication, create a positive work environment, and boost productivity. The idea isn't to avoid conflicts but instead to help everyone have the skills they need to deal with them constructively.

Conflict management skills can be improved over one's career, but one's ability to handle conflict in the workplace can be significantly enhanced by participation in our Conflict Strategies Inventory. Using this tool, participants can identify their own typical reaction to conflict, understand different potential outcomes from various strategies, and learn more effective tactics they can use to mitigate conflict among teams.

4. Problem-Solving

One might assume that having effective problem-solving skills means always having the correct answer to every issue that crops up. In reality, though, having great problem-solving skills simply means having the ability to approach issues from fresh vantage points and working towards a solution methodically.

A Team Solving a Problem

There's a good chance that a problem of some sort will arise throughout the course of any project. Project managers can utilize the soft skill of problem-solving to identify the issue and brainstorm possible fixes. Through strong leadership and problem-solving skills from the project manager, teams can overcome obstacles and reach their goals.

5. Decision-Making

Two essential tasks of project managers are ensuring that projects stay within their budget and adhere to the planned timeline. Through strong decision-making skills, project managers can help determine precisely how the project will be carried out and who will perform which roles.

Decisions are commonly categorized as routine, operational, strategic, or emergency. Project managers with great decision-making skills will be able to identify which category of decision a particular scenario falls into and how to go about making a judgment efficiently and effectively.

Project Managers Making a Decision

On top of needing to make the best possible decision for the situation, project managers also need to consider how others on the team and in the company will be impacted by their choices. That might mean consulting peers or colleagues before carrying through an idea or holding a brainstorming session with the team.

You'll find that your team is much more likely to put their trust in you when you can clearly define problems, come up with potential solutions, explore the pros and cons of viable paths, and organize the implementation of the chosen solution.

6. Relationship Building

There are plenty of hard skills that project managers will need to succeed. However, one essential soft skill is the ability to build relationships with members of the project team as well as clients.

Project Manager Building Relationships With Team Members

Relationship building is ultimately an umbrella term that covers many different vital concepts. These include:

Relationship-building skills can be used to help encourage your team to perform at their very best. Not only will this help you receive the results you're looking for, but it will also allow you to establish trust and respect from your team. One great way to help build relationships between team members is by hosting team-building activities that help the whole crew work together to achieve goals and get to know one another better.

Looking for activities you can use to help improve relationships with your teams? Check out our list of trust-building activities and team-building games

7. Organization

A project manager is the individual responsible for overseeing every part of a project. For this reason, they will significantly benefit from the necessary organizational skills that allow them to effectively manage many small tasks. Organizational skills can also give project managers the tools they need to ensure that the team itself stays on track.

A Project Manager Overseeing a Team

Project managers can stay on top of the team's progress by holding regular check-ins with the team and communicating clearly any expectations they have. Being organized is a vital part of holding team members accountable for their responsibilities.

8. Time Management

If you're working as a project manager, there's a good chance you're dealing with clear deadlines that must be met. Beyond that, you're likely expected to set goals, milestones, and timelines to ensure the project is ready to go by the deadline.

Time management is an essential skill for project managers as it can ensure that the team can get the work required of them done in a timely fashion.

Not only can a great team leader use their time management skills to improve the efficiency and efficacy of project management, but they can also help the team improve their time management skills at an individual level. If certain team members struggle to follow the agreed-upon timeline, a project manager could meet with them and help them organize their use of time throughout the day.

Time Management Skills

Project managers can also use time management skills to better organize their own workload. By having a firm grasp of how to manage one's own time, managers can triage their tasks so the most important ones are completed before the less pressing tasks.

Are you searching for tools and training to help your project managers keep projects as productive and efficient as possible? Check out HRDQ's time management training materials to help ensure that every manager at your organization can tap into their own time management style and effectively allocate time.

9. Critical Thinking

Great critical thinkers can approach problems rationally rather than using emotions to drive their reactions. This is a skill that can be improved increasingly over time with practice.

Project Managers Analyzing Information

Project managers can benefit from improving their critical thinking skills and will practice analyzing information and using the facts to form conclusions.

That isn't to say there is no benefit to incorporating emotions into one's decision-making process. However, it's essential for individuals to recognize where they are coming from when they make choices about how to proceed with a project or solve a problem.

10. Collaboration

Finally, number ten on our list is perhaps the most important of all project management soft skills. Collaboration is vital for working efficiently as a team, as it allows you to coordinate across teams. This gives you the ability to gain valuable insights regarding the project that can be difficult to access when you're only in communication with your own team.

Though there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen, having more minds engaged in a project is usually a good thing. Projects tend to be more well-developed and creative when more individuals are engaged, involved, and working towards its success.

A Team Collaborating

There are many different ways to practice one's collaboration skills, one of which is to practice having conversations with other people. Utilize techniques like active listening to stay focused and engaged when another person is speaking. Though this might sound like a very simple strategy, an essential part of successful collaboration incorporates reducing boundaries and having open communication.

Can Project Managers Improve Their Soft Skills With Training?

In the business world, people often focus primarily on the hard skills necessary to do a job. While hard skills are an essential part of any role, it's important not to overlook just how crucial soft skills are to both professional and personal success.

Developing one's soft skills can help improve collaboration, make communication more effective, increase one's emotional intelligence, and make one more adaptable. Beyond that, it can make one more capable of successfully resolving conflicts, developing the skills to be a great leader, and advancing in one's career. Of course, mastering some of the most essential soft skills is also vital for improving customer satisfaction and relations.

A Project Manager and Their Team

While some people might naturally possess specific soft skills– such as excelling at communication, leadership, or collaboration– this doesn't mean that everyone doesn't have the ability and potential to improve their own soft skills through learning and deliberate effort.

There are numerous ways individuals can learn the necessary skills to help them effectively interact and work with others. Through training and workshops, self-study, practice, real-life experiences, and other methods, individuals can work to better their skills over time.

Is it time for your management team, supervisors, and project managers to brush up on their soft skills and help your business thrive and grow? If so, you'll want to take a look at the HRDQ Reproducible Training Library. With ninety customizable soft-skill training courses that can be used both in-person and virtually, these courses are research-based and instructionally-designed to help participants learn as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Do you have any questions about any of these essential soft skills, our Reproducible Training Library, or anything else we discussed in this article? If so, be sure to leave us a comment down below, and we'll get back to you within a day or two! We pride ourselves on replying to each and every comment we receive, and we'd be more than happy to assist you however we can.

Recommended Assessment
What's My Leadership Style
  • Improve leadership performance
  • Improve effectiveness in various situations
  • Learn your leadership style
Learn more
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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.