The 10 Most Important Soft Skills for Project Managers

As project managers, you’ve had our hard skills under control, no doubt. But as much as you like to think otherwise, soft skills are every bit as important. Soft skills can be defined as social and personality traits that play an important role in gaining success at work and in life. For project managers to be successful, it is important to practice and improve soft skills. 

They have a significant impact on the results you get—and they make things easier for everyone. If you’re looking to boost your project management career, improve your current performance, or just keep it afloat, developing core soft skills is key. 

Soft skills can be learned and honed like any other skill, but the good news is that they are more intuitive than hard skills and you likely have many of them already. In this article, you’ll explore the different soft skills that project managers need.

1. Conflict Management 

Dealing with conflict is an inevitable part of being a project manager. You’re working with people, and people are most often the cause of conflict. Although conflict is considered a negative thing, sometimes it is necessary to make a decision that someone does not agree with.

Being a project manager involves a lot of things, but managing conflict is something that can’t be avoided. This refers to the process of handling disagreements, arguments, and misunderstandings in a way that leads to a more productive team.

Good project managers are able to handle conflicts maturely. If a conflict arises, they should be able to work it out with all the involved parties and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution that works for everyone.

SEE: Understand constructive criticism to give encouraging feedback 

2. Attention to Detail

Attention to detail may seem like a no-brainer for project managers, but attention to detail is one of the most important soft skills for a project manager. This is something that employers tend to look for when hiring. In addition, it has a very high correlation with whether or not someone will be successful in their role.

Attention to detail means paying close attention to what is happening and being able to pick up on small details that someone may have missed. For example, a project manager who has been working with a team member will see when they are not performing well or working with their usual enthusiasm. 

Attention to detail can also be used when checking your schedule and seeing where some gaps or things have fallen behind. Being able to spot these quickly can save you time in the long run.

It’s easy to overlook the details, especially when you’re working on a big project, or trying to balance multiple projects at the same time. Staying on top of details helps ensure that everything goes smoothly and you don’t miss anything important.

SEE: Understand why attention to detail is important 

3. Leadership 

It’s important to understand how you interact with people on the team and what they expect from you as a leader. Yet, it can be easy to get swept up in the technical details of a project, especially when you’re working with a team. 

Leadership is one of the most important soft skills for project managers since it entails how you deal with and treat your team. Project managers with leadership skills can lead their teams to the finish line. Leadership allows project managers to get the most out of their team, inspire them, and teach them how to be better at what they do.

Leadership is about taking charge, setting goals, and providing direction. In addition to influencing the behavior of team members and stakeholders, leaders must also influence decisions made by management. Developing leadership skills can take time and effort but you can become a better leader with time.

SEE: Explore leadership skills that will make you a good leader 

4. Time Management 

Project managers often have to juggle many projects at the same time. This can cause pressure and stress, but it’s important to understand that managing multiple projects requires time management skills.

Time management is the ability to use time effectively to accomplish tasks and achieve goals. Project managers need to be able to use time effectively. They are responsible for the completion of tasks within a specific timeframe or budget, as well as ensuring that projects stay on track.

SEE: Here’s a definitive guide on time management 

5. Interpersonal Relationship 

Interpersonal relationship skills are often mentioned as one of the top soft skills for project managers. These skills help you build trust and rapport with other people. Furthermore, it helps to develop strong working relationships with your peers and staff and to build high-performing teams.

Active listening, communicating clearly and resolving conflict and difficult situations in a non-threatening way are skills that include active listening. These skills also help to see things from other people’s perspectives, build rapport with others, and manage change by helping them feel comfortable with it. 

A highly skilled project manager with interpersonal relationships communicates appropriate levels of empathy for each member of the team. He/she knows when to be firm, when to be gentle, and when to just go along with someone’s whim if getting your way will ultimately benefit all parties involved (including him). 

Good communicators are often memorable for this reason. It’s as though their actions were an extension of their words or thoughts even before they spoke them aloud.

SEE: Discover reasons why interpersonal skills are important 

6. Strong Communication

Soft skills are a project manager’s best friend. Without them, your ability to deliver on time, within budget, and within scope can be negatively affected. Strong communication skills are essential to your success as a project manager. From dealing with clients directly to handling conflicts among coworkers and experts, strong communication skills are essential to your success as a project manager.

Perhaps the most critical soft skills that are required of a project manager are communication and presentation skills. Project managers must be able to communicate their ideas, plans, and expectations clearly with all team members, including clients. 

Project managers are responsible for planning, organizing, monitoring, and controlling assigned projects. They set goals and objectives, track progress, and resolve issues impacting the project. Strong communication skills are vital for this role because you will be interacting with people both inside and outside of the business.

SEE: Here’s a comprehensive guide on communication skills

7. Motivation 

There is no doubt that motivation plays an important role as a project manager. Good motivation skills remain one of the most important characteristics of successful project managers. Motivation can have a direct impact on productivity and attitude towards work and therefore help the individual or team to achieve their goals. 

Motivated employees are more productive and creative. They tend to make fewer mistakes and respond better to change. Successful project managers make an effort to motivate their team members even when things are hectic – which is often the case on an impromptu project.

SEE: Explore types of motivation to influence people

8. Organizational Skills

Project managers often have to deal with large numbers of people and activities, which can make things very complicated. To make this task manageable, it is important to organize your processes efficiently.  Organizational skills are important for project managers because they control everything that goes on in a project. 

This is true from the planning to the execution and even the completion. They make sure everything runs smoothly, even when things get hectic. It is their job to keep track of all paperwork and reports as well as make sure deadlines are met. Organizational skills are about keeping track of all the details by creating systems for each aspect of your work. 

No matter how good your technical knowledge is, if you can’t organize the project or keep track of what’s going on, then you won’t be able to do your job properly. While you’re at it, you should probably exercise your organizational abilities by arranging your desk drawer, file cabinets, or calendar.

SEE: Understand organizational skills and how to put them into good use

9. Adaptability and Flexibility

It may seem obvious, but people who have effective project management skills are flexible and adaptive. Any manager can benefit from flexibility and adaptability, especially if the situation changes or you have to modify your objectives. 

Adaptability is the key ingredient to success in almost every business environment. Project managers, even those with years of experience, need to remain flexible to constantly adapt to change. The same goes for business travelers. They need to be open to new people and situations at all times so that they can maximize every opportunity as it arises.

To be a great project manager, you need to be honest and open about your perspective. However, most of the time, honesty will require that you change or modify what you were initially thinking of doing. 

10. Analytical Thinking 

Know it all, won’t learn from mistakes, have narrow views of what counts as evidence, and are more comfortable with linear thinking and hard data. These are some of the stereotypes about analytical thinkers. But for a project manager, these skills are worth their weight in gold.

Analytical thinking is the process of using logic and reason to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a project, a plan, or an approach. It’s about identifying potential problems and performing tests to see if they occur. The process goes beyond simply thinking about a problem, but rather uses different methods such as critical thinking to reach conclusions. 

Project managers use their analytical thinking skills to determine how their project can be done most cost-effectively and efficiently.

SEE: Discover the benefits of analytical skills

What Do Project Managers Do?

Project managers plan and monitor activities to meet project objectives. They are responsible for planning and coordinating the resources needed to complete the work. They do this while making sure all involved parties understand the goals and requirements.

Their primary responsibilities include: 

  • Defining clear goals for the project
  • Assigning tasks to team members
  • Communicating changes in scope to team members and stakeholders
  • Ensuring that team members are communicating effectively
  • Resolving conflict between team members or stakeholders when necessary

Project managers control the scope, budget, and schedule of a project. But to do that, they need to rely on soft skills that are often overlooked.

FAQs

What are the hard skills for project managers?

Hard skills for project managers include the technical abilities and knowledge needed to complete a project. For example, the hard skills for a construction project manager include architectural drawing, building codes, and typical detailing practices. Soft skill is an intangible quality like leadership or communication that contributes to success on a project.

SEE: Learn more about hard skills

What makes a great project manager? 

Every project manager is different. Some are detail-oriented and may not shine in front of a room full of people, but they can balance budgets like nobody’s business. Others take the lead with clients, presenting well and keeping projects on track. Great project managers thrive in diverse and changing environments, lead diverse teams, and adapt to a wide array of situations. 

How can project managers learn to prioritize tasks?

Project managers can learn to prioritize tasks by relying on their natural abilities and project management soft skills. A project manager should make a list of all the tasks that must be completed before a project can proceed. They should then prioritize these tasks according to which ones are needed to complete the project on schedule. 

Final Thoughts 

As project managers, you are paid to consult with your clients and their teams on the best way to get a project done. That’s a pretty challenging job for anyone, but it’s even more difficult when you have to make all the right decisions when managing your team with many different personality types. The key is to make sure that you understand what makes people tick. 

You see, people are always changing; they are dynamic, not static. So you must understand how they make individual decisions so that you can lead them in the right direction when making group decisions. That’s why this list of soft skills for project managers is important. 

It will help you to learn how to effectively manage all different kinds of people on different kinds of projects. I hope that this list has inspired and helped you realize what you need to do as a project manager to be successful in your position.

You should also read more on the significant areas of improvement for managers. In the article, you’ll learn how to balance management and self-development.