Project Manager Skills List and Examples

Image by Jiaqi Zhou © The Balance 2019

Project managers need a variety of skills to plan, procure, and execute a project, making sure everything is on track and that everyone involved is working to their full potential. If there are any issues, delays, or problems, the project manager is the point person to work with the client or company to review how to fix those issues. They are not involved in the hands-on work but instead make sure progress is being made and keep everyone on task.

Project managers play a key role in the launch of new products, the construction of new sites, and the development of new programs. The role is essential in nearly every industry. An architecture company will use project managers to handle the development of a new building, while a shampoo company may need one to launch a new product.

Skills Required

Project managers streamline processes, manage the work of dozens or even hundreds of people, and keep production on time. The job requires extensive soft skills, including communication and organization, to succeed. 

Here are some of the top skills necessary to be successful: 

  • Communication: Project managers spend most of their time communicating with staff, reporting progress or problems to clients, or negotiating with vendors. Verbal and written communication skills are keys to success. They may be called on often to give presentations, so it is important to be comfortable using presentation software and speaking in front of large groups of people.
  • Leadership: The ability to lead and motivate a team is critical to progressing any project. Project managers need to resolve personality conflicts and boost team spirit while also guarding against late or sloppy work.
  • Management: To work effectively, managing people is essential. From delegating work to holding individuals accountable, it's a project manager's responsibility to set goals, evaluate performance, and encourage collaboration.
  • Negotiation: Project managers will negotiate with clients on an appropriate schedule and scope of work. They will bargain for certain resources and manpower. Knowing how to negotiate to get what they need to succeed and keep everyone involved satisfied is a skill developed and improved through experience.
  • Organization: Project managers are unlikely to be successful if they are sloppy or forgetful. Because they are juggling so many different aspects, they need to be organized in both their professional and personal lives. It's important for project managers to develop an organizational system, whether it's an electronic note-taker or a paper planner, to keep all of the details on top of mind.
  • Problem Solving: Issues that need attention regularly come up for project managers, and it's their duty to predict potential problems in advance and brainstorm solutions in case these issues arise. Having backup plans and alternatives available can prevent costly delays and keep work on track. Most risks are not urgent if they are anticipated. However, not every issue can be predicted, so it's also important for project managers to nimbly deal with unexpected problems and make sure that minor issues do not turn into major setbacks.
  • Budgeting: All projects are going to have a fixed amount of funding available to them. It's a project manager's responsibility to develop a budget for that money and make sure it is being followed closely. This is a skill that requires experience. Only with time spent working on large projects can managers develop the knowledge necessary to know where costs likely will mount and where savings can be found.