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Successful project managers lead to successful projects, and successful projects lead to successful businesses. It’s no wonder that companies across industries trust project managers to help them accomplish their goals.

If you’re considering this career path or looking to advance your skills, check out our explanation of how to be a good project manager, including eight essential skills and three strategies for developing those skills.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

First things first: Project managers help companies and departments plan and manage projects (that is, a series of tasks leading to a particular goal or outcome). Coordinating the various people and steps involved in a project is essential to ensure it’s completed in an organized, timely, and cost-effective manner.

8 Traits of an Effective Project Manager

Let’s look at eight qualities of good project management that characterize the best in the business:

1. People Management

Even though project managers and people managers are two separate career paths, effective people management is essential to successful project management. After all, people work together to get projects done. If you can’t manage those people, then you won’t be able to effectively manage the project.

You don’t need to manage and evaluate employee performance in the same way that department heads and other managers do, but you do need to possess interpersonal and leadership skills to guide individuals and teams in the context of the project you’re working on.

One crucial aspect of a project manager’s leadership role is knowing how to make the most of the people at their disposal. This involves identifying the best person or people for a task based on their skills, passions, and availability. Project managers may also use their people management skills to assemble dynamic and harmonious teams and encourage effective collaboration.

2. Communication

Communication tops the list of soft skills (or “power skills”) critical for success, according to global survey respondents in a research report by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Communication—both internal and external—is a must for project managers.

Project managers regularly communicate with employees in person, over the phone, or in writing to:

  • Provide clear instructions for action items.
  • Request status updates.
  • Listen to concerns or answer questions.
  • Negotiate differences of opinion within a team.

Project managers are also responsible for providing project updates to stakeholders outside of a project team, such as the company’s executive board or a funding partner. They may review challenges encountered, changes to the timeline, or goals achieved to keep everyone abreast of how the project is progressing or to debrief once the project is completed.

3. Strategic Planning

Company leaders or teams may have a general idea of the projects that need to be completed but may be at a loss about the steps needed to get there. This is where project managers come in. Project managers should be able to work backward from the end goal of a project to identify the steps along the way to achieving that goal.

Project managers commonly refer to the little wins along the path to completing a project as “deliverables.” If a project manager can determine what deliverables are needed to make steady progress toward project completion and can create a plan to complete each of them in a logical sequence, they’re well on their way to success.

4. Time Management

In a survey by investment firm Wellingtone, just 29 percent of project management professionals said their organization completed projects on time all or most of the time. Delayed timelines can’t always be helped, but effective time management skills can play a big part in minimizing delays and keeping projects on track.

Successful project managers can establish a realistic timeline so they’re set up for success from the start and can take the steps needed to stick to that timeline as much as possible. Of course, problems can arise, and project managers may have to reevaluate in these instances. However, as much as is in their control, project managers want to ensure individual deliverables—and the project as a whole—are completed by their due date.

5. Organization

You likely won’t meet a successful project manager who is disorganized. Organization skills are essential to effective project management. Fortunately, project managers have a number of tools at their disposal to help them keep track of deliverables.

Companies are increasingly adopting project management software. The market for this software is expected to reach more than $15 billion by 2030. The ability to use these digital tools effectively will likely be one of the project management skills that will differentiate the best in the profession from the rest.

6. Problem-Solving

Project managers know that all the planning in the world won’t ensure a smooth path to success. Risk management can help project managers anticipate potential problems ahead of time, but some unforeseen challenges may also crop up and threaten to derail the success of a project.

As a project manager, you play a pivotal role in these circumstances by identifying the problem and devising a solution that will minimize negative impacts, like delays or cost overruns. Solving problems effectively typically involves some creative thinking,  collaboration, and a positive, can-do attitude.

You can also augment your problem solving skills with professional certifications like the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification, Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, or Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification.

7. Cost Management

Soft skills are vital to successful project management, but technical skills also play an important role. One of these technical skills is cost management. You don’t need to be an accounting professional to be a good project manager, but you should know how to stick to a budget and be cost-conscious at every turn. Project managers must make decisions and move a project forward while factoring in cost constraints and balancing them with other important goals, such as quality.

Remember that time is money in the business world. So staying on budget is inextricably tied to time management skills. If a project takes an additional month to complete, that can add considerably to the overall cost.

8. Industry Knowledge

Projects don’t happen in a vacuum. They exist within the context of a particular industry, and understanding that context is essential to managing projects effectively. For example, a project manager for an engineering firm won’t be able to set realistic timelines or speak about the work they’re doing if they don’t have a fundamental understanding of engineering.

That doesn’t mean project managers at this firm need an engineering degree, but it does mean they make it their business to learn as much about their industry as possible so they’re well respected among their colleagues and have the background knowledge needed to lead.

Strategies for Developing Effective Project Management Skills

Knowing the most important skills is an important first step in becoming a good project manager. If you’re looking to boost your project management skills, there are a few avenues to accomplishing that goal:

Take advantage of company training.

In a 2020 survey from PMI, 61 percent of respondents said their organizations provided project management training. If you’re a current professional, see whether your employer will provide professional development opportunities or invest the time and money to allow you to complete outside training.

Do some independent reading.

Don’t underestimate the power of a good book. There are plenty of great books about business and project management. For example, you may find a book from a seasoned professional who has stories to share about their failures and successes. Reading these stories can be a great way to learn.

Get Your Project Management Degree!

The best way to up your credentials is to get your project management degree. The Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Project Management is designed to equip young students and working adults alike with the skills needed to be successful project managers. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, consider earning your Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Want to learn more about fully online degree programs for aspiring and current project management professionals? Visit our BBA Program Management Degree page for more information.

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