What Skills Does a Project Manager Need?

project manager

What is a project manager?

A project manager is responsible for ensuring a project is completed on time and under budget. That seems like a very brief description, especially considering the multitude of responsibilities a project manager has. They take care of everything from planning, budgeting, scheduling, monitoring, solving problems and delivering a completed project.

Within the role, there are a number of different skills required, because the role has so many varied responsibilities. As a project manager, you’ll be answerable to your boss, perhaps a team of executives, or directly to clients. Each project is different, but there is certainly a lot of pressure to achieve all the deliverables requested of you.

Which industries use project managers?

All types of industries use project managers. In fact, basically, any project that requires the collaboration of more than 2 or 3 people usually has a project manager overseeing the progress. Whether the company you work for builds homes, provides security services, delivers marketing services or builds software, there is likely a role for a skilled project manager.

Business budgets are usually pretty tight, and that’s why they need qualified, experienced professionals to manage projects. They want to achieve the best results for less money, and that’s a big part of your role as a project manager.

The skills required for project management

Project managers are responsible for ensuring all aspects of a project run smoothly. As you can imagine, that requires a wide range of skills and abilities.


Planning is such a crucial part of project management because, without it, you’ll be left flying blind. However, your planning skills are often used even before a project commences. As a project manager, you may be required to create a business plan that outlines the benefits of a project before you even start. This helps to set out the goals and scope of the project, but it also determines whether or not a project should be undertaken at all.

Once a project gets the green light, you’ll need to map out the project goals, where and when you need input from third parties, and of course, the project’s budget.


In some cases, you’ll be given a set budget to work with. Other times your project planning will inform your budgetary needs. Either way, you’re responsible for handling all the incomings and outgoings of a project. As a project manager, your budgeting skills need to be two-fold.

Firstly, you need to plan a budget accordingly, allocating funds appropriately to each step of the project. Secondly, you need to monitor the spending to ensure the job stays on budget. You can save yourself a lot of stress along the way if you accurately prepare a budget to start with, and really understanding how much each step will cost.

Risk management

It’s never possible to pull out a crystal ball and foresee every possible problem a project may encounter. However, in your role as project manager, your superiors often expect skills that are pretty close to fortune-telling. Being able to assess each step of a project and identify possible complications is a big part of your role.

Furthermore, you need to manage risk as you go. If you’ve identified possible risks before you start, then you should also have considered a Plan-B or a solution to those problems. If not, you’ll need to act fast and draw on other skills such as negotiating and critical thinking to keep things on track.

Contract management

Many projects come with a contract. For example, if you’re the project manager for a building company, there will be a contract with the owner/buyer of the property you’re working on. This certainly isn’t limited to construction though. Most services requiring a project manager will have a contract attached – think of things like the delivery of a new website or the installation of a new phone system.

Contract management doesn’t always fall on the shoulders of the project manager, but if it does, it pays to have a good knowledge of the terminology used in your industry and even an understanding of at least basic contract law.


The ability to schedule effectively is a skill that you’ll probably use every day as a project manager. This part usually involves some software, so you’ll have to be a little tech-savvy to learn the tools you’ll use.

Scheduling starts right at the beginning when you plan out stages of a project and ensure the required people are available when you need them. But it also continues throughout the project. Not everything runs to schedule, so you need to be able to adapt and re-schedule your resources accordingly. This skill requires you to have a good understanding of how long different aspects of a project should take.


When managing a project, it’s likely you’ll have several people working under you. So, you need to understand how to lead teams effectively towards a common goal. This may include elements of conflict resolution, communication and certainly the ability to motivate and inspire.

In addition, the project manager is usually the first person that someone will come to if a part of the project runs into a problem. So, being able to think strategically, remain calm and find a solution is integral to leading your team towards success.


Many people would argue that communication is important in any job, but it’s especially crucial as a project manager. In many ways, you’ll be stuck right in the middle of a project because you’ll answer to supervisors and clients, but you’ll also need to lead the team working underneath you and also deal with third parties and external stakeholders.

In short, if you can’t communicate with influence both up the ladder and down, you’ll have difficulty running a successful project.

Time management

Managing your own time is one thing, but as a project manager, you have to be responsible for everybody else’s too. In a perfect world, you’d put together your own team of trusted professionals to help you out, and their time management would take care of itself. In reality, you’ll need to help others manage their time, while also keeping yourself on track.

The ability to prioritise tasks and schedule the appropriate amount of time to meet your demands is essential as a project manager.

Critical thinking

When problems arise during a project (and they will!) you need to be able to assess a situation objectively and come up with a solution. That’s what critical thinking is. Rather than react to a situation based on your past experience or learned behaviours, you need to step back and think about everything through the eyes of what’s best for the project.

Program management certification helps you develop the skills to assess and analyse a situation objectively, rather than reacting with emotion and making the wrong decision.


Last, but certainly not least, is negotiation. Your negotiation skills will often be what determines the success or failure of a project. From the early planning stages, you’ll be negotiating with your superiors regarding your budget. Then you’ll negotiate with third-party providers to get the best deal for the services you need. You’ll also negotiate with your own team on a daily basis, helping them prioritise the tasks that matter.

The entire project management process is one big negotiation, so the ability to communicate your needs effectively is paramount. When a project runs into an unforeseen issue, you may even need to negotiate with clients to keep them happy. You might even need to ask for more time, more budget, or more resources to achieve the desired results.

The great thing is, all of these skills can be learned. By studying and obtaining project management certification, you’ll develop all of the requirements to be an effective and successful project manager.

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