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The project management field is changing drastically and quickly. Advancements in software and technology (looking at you, AI) and the constant evolution of methodologies, frameworks, and best practices contribute to various project management skills falling in and out of fashion.

So, here’s a list of project management skills that are “in” right now and how you can best develop them to propel you along your project management career (or launch it!).

You’ll also get a deep understanding of why they matter, and I’ll cover plenty of examples of when you’ll use them along the way.

Might I add: this is also the raison d’être for DPM Membership and the DPM School. Because having practical know-how and support to implement the skill set is really important!

Complete Project Management Skills List

Here are the skills you’ll learn about in this article so you can be an (even more) awesome project manager. They are broken down into hard skills, soft skills, and traits.

Click on any item within the project management skills list to understand what the skill is and how to develop it.

Hard SkillsSoft SkillsTraits
Process ManagementTeamworkVisionary
Project InitiationPrioritizationDetail-oriented
Project PlanningResearchTeam-oriented
SchedulingCreativityCautiously Optimistic
Documentation DevelopmentCritical ThinkingTenacious
Task ManagementCommunicationAdaptable
Project ControlLeadershipDecisive
Risk ManagementDiplomacyResponsible
PM Tool KnowledgeCoachingStrong Work Ethic
Technical Skills

Bonus: find out which skills are most in-demand for companies hiring project managers!

Project Management Hard Skills & How To Develop Them

The hard skills of project management are all about competence, and speak to your practical technical ability: tools, techniques, and methodologies you can apply.

Hard skills can be thought of as expert knowledge on how to operate that machine or make the thing work technically. You can do or make something. There are straightforward steps you follow, and the thing works.

If you’re new to project management, hard skills are probably the easiest things to learn.

If you are not new to PM, make sure you’re training to develop these essential project management skills before moving on to other ones.

1. 3Rs

Quick, accurate, and clear reading, writing, and arithmetic are incredibly important.

Any good project manager needs to be able to employ and activate advanced reading, writing, and math skills.

  • Can you read a proposal and immediately comprehend the technical or legal issues present in the text?
  • Can you write a solid project brief that any team can understand and run with?
  • Can you verify budget and expense math, catching errors before they become a bigger problem?

The 3Rs are hard skills that are repeatedly taught to us throughout grade school and even post-secondary. However, as we become adults these skills can stagnate if you don’t push yourself to use them regularly.

How To Develop The 3Rs

Read often—you can read anything, just to keep your skill sharp—but I’d recommend any of these books for project managers. Even just 30 minutes of reading per day goes a long way to keeping that part of your brain exercised.

Hone your writing. Invest in a program like Grammarly, which gives you customized feedback based on your writing goals (ex. do you want to be casual or informative?) along with typical corrections for spelling, grammar, and wordiness. You can also check out these 5 tips for better writing.

Practice basic arithmetic with apps like BBC Teach or Khan Academy. Nobody expects you to memorize advanced trigonometry equations, but it’s useful to be able to memorize basic addition and subtraction as well as practice the ability to puzzle out harder multiplication and division problems.

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2. Process Management

The ability to map vital and control processes within a project ecosystem.

What are your most vital company and project management processes? For many, business processes include the likes of:

  • Resourcing
  • Invoicing
  • Project launch
  • Project delivery
  • Budgeting
  • Reviews, reporting, and evaluations

Process management, then, is a way to catalog all of these processes, get a birds-eye-view of it all, and circulate knowledge about each item as needed.

How To Develop Process Management Skills

If you are struggling to grasp the enormity of process management, you are not alone. By its very nature, process management requires the balancing of a lot of spinning plates. Excelling in process management is a surefire way to stand out as a PM, but it can be quite a daunting task.

If you are looking to develop your qualifications in process management, there are plenty of process management training certifications that you can invest in. Consider night courses or a work-at-your-own-pace program that doesn’t interfere with your workday.

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3. Project Initiation

Starting projects effectively to ensure everyone's aligned on vision and approach.

Before there can be a project, someone has to take the first step—be that a pitch, a formal project initiation document, a plan, a kickoff, a discovery session, or even simply being curious enough to notice an area of the business that could use some improvement.

Why initiate a new project? An AIPM and KPMG Australian Project Management Survey from 2018 suggests that the need to refresh infrastructure, for compliance or regulatory reasons, or the development of a new product are just a few of the most cited reasons.

As a project manager, initiating a project will often fall to you. Projects are the domain of the PM and so it is within your benefit to learn how to instigate them and how to get them started on the right foot.

How To Develop Project Initiation Skills

There are multiple sub-skills involved in initiating projects. It involves getting buy-in and alignment from the team and all stakeholders, setting up the project tools and documents, gathering or assigning the right resources, and communicating a project vision to the right people.

One of the hard skills you will want to focus on here is being able to present your project so that all key players are aligned and bought in.

First, teach yourself how to write a stand-out project proposal. This is a big part in getting your ideas moving.

Knowing how to build out an exemplary project proposal is going to teach you the basics of project initiation, namely the ability to identify a problem and then offer a solution that you are best equipped to handle.

Next, learn how to kick off projects—how to plan for, lead, and follow up on a project kickoff meeting—so the project starts with the highest chance of success. There’s an entire workshop on mastering your project kickoffs in DPM Membership.

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4. Project Planning

Architecting a course that meets objectives, within constraints.

Proper planning means everything from meta to micro. There’s the large scale obvious planning we need to create things like meeting plans, statements of work, estimates, timelines, resource plans, and briefs.

Additionally, there is the more mundane: planning out your day, who you’re going to talk to first, and how you are going to make time to keep your status documents up to date. 

The extent to which you’re able to effectively plan will directly impact the project’s ability to be successful. No matter how good you are at executing, without a proper project plan, the project won’t succeed. That means not only for success but for the disasters too.

How To Develop Project Planning Skills

The thing about project planning, and “planning” as a broad concept in general is that there is no one single way to do things. Therefore, in order to develop this skill, you are going to want to diversify your learning by consuming different materials and seeing what different experts have to say.

To accompany the guide, there are templates and filled-in project plan samples available in DPM Membership.

Project Timeline sample screenshot
Screenshot of the project plan template.

Each of these resources will offer unique insights that can help you decide the best way to plan your projects. And remember: there is always an element of trial-and-error when it comes to planning. Never be afraid to fail and learn.

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5. Scheduling

The ability to sequence the right people on your project at the right time.

Project scheduling means building out a calendar that indicates who is doing what, and when. This could be a work breakdown structure in Excel, a Gantt chart in your project scheduling tool of choice, a dedicated project management calendar, or any other form of project schedule.

Project managers will be responsible for determining the project milestones, indicating when things need to be done, and what tasks are dependent on others.

The power of good scheduling is that it determines who is representing your team at different hours, on different days, across different tasks and deliverables.

Being a pro-scheduler helps you avoid common scheduling pitfalls, like last-minute adjustments, staff confusion, “clopen” shifts, and out-of-hand overtime/on-call practices.

A PM will need to divide the manpower of their team to accommodate all the roles, tasks, and responsibilities. If people are needed on-site for the weekend, for example, a PM will determine who is attending to each shift.

How To Develop Scheduling Skills

One of the best things you can do to learn the skill of project scheduling is to study your preferred project management methodology (whether it's waterfall or agile) and learn what “scheduling” means in that context.

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6. Documentation Development

For costs, timeline, scope, stakeholders, and the contract.

Documentation is the process of recording your process so that it can be accessed, checked, and repeated by others. For a PM, knowing HOW to do proper documentation is only half the battle—you must also know how much is needed, to prevent excessive time and energy output.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development states a preference for “working software over comprehensive documentation.” What does that mean? Well, documentation is needed, but don’t go overboard. A functional product is always the top priority.

How To Develop Documentation Development Skills

This is a bit of a shortcut, but you can use other people’s project documents to help you save time and use best practices without having to figure everything out the hard way. There are plenty of those templates, charts, agendas, checklists, and the like in DPM Membership.

However, if you’re totally new to project documentation you’ll be better off with training like The DPM School, which can help you learn when, why, and how to fill out the most important project documents.

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7. Task Management

Scheduling, monitoring, and assessing project progress and quality of tasks so work flows smoothly.

It takes a special sort of skill to navigate task management in a way that informs and guides different types of staff with different types of learning preferences.

Making lists, using text editors, using tools like Kanban boards, spreadsheet building, team-based approaches, and even simple pen-and-paper are all forms of task management.

Excellent task management can boost productivity, reduce errors, and keep everyone up-to-date, so it’s up to the project manager to use the best task management approach for the situation.

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How To Develop Task Management Skills

A lot of task management is trial-and-error. It's also having a willingness to scale to a more comprehensive solution if you are finding your current task management systems are becoming inadequate.

Therefore, you won’t want to invest too much money into learning task management. It’s a skill that is nebulous and will change day-to-day as your project needs change. Work on this skill through simple practice and accent that knowledge with free tutorials and guides to give you deeper insights.

There are plenty of free resources that you can rely on to sharpen your tasking skills, for example, Task Management Training – Getting Organized for Success.

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8. Project Control

Cost, schedule, scope, and stakeholder monitoring and management.

It’s a project manager’s job to keep their project(s) from going over budget and over schedule.

Almost every project will test these imposed limitations. Scope creep, unexpected bumps in the road, and other entanglements will try to push the boundaries of these time and cost constraints.

Project control involves gleaning data and analytics from your project tracking tools and dashboards in order to predict and influence the financial and time expenditures required for a particular project.

Once limitations have been confirmed, it’s a PM’s job to make sure things don’t run out of control on their way to completion.

Any PM knows that no project is ever “100% complete.” There is always more to do, more to build, more to finetune. Proper controls help to establish limitations around a project so that it doesn’t end up in developmental limbo.

How To Develop Project Control Skills

A great resource is the DPM Podcast episode, Control Your Projects Better With These Project Controls, which features Maik Stettner talking about his personal experience with delivering on budget, hitting timelines, and other areas of project control.

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9. Risk Management

Identifying, evaluating, and mitigating against project snafus.

The skill for effective risk management is really experience—it’s knowing what could go wrong. And having the humility to ask for your team’s input. You first need to identify risk and the earlier you do that, the better your chances of avoiding the risk occurrence.

Risk identification must be followed by a risk plan for what to do about them. This involves assigning a probability, a cost, and an owner, and using mitigation strategies that are suitable for the risk and the appetite of the client for things going wrong.

Whether you do these activities in a dedicated risk management tool or in a simple spreadsheet, the skill to master is the ability to identify risks well before they become issues and come up with effective mitigation plans to nullify the risk of them ever becoming issues.

How To Develop Risk Management Skills

Personal experience aside, how can you develop your risk management skills as a PM? Well, for one thing, you can rely on other people’s experiences and learn from their mistakes (and from their successes). Glean knowledge from the best-of-the-best and use their mistakes as lessons to fuel your own learning.

There are plenty of books on risk management, which is a safe way to hone your practical skills before testing them out in the workplace. You can start with Fundamentals of Risk Management by Paul Hopkins or Implementing Enterprise Risk Management by James Lam.

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10. PM Tool Knowledge

There is no “one right tool”—you need the skills to learn them all. 

A project manager can only do so much with their own two hands. That’s why it’s important for them to have a toolkit of software backing them up.

Unfortunately, there is a PM tool for every task, work style, team structure, and department need. And for every need, there are dozens of project management tools ready to satisfy it.

Over a quarter of survey participants from the 2018 Project Success Survey named “the use of project management tools” as a key component to project success. PM tools are not only useful for relieving an administrative workload burden, but they are a critical component to success.

How To Develop Your Skills In Using PM Tools

There is no one-shoe-fits-all to learn the intricacies of every PM tool in existence. Instead, you are going to want to hone in on:

  1. What problem you need to solve
  2. What tool can best do that
  3. How to best use that tool

And if you want to understand the types of tools at your disposal, check out some of my favorites:

  1. 1. — Best for its capacity to be customized for almost any workflow
  2. 2. Wrike — Best agile project management tool
  3. 3. Smartsheet — Best for teams with asset proofing needs
  4. 4. Height — Best project management tool for its AI-based task management
  5. 5. GanttPRO — Best for planning and managing projects based on Gantt charts
  6. 6. ClickUp — Best project management tool for its support of multiple methodologies
  7. 7. Nifty — Best with team management and collaboration tools
  8. 8. Forecast — Best for managing your projects, resources, and finances in one
  9. 9. Paymo — Best project management tool for small & medium teams
  10. 10. MeisterTask — Best project management tool for agile teams

Or get a deeper look at the project management software listed here.

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11. Technical Skills

Basic wireframing, copy, design, & coding to manage more effectively.

The number of technical skills a project manager brings to the table can elevate them from average to expert in a heartbeat. Can you wireframe a product using different techniques? Do you have basic design skills? Do you read or develop code at all?

These are some of the most valuable hard skills because they are tangible. If you know C++ or HTML5, you can easily prove it with a practical demonstration. However, these skills can also be incredibly difficult to master.

As a PM, you will most likely be a jack-of-all-trades with a specialty in one or two items. A good practice to have is: make sure you have at least two unique and intersecting skills. That way, you stand out as a niche specialist that people who need your expertise cannot do without.

How To Develop Technical Skills

Bethany Lang wrote a great article focused on showing PMs how to develop technical skills. Start there.

Of course, technical skills can be learned online with:

It’s up to you to decide how much guidance you need, how much of an expert you want to become, and how many technical skills you want to adopt.

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Project Management Soft Skills To Develop

Soft skills (sometimes known as interpersonal skills) comprise other personal and professional skills. They’re soft because you’re not operating a machine, and there aren't any specific steps to follow or a "correct" way to do them.

It requires intellectual engagement and personal interaction. It’s the way you operate the machinery and relate to your coworkers.

These are harder to learn because they're developed through experience. These are also exceedingly valuable because machines and AI cannot recreate their effects.

1. Organization

Bringing order to chaos, sorting things out, & staying on top of everything.

Whether you are mapping out resources or turning a messy project proposal into gold, organization is THE defining characteristic of a great project manager. You simply cannot be without it.

Bad organization wreaks havoc on your team’s motivation, morale, and ability to get things done. A PM with a personal organization strategy will get more done, feel less stressed, and be an admirable leader.

How To Develop Organization Skills

There are whole communities dedicated to different organizational strategies. Just think about how wildly popular Marie Kondo’s “tidying up” self-help strategy became, with a best-selling book and now even a Netflix special. Organization has become a bit of religion at this point.

There are two parts of organization: organizing your SPACE and organizing your WORK. As Marie Kondo purports, there are psychological benefits to existing in a clean and tidy space.

Not to mention that most people’s snap judgments about your organizational prowess will center around what they observe in your physical space.

Then, the hardest part: organizing your task list, team, thoughts, tools, workflow, errands, habits, and all the rest, while maintaining adaptability when the plan changes.

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2. Teamwork

The ability to make teams work, reading emotions, and motivations effectively.

Teamwork is something a project manager must learn and teach simultaneously. A PM will have to flexibly and reliably work with their employees, clients, suppliers, external contracts, customers, and anyone else who shows up in their inbox each morning.

The positive impact of teamwork is supported by behavior science and psychology. Working together is proven to spark innovation, foster happiness, foster personal growth, prevent burnout, grow specialized skills, improve productivity, promote taking worthwhile risks, reduce feelings of stress, and boost creativity.

How To Develop Teamwork

There are two approaches I suggest to “learning” teamwork skills:

  • Theoretical knowledge about what it means to work as a team and the benefits of navigating teamwork successfully
  • Fun, in-person exercises you can do with your team to promote trust, understanding, and comfort

For theoretical knowledge, try seeing what cutting-edge research is being done in the areas of teamwork. My current suggestion is The Science of Teamwork.

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3. Prioritization

The ability to do the right thing, at the right time.

As project managers, a huge part of our job is determining and communicating how other people will spend their time. But it’s equally important to be aware of how our own time management.

Steven Covey’s quote, “The enemy of the best is good,” applies really well when it comes to the project manager’s management of time (theirs and their team’s).

The problem is that important tasks usually get trumped by urgent tasks. If needed, do an 80/20 analysis of your current tasks. So if you’ve got a limited amount of time in your day, how can you make sure you set aside time for important tasks?

Successful project managers also respect their teammates’ time, so being able to read the body language of people in the room is also critical to ensuring that you’re staying on course.

How To Develop Prioritization Skills

First,  understand where you are putting your time. If you’re not already, use a simple time-tracking tool to help you tag and analyze where you’re spending your time. Is that where your priorities are?

If you’re not sure, remember this quote:

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

In order to get better at prioritizing, you will want to check out Eisenhower’s famous prioritization matrix mapping. His work differentiates between what tasks are urgent, what tasks are important, and what tasks are neither.

  1. Important and Urgent (Highest priority)
  2. Important but Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not important and Not Urgent (Lowest priority)

Using the above-mentioned matrix you will learn the essentials of “sorting” tasks into categories that will determine whether you do them yourself, delegate, or set aside.

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4. Research

The ability to effectively investigate and understand the big picture.

Effective project managers need to know ‘just enough to be dangerous’ about all the work that their teams execute.

You need to know the platforms and systems your teams use, and the possibilities and limitations of those so that you can have intelligent and informed conversations with clients, team, project stakeholders, and suppliers.

It’s worth trying to develop expertise across the full project lifecycle: strategy, service design, product design, creative concept, user experience, design, content development, front end development, back end development, QA, hosting, content delivery networks, SEO, analytics, CMS, social media, or media (yes even banner ads).

The key subject matter expertise skill to master is just about everything when it comes to digital. If you can be the designated expert on everything from Apache Solr and algorithms to Weibo and web hosting, not only will your team and agency love you, but your clients will too.

How To Develop Research Skills

You can always trust libraries, particularly post-secondary libraries, as being a great source for research practices. For example, read the 15 Steps to Good Research by the Georgetown University Library.

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5. Creativity

The ability to see things differently and approach things uniquely.

Creativity is one skill that computers and AI cannot match. Machines and wild animals might be able to build, entertain, and perform but there is nothing that channels creativity the way humankind has. This makes it an invaluable skill.

How To Develop Creativity

Your favorite brand of creativity is ultimately up to you. Do you want to build, design, write, paint, or meander? There are plenty of ways to boost your creativity, like changing up a habit, spending time outdoors, indulging in a hobby, experimenting with art supplies, or listening to (or creating) music.

I would also highly recommend you check out the TEDxDirigo presentation by John Paul Caponigro called “You’re A Lot More Creative Than You Think You Are.” Caponigro is a renowned fine artist who has worked for Photoshop User,, and The Huffington Post.

Read more about how you can get involved in creative strategy here.

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6. Critical Thinking

Deciding what to do when there’s no obvious choice and tackling problems with confidence.   

You’ve most likely heard of the term “critical thinking” but can you describe it? Do you know what it is and how to access the parts of your brain that excel in it? According to the Oxford Dictionary, critical thinking is “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.”

Oftentimes, PMs are confronted with conflicting data, mismatched ideas and facts, and flaws in common reasoning. Being able to pick apart what we see, think, hear, and feel to decide what is best for the current situation at hand is the linchpin in what it means to be a critical thinker.

There are 7 critical thinking skills, which I’ve broken down into their most basic essence:

  1. Analysis: What information is present?
  2. Interpretation: What does the information suggest?
  3. Inference: What conclusion can be drawn?
  4. Explanation: An elevator pitch for the above.
  5. Self-regulation: Could I be wrong about something?
  6. Open-mindedness: What are other possibilities?
  7. Problem-solving: What is the next move?

How To Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Harvard Business Review suggests that 3 habits can help you improve your critical thinking are: questioning all assumptions, finding reason through logic, and diversifying your thought by trying to see things from an opposing point of view.

You may want to try these exercises for better critical thinking. Udemy also has critical thinking exercises as well as an online course to go with it.

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7. Communication

The ability to understand and be understood by people from varying backgrounds.

One of the essential skills for project management is the ability to communicate well—understanding and being understood.

Great communication is the crux of any relationship and so the effectiveness of a project manager’s communication has an impact not only on the project team but the client and stakeholders too.

However, effective communication doesn’t just happen. It starts by putting in the time and effort required to get to know your team well and devising an appropriate communication plan and related communications tools that connect with the different personality types.

For me, this has meant having to adapt the communications strategy from project to project, for the simple reason that we may have different team members for each project and a particular communication system or structure may not always work for everyone.

The key communication skill to master is the ability to listen, to be clear, and to ensure you’re understood. When information flows with the right messaging, at the right time, to the right person, through the right channel, almost any hurdle can be overcome.

How To Develop Communication Skills

It’s easy to communicate well under ideal conditions with perfect communicators—but projects rarely benefit from ideal conditions, and no one is a perfect communicator.

I’ve focused on teaching the skills of communication in many contexts, whether it’s in troubleshooting client complaints to solve conflicts (get practice for that in The DPM School) or handling difficult conversations better (DPM Member webinar).

But beyond these dedicated communication-strengthening activities, I have to say: just put yourself out there. Go to events, meet new people, leave your comfort zone, and network enthusiastically. Every conversation you have is going to teach you something about effective communication.

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8. Leadership

Seeing what could be, the big picture, and leading & inspiring others.

If we’ve learned anything from years of leading projects, it’s that great leadership is an essential skill for being a good project manager.

Our leadership role means we lead and manage teams—setting the vision, motivating the team, and making your team’s life better by coaching them and inspiring others.

But being a leader isn’t just about creating a feel-good vibe for our teams—we have to enforce process and keep everyone on the team in line too.

We know that we have the final call about what our team works on next, as well as the final responsibility for whether the project fails or succeeds.

Make sure you’re leading, rather than just managing. That means providing a vision and roadmap for success, and serving and empowering your team to get there.

How To Develop Leadership Skills

Leadership is a tough one to just get out there and learn, but it’s one of those things that takes time, experience, and consistent effort.

Still, no book or course is going to turn you into a leader overnight. No online course can hand you true leadership qualifications.

To get started, I suggest looking for leadership-oriented seminars by speakers that you feel have something worthwhile to say. There are whole conferences dedicated to developing leadership skills, and that’s a good place to start.

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9. Diplomacy

The ability to influence, negotiate, & collaborate in tricky situations.

Project management is somewhat like politics; it brings together a disparate group of people, often with competing interests, and our job is to get these different interests on the same page so that we can accomplish project goals. In other words, a good project manager must be an excellent negotiator.

Discussions about budgets, resource allocation, and timelines can become adversarial and counterproductive if not handled tactfully. The best project managers know how to find compromises where possible and how to hold a firm line without damaging their workplace relationships.

The key negotiation skill to master is finding that middle ground—working out compromises so everyone that matters feel like they’ve won!

How To Develop Diplomacy Skills

There are plenty of books on diplomacy, some more theoretical and others more practical. You can start with a classic, The Power of Tact by Peter Legge.

This book goes over how to keep your cool in tough situations, conflict resolution strategies, negotiation tactics, and being a positive influence on those around you.

You should also check out Public Diplomacy by Nicholas J. Cull, which goes over five core areas of public diplomacy: listening, advocacy, cultural diplomacy, exchanges, and international broadcasting.

This book focuses its advice through a lens of international relations, communication studies, psychology, and contemporary practice and highlights what this all means in a time of “Global Engagement in the Digital Age.”

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10. Coaching

Simplifying complexity, explaining, building the team, driving, and encouraging. 

Every PM is a coach in the way that they must bring out the best in their team and their product. Coaching is an inverted form of teaching where the goal is to help the subject learn rather than convey information.

Coaching is meant to focus on a person’s individual needs and talents, drawing out their full potential. This may involve offering positive feedback, establishing positive expectations, identifying room to grow, listening to concerns, and allowing (even encouraging) mistakes.

How To Develop Coaching Skills

How does one become a great coach? One way might be to be coached yourself. Work with a mentor or professional life/career coach and take note of what they do and how they do it. Pay special attention to what works well and what falls flat. has a series of free tools that you can access, including exercises, common questions, an newsletter, and templates for goal setting and the like.

You could also consider looking up career coaches in your city and bringing one of them into your workplace for an all-day coaching session with your staff. You can also follow professional coaches online if they have a blog, videos, or podcasts.

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Traits of Successful Project Managers

This is where it gets messy.

The above list of project management skills misses out on a crucial part of being a PM: personal and professional traits.

Traits are hugely important. They’re the foundation for the soft skills and the way you execute the hard skills. They’re part of the ingredients for what makes a good project manager.

In fact, when I’m hiring for project management roles, what I’m actually primarily trying to establish is the candidate’s character traits.

These are things that are hard—if not impossible—to teach, but in my experience, they really do set good PMs apart from the bad.

How many of these traits do you embody and practice on a daily basis?

  • Ordered: your sock drawer, and everyone else’s
  • Visionary: see what could be, potential and opportunity
  • Detail-orientated: spot the gaps and mistakes
  • Team-orientated: empathetic, enjoy working and communicating with people
  • Cautiously optimistic: always careful, but positive about it
  • Tenacious: keep going when things don’t go to plan
  • Adaptable: love problem solving and can be flexible
  • Decisive: ability to assess, anticipate, and make difficult decisions
  • Responsible: take ownership, look after, and take the weight off the team
  • Strong work ethic: hard-working, hustler, self-motivated, and on time

Return to the list of project management skills.

How To Build These Successful Project Manager Traits

Be honest with yourself

Ask for feedback from your colleagues and be open and accepting about what they share. Learn how to gently and productively critique yourself and remember that it’s never about fault, it’s about a desire to constantly improve.

Be humble

Humility is the beginning of wisdom. In order to build your character, you must be open to new ways. No one can ever be too humble, though those who aren't are sure to think so.

Live out your principles and values

Whether it’s “love others,” or ”do the right thing,” living by your principles will make decision-making easier and your character more steadfast. “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything,” according to Alexander Hamilton (supposedly).

Be intentional

Integrity does not happen by accident. We are all products of our thoughts and habits. Be intentional about filling your mind with good thoughts. Create a habit of this internalizes principles and breeds high character.

Practice self-discipline

Being of high character takes the ability to do what is right over what is easy. After all, as John Wooden says, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Be accountable

Surround yourself with people who have high expectations. Be responsible for yourself first. Lose the pride. Open yourself up to accountability. Let others push you to a high character.

Agile Project Management Skills

Agile project management requires all of the above, as well as a few unique items I wanted to call attention to which are particularly important to methodologies that fall under the agile umbrella, such as Scrum or Kanban.

Here are a few additional traits you can count on a good agile PM to have mastered:

1. Facilitation

Help people understand common objectives and their part in the bigger picture. As a facilitator, you need to be able to make overarching goals feel understandable and achievable.

Learn more on how to do this in our workshop with Annie MacLeod (you'll need to be a member to access this workshop).

2. Problem-solving

The ability to navigate conflict, errors, and unexpected roadblocks with poise and purpose. If something unexpected arises, you keep your cool and set a good example for others.

3. Issue resolution or escalation

Knowing when it is appropriate to internally resolve issues and when intervention is needed. It’s important to grasp what resources are available for when escalation is deemed necessary.

4. Team building

Understanding the social intricacies of team management and properly providing guidance and encouragement. Make sure your team works well together, trusts one another, and feels satisfied as a unit.

5. Change management

Making natural and inevitable change within a business as easy, inclusive, and transparent as possible. No change, no matter how great, should disrupt your team to the extent they go into disarray.

6. Create the right environment

Know your “workplace culture” and make sure it aligns with your vision for the team and their work. Don’t let it become too strict or too casual and make sure everyone understands their freedoms and limitations.

What do you think?

It might be getting more difficult to get a job as a PM, and just knowing what skills project management professionals need is not enough.

Yes, we must be knowledgeable; yes, we must have the right tools; but critically, we must know how to apply the right techniques to our projects.

Knowing project management theory without the skills to apply what we know is useless. Having the right tools without the practical PM skills to put them to good use is meaningless.

So, how should you go about improving your project management skills? Create a personal shortlist of skills you're missing. Include the technical skills you’d like to learn, as well as the soft skills where you could develop more.

Use your list to guide the development of your project management competencies. Attend conferences, learn from your peers, and take courses.

If you’re still not sure where to start, ask around—the vibrant DPM community has answers for you.

By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of I've been in the industry for more than 20 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony. Ben's a Certified Scrum Master, PRINCE2 Practitioner and productivity nut.

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  • Hi Ben, Nice article, it is difficult to cover so much ground and I think you did a great job. For the agile project management skills I would add ‘Adaptive - the quality of always inspecting and adapting to change and suggestions’ and ‘Challenge the status quo – Looking for improvements, taking small risks and experimenting with new approaches’. To me these are different than problems solving and managing change since they are deliberate acts to create change. Regards Mike


  • Thanks for sharing this article.


  • Thanks Ben !! I think, the main characteristic to be a successful project manager: The ability to delegate It is human nature to think that others, especially those paid less than us to be inferior. We will always have the feeling that we can do a specific task better than our subordinate. Whether your self-assessment is true or false is not our debate here, but a project manager must be able to let go of this feeling and adopt the “only do what only I can do” mentality. If other people are able to do the job decently, even if we can do it better, let them do it. Remember that a project manager is not responsible with the results, but he/she is responsible for the people delivering the results.


  • Great article..found it very helpful ..


  • On the whole, very impressive. "What Do You Think" would carry more impact if you corrected the typo in the first sentence.


    • Thanks, now fixed!


  • Well describe article about how to manage projects. Indeed Project management skills are very essential to prioritize all tasks according to the need. Thanks for sharing this and hope to get more from your end.


  • The project management risk management skill to master is the ability to identify risks well before they become issues.


  • Can anyone suggest good course on this subject matter as well emotional intelligence


  • Very well phrased, Ben!


  • Hi Ben, Good article. It is surprising the number of recruiters who look for PM's being Subject matter expertise, or technical skills above, the soft skills. In my view, the soft skills of a PM is more likely lead to project success then the other way around.


  • interesting and educative


  • I have found this information useful and has prepared me for an forthcoming PM interview.


  • Excellent post. I recently found this site and have enjoyed it so much. I had been a software developer PM, then went to infrastructure and connectivity projects and then, after several years, came back to portal projects. So I have found that the skill from your list I need to work on the most is SME. So much to learn! My development background helps but I still have a super long list of things I am reading about so I can have a better understanding of the projects we work on.


    • Glad you found it helpful!


  • Good post Ben, these are all important! There is always going to be some cross over between headline skill names and the detail (e.g. time management has elements of planning clearly) and people can argue that other skills are equally important - this is a judgement call because ultimately more skills are required but if you have to get a core set right, what are they. In terms of the core set I would add: Monitoring and Control - you clearly need a decent plan first but please don't forget to actively monitor where you are against that plan - putting in small early remedial actions is always the best approach as compared to leaving it late and being under pressure. My analogy here is a pilot flying a plane, the pilot doesn't just log a flight plan he/she monitors actively during the flight! Financial Management - you might call this part of planning & monitoring/control but I like to separate it as it requires a different mindset and in my experience tools


    • Great comments, thanks for sharing.