20 Essential Skills Every Project Manager Should Have

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 20, 2022 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated June 20, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach

Project management skills refer to the core abilities that are necessary to successfully bring a project from start to finish. These skills allow you to successfully take a project from start to finish with more efficiency. Regardless of your role on the team, improving your project management skills can have a direct impact on the team's ability to complete an assignment.

In this article, we explore 20 skills every project manager should have.


20 essential project management skills

Here are 20 top skills every project manager should have:

  1. Communication

  2. Leadership

  3. Organization

  4. Negotiation

  5. Team management

  6. Time management

  7. Risk management

  8. Problem-solving

  9. Budget management

  10. Motivation

  11. Technical writing

  12. Adaptability

  13. Technical skills

  14. Reporting skills

  15. Active listening

  16. Research skills

  17. Interpersonal skills

  18. Project management methodologies

  19. Policy knowledge

  20. Conflict management

Related: Types of Project Management Certifications

1. Communication

Project managers must have strong communication skills to be able to convey messages to clients and team members. They need this skill to effectively share their vision, goals, ideas and issues. They also need communication skills to produce presentations and reports.

2. Leadership

Strong leadership skills are critical for project managers. They allow leaders to oversee and coordinate tasks as well as motivate and encourage the team and define the road map to successfully complete the project.

Related: Understanding the Project Management Processes and Phases

3. Organization

To ensure processes are running smoothly and in line with common goals, project managers must have strong organizational skills. While this includes the ability to multitask, it also includes prioritizing tasks, compartmentalizing projects and documenting everything for easy access and future reference.

4. Negotiation

A project manager must be effective at negotiating terms with suppliers, clients and other stakeholders. You must also employ negotiation skills when working with your team as well to bring everyone in line with strategic goals or manage interpersonal conflicts within the team.

Related: The Importance of Project Management

5. Team management

A project manager must be able to bring a team together and move them in one direction, aligning their personal goals with those of the organization. Team management skills include the ability to effectively delegate responsibilities, handle conflicts, evaluate performances and coach team members to help them improve their skills.

6. Time management

Every project is subject to deadlines, which means there are numerous tasks that need to be accomplished in a short amount of time. Project managers must be able to create a project timeline and maintain those deadlines throughout the project lifecycle.

7. Risk management

While they are not generally apparent, risks are inevitable during a project, which is why a project manager must have the experience and ability to pinpoint what could go wrong and implement a risk mitigation strategy. They must be able to ask their team hard questions and continually confirm timelines, decisions and dependencies. They should also know how to use professional risk management tools that allow them to analyze potential risks to develop risk mitigation strategies.

8. Problem-solving

A project manager must be able to gather information, weigh the associated pros and cons and then formulate the best solution. Strong problem-solving skills will allow project managers to have a structured approach to solving problems to achieve a positive result.

9. Budget management

One of the most important responsibilities of the project manager is to create a viable budget and control it throughout the lifecycle. Project managers usually need experience to be able to effectively identify where costs are being overrun and what changes they need to make to control the costs. They need the ability to track costs, put together spreadsheets and decide what the budget should or should not be spent on.

Related: Budget Management Skills: Definition and Examples

10. Motivation

To keep their team happy and motivated when deadlines are rapidly approaching, a project manager must have motivational skills. Tactics include using positive reinforcement, praise and team-building activities. They must be able to cultivate a positive, fun and collaborative working environment.

11. Technical writing

Technical writing is a style of writing that involves taking high-level details and explaining them in a way that's clear and easy to understand. Project managers use this form of writing in drafting potential deliverables, circulating memos, targeting product releases or sending news updates.

12. Adaptability

Adaptability skills are qualities that allow you to adjust to changes in your environment. Project managers must be able to adapt to upcoming product trends, new technology, user demographics and more. This is a particularly important skill at the material level, as they must lead entire teams in the right direction.

13. Technical skills

Technical skills are qualities acquired by using and gaining expertise in performing physical or digital tasks. Being tech-savvy and having hands-on experience with the latest technology can allow you to increase the speed of your team's productivity. By knowing how to adapt to current technology trends, you may be able to increase output and your team's ability to get things done effectively.

14. Reporting skills

A project manager must be able to gather information throughout the lifespan of a project and report them for future evaluation. This is particularly important if a project begins to experience problems. Project managers need reporting skills to coordinate with managers, clients and team members to set expectations, objectives and convey information regarding deliverables.

Related: Report Writing Skills: Definition and Examples


15. Active listening

Active listening is an important part of effective communication that allows project managers to connect with team members, develop better relationships with clients and manage the expectations of key stakeholders. Active listening allows them to fully understand the perspective of the person they are speaking to and empathize with them.

16. Research skills

Research skills are the ability to find an answer to a question or a solution to a problem. Research skills allow the project manager to fill any gaps in knowledge that may allow them to complete the project more efficiently or more successfully.

17. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills include self-confidence, relationship management and collaboration skills. The ability to collaborate well as part of a team allows the team to work together more productively and complete the project more efficiently. Relationship management skills are also essential, as they enable the project manager to develop and nurture relationships with clients, vendors and team members. The right level of self-confidence can also improve the confidence of the team as a whole, increasing morale and allowing for improved performance.

18. Project management methodologies

A project management methodology is a set of processes used to complete large work tasks. Project management methodologies can help structure, standardize and organize methods for the execution of large work tasks. A good project manager must have the ability to apply frameworks and methodologies, such as agile and scrum, throughout the lifecycle of a project.

Read more: Top 11 Project Management Methodologies

19. Policy knowledge

To keep a project running smoothly, project managers must have an adequate grasp of policy knowledge, including health, safety, environmental and business best practices.

20. Conflict management

Strong conflict management skills are essential for project managers, who must keep their teams operating efficiently and working well together. Conflict management and resolution skills are also important for fixing stalled workflows, project discrepancies or addressing other internal or external setbacks.

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