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What makes a great project manager?

Discover what makes a great project manager and develop your project management skills with FutureLearn.

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From leading teams in an ever-changing work landscape and mitigating risk to making sure all projects are delivered on time, a project manager’s role is arguably one of the most multi-faceted in the workplace. 

In this article, we’ll explore the top skills that make a great project manager. From communication and leadership to problem-solving and organisation, discover the skills needed to go from from good to great. 

1. Excellent communication skills

At the heart of project management is communication – so much so that it was consistently chosen as the most important “power skill” by region, industry and years of experience in the PMI Pulse of the Profession 2023 survey

Beyond making sure that team members are clear on project goals, a project manager fosters trust and transparency, ensuring that every team member is aligned and on the same page. 

That can only happen through clear communication – that means active listening, being open to feedback, embracing different communication styles and building and maintaining open communication channels with all stakeholders.

2. Air-tight organisation skills

Even the best ideas are only as good as their plans. Ask any great project manager and they’ll tell you that plans are essential to successful projects. 

So whether that means creating realistic timelines, hosting regular project-specific meetings or breaking down projects into manageable tasks to complete, planning will help pave the way for a successfully-executed project. 

3. Flexibility and adaptability

Change is inevitable, even for the best of plans. That’s why embracing change and being flexible are key skills every great project manager should possess. Even more so when you consider that the global market for AI in project management is projected to grow from $2.5 billion in 2023 to $5.7 billion by 2028

Using experiences from past projects, project managers are able to adapt and see unforeseen circumstances as opportunities as opposed to challenges – ensuring the projects stay on course. 

4. Strong leadership skills

As expected, leadership is an essential skill for any project manager, and with roughly 89% of employees expected to occasionally complete projects in global virtual teams, it is even more vital. 

Leading by example, motivating the team, and providing guidance every step of the way are all essential but like any skill, it’s a muscle that’ll only get stronger with practice. 

Using leadership communication skills, a great project manager should go beyond managing tasks. By exhibiting decisiveness, taking responsibility,  recognising achievements, providing constructive feedback and encouraging collaboration, they’ll inevitably set the tone for a motivated and high-performing team and a people-powered work culture. 

5. Expert problem-solving skills

Projects aren’t without their problems. Whether troubleshooting issues or optimising processes, analytical problem-solving skills enable project managers to identify and implement effective solutions. 

Likewise, being able to navigate negotiations diplomatically and find solutions that benefit both the project and stakeholders are vital to an organisation’s success. 

6. Resourcefulness 

One of the biggest requirements of any project manager role is effective resource management. 

Project managers optimise resources by understanding team members’ strengths, assigning tasks according to skill sets, and ensuring that the project benefits from efficient resource allocation. This involves a keen awareness of each team member’s capabilities and aligning them with project requirements.

7. Empathy and emotional Intelligence

Navigating workplace dynamics is crucial to any role, but even more so for project managers. As obvious as it sounds, being empathetic and emotionally intelligent will only help make your responsibilities that much easier. 

Whether that means understanding multiple points of view, resolving conflicts with empathy, or maintaining a harmonious team environment, these skills are essential to effective collaboration and team cohesion.

8. Top-notch risk management skills

As a project manager, you’re no stranger to risk. An essential aspect of project management is risk management – being able to proactively identify and mitigate risks. 

Project managers proactively identify and mitigate risks, ensuring that potential issues are addressed before they escalate. This strategic approach helps keep the project on track, with little to no disruptions.

9. An appetite for learning

Having a growth mindset and keeping up-to-date with all the latest developments for project management professionals is a good way to understand what skills you may need to develop. 

Whether you commit to continually learning through courses, attending webinars and conferences, or look to get certified, being curious and interested in learning ensures that you’ll stay ahead of all industry trends and best practices.

Boost your project management skills with FutureLearn

Becoming a great project manager doesn’t happen overnight, but having a plan of action coupled with expert courses certainly helps. That’s where we come in. Whatever industry you’re in, FutureLearn has the resources you need to transform your project management skills. 

Online project management courses at FutureLearn

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