Experience Design

4 Key Project Manager Soft Skills

Interpersonal skills are a project manager’s (PM) ace in the hole. Whether you’re working on a large initiative or a simpler project with a shorter timeline, your ability to build real, honest relationships with your colleagues will yield much better project outcomes and lead to a happier and trusting team.

Here are four key soft skills that have gone a long way in my career.

Be Scrappy

When joining a new project team, the basic PM fundamentals typically translate well. However, each project has its own nuances regarding team dynamics and processes. Lean into the uncomfortable areas – this is where you grow, and the team benefits from this growth as well. Be reliable and consistent, but don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get scrappy when needed. For example, if you’re not fully up to speed on a methodology or technology, do some self-directed online learning and find informal one-on-one time with a colleague. It’s a great way to build new relationships or grow existing ones, and it shows you’re eager to learn new things.

Be Flexible

Organizations are adapting to evolving marketplaces at an ever-increasing pace to seek how to best enhance their workforce and customer experiences. This can often lead to more frequent budget and strategy reprioritizations. Be flexible. Stay close with your project sponsors and key stakeholders, and proactively think through options that can help them get from A to B. To do this successfully, you’ll need to understand how your initiative fits into larger strategic objectives. Find opportunities to learn more about interrelated projects and build relationships with stakeholders that have higher-level strategic visibility. These insights and relationships can help you learn about early indicators of shifts in priorities, giving your team time to consider how you might need to flex.

Be a Magician

Know when to be a stage presence and when to blend into the background. This is increasingly important, as more work is done via collaborative virtual working sessions. Consider setting up two tracks of working sessions for your project – one series focused on a behind-the-curtains collaboration with the working team, and a second series focused on evaluating near-finalized work products with stakeholders. A great PM knows when to pull back the curtain to collaborate, when to show polished work, and when to disappear and enable their team to own (and showcase) their work – proudly, I might add.

Be a Leader

At Perficient, our PMs aren’t simply managing – we’re project leaders. We show up with enthusiasm, we find ways to motivate our teams, and we don’t flinch at obstacles in the road. Be the rock your team can consistently rely on to help get stuff done. If you aren’t sure how to build yourself in this area, I highly recommend looking for a formal or informal mentor. I’ve had some wonderful mentors throughout my career that have helped me build confidence and hone my leadership abilities.

Here’s What You Need to Take Away from This

Leading a project can be challenging and, at times, daunting. Project management fundamentals like budgeting, resourcing, and planning will always serve you well, but don’t forget about your soft skills! By building out your soft skills, you have a much better shot at creating a strong team culture, building an open and trusting working environment, and ultimately delivering more successful project outcomes. For more information, contact our experience design experts today.


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About the Author

Kevin is a program and product leader at Perficient focused on delivering high-quality digital work for complex, cross-functional initiatives.

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