Project Manager Competencies

Soft Skills & Behaviours


Soft skills for project managers. The Technical competencies required for successful project management are of course important, however they are only part of the equation. Equally important in getting the job done are soft skills, or behavioural competencies. Different organisations place value on different behaviours leading to continued debate on this topic and no definitive list exists on what the required behaviours for Project Managers should be.

However, from our experience, here are some of the soft skills and behaviours that we think should be on the list.

Communication & Consultation

The purpose of communicating is to consult and interact with people about ideas, thoughts, facts, emotions, challenges, successes, etc. alongside hard facts such as project progress. Skills include: having the ability to convey complex ideas easily; clearly articulate what must be accomplished; keep the team moving toward a common goal; and to foster an environment that allows team members to communicate openly and honestly. Communications are not line items on project plans but continuous activities that need to take place supporting everything that is being delivered.

Conflict & Crisis Management

This competency is needed where differences arise within a team which must be addressed to ensure they do not escalate into potentially destructive issues. Listening and responding to the needs and views of all team members increases the project manager's awareness and ability to anticipate the potential areas of conflict, while the ability to diffuse situations where conflict has risen maintains a healthy project environment.

Flexibility & Creativity

No two projects are the same. Thinking in original and imaginative ways widens the scope of problem solving when issues arise and encourages project teams to find the best solution and outcomes without slavishly following generic delivery methods or solutions. The project manager must adapt to the needs of the project. Each project may require different components, templates, tools, and techniques. Using the “project manager toolbox” effectively will assist in delivering a successful project.


Frequently project managers, sometimes in a similar manner to employees, do not have direct authority, yet they do have direct responsibility for delivery. Authority must be built through appropriate leadership. Leading is about understanding the vision and direction of the project and aligning the team to work towards it. Skills include delegating, coaching, motivating and leading by example.

Learning and Development: Continual improvement of both your own skills and those of your team improves the organisation's capability in delivering projects now and into the future.  This is done through assessment of skills and capabilities, encouraging participation in learning activities and evaluating how the learning is applied in the project environment.


A breadth of skills are needed from analysis of information to decision making in establishing the desired outcome from the negotiation. Developing a strategy for the negotiation alongside understanding the optimal outcome from several options, should lead to agreement through consensus of positions from both parties.

Organisational Effectiveness

Within any organisation there are people management processes t0 be followed. Understanding these and applying them fairly and consistency in a way that is understood by the team members are needed. Understanding the corporate culture, the organisational dynamics, and the individuals that work within it lead to getting the best from your team. Resources may be obtained more effectively, support gained, and a stronger foundation for the effort may be built.

Problem Solving and Decision-Making

Resolving issues and solving problems is important at each phase of a project, particularly as each usually has its own unique set of problems. Without strong problem-solving skills, the sheer volume of issues that are a normal part of every project will soon become overwhelming.

Professionalism and ethics

This is demonstrated through knowledge, skills and behaviour alongside appropriate conduct and moral principles for both the organisation's and project's environments. Working with morally accepted conduct and applying fairness builds trust and respect across the project team.


Do what you say you're going to do is key to building trust and is underpinned by a project manager's reliability and their actions. The project manager must build the trust of all of the stakeholders involved in the project. Meeting deadlines is just one facet of this; a project manager must also be able to convey that he can be trusted day-to-day to do what is right at the right time to keep the project successful and the Sponsor satisfied.


Self-control and self-management are needed to ensure day to day stresses are addressed and a work / life balance maintained. Knowing the importance of looking after yourself and encouraging others to do the same, even in stressful project environments, is beneficial for both the individuals and the overall project success.


Working as part of a team is key to successful project management perhaps more so than in other professions. Building a team in organisations is a challenge. Co-location is not easy and does not always occurs. More frequently a project team is made up of borrowed resources from other functional areas within the organisation and usually also has vendors and suppliers. Creating a team atmosphere where the team believes that “we are all in this together” is a critical component to project success.

Further reading

If you are interested in the debate around the role of soft skills in Project Management, we wrote about this in our Article The Soft Skills Debate.

Are there any behavioural competencies from your experience and perspective that should be added to the list? Which are the most important to a project manager's development or do they all carry the same importance?