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Top 5 Skills of a Great Project Manager

Daniel Linman
May 14, 2012

How to Be Good at Managing Projects

project manager's 5 skills Greater project managers are those people who are committed to developing their skills needed in managing their projects and activities. Although there is a long list of abilities and skills that constitute effective project management, I want to highlight the most essential ones that help me keep my projects effective. In this article, I list my top 5 skills that I try to improve every day to become a great project manager.


I’ve been working as a project manager for 3 years. In my project management practice I single out these top 5 skills that help me become a great project manager:

  • Planning
  • Change Management
  • Leadership
  • Risk Management
  • Communications



A great project manager always knows that exceptional planning makes projects complete, comprehensive and successful. This person doesn’t just plan out activities in detail but he or she has a big picture view of the project as well.

I share the same opinion. When I plan a new project, I break down it into several stages, then divide those stages into smaller items such as tasks and activities. In such a way I try to understand my project in detail.

When I have a task breakdown of my project, I outline a project plan with details on the tasks and activities. Then I write down the objectives of the project and try to realize a path that shows me how the tasks and activities are linked to the objectives. Some tasks that are linked to each other or belong to the same goal can be grouped into larger tasks or processes with certain inputs, outputs and resources.

Grouping helps me look at my project strategically to understand if the project objectives are fully covered by the tasks. Task breakdown allows me to outline a project plan that clearly defines what goals to achieve, what resources to use, and what tasks to do.

Here’re some tips regarding effective project planning:

  • Break down your project into smaller pieces (tasks and activities) to view the project at the lowest possible level
  • Understand the dependencies between the tasks
  • Group dependent tasks into larger tasks or processes
  • Determine the inputs, resources and outputs of the processes
  • Define the objectives of your project
  • Analyze the project breakdown to understand how the tasks and processes are linked to the objectives
  • Use this checklist in your project planning practice

Change Management

An ability to be adequately reactive to occurring changes is called change management. A great project manager is able to respond to changes in a way that makes the project up-to-date, relevant, and moving forward.

For me, project change management means being able to minimize resistance to project change through involvement of key stakeholders.

Effective change management begins when the project requirements are clearly defined so that the team knows in detail what deliverables to produce and under what requirements. Change requests released by the customer during the project should be reviewed and explained in order to make sure the team realizes the new corrections to be made to the project product. And when the deliverables are produced, the project manager needs to manage the handover process to ensure the customer gets what expected.

Follow these change management tips to be a great project manager:

  • Arrange the kick-off meeting at project start to explain your team the project objectives and requirements
  • Communicate with the stakeholders to keep your project relevant to their expectations
  • Keep explicit and detailed project records that make it easier to identify when a change request must be submitted
  • Control the implementation of approved change requests to make sure that the changes are responded adequately, without unnecessary use of resources


A great project manager is the true leader who assures that every team member does the right job at the right time. Team leadership allows transforming a group of people into a collaborative teem that acts as a single entity and shows great performance.

As a good project manager, I try to reach balanced team leadership, which consists of these three requirements:

  • Collaborative goals are clear, well-defined and unambiguous. I use the SMART technique to set right goals for my project team.
  • The team is interested in greater performance. This means that the team members are rewarded for better results and that they are enabled to use their own imagination and creativity in doing assigned work.
  • The project is like a challenge. A challenging working environment makes my team generate new ideas; it also leads to team improvement and development.

Risk Management

There’s no doubt that one of the most important skills a great project manager should develop is the ability to identify and mitigate project risks. A risk is a probable event that might prevent a project from being completed on time and within budget. Effective risk management helps mitigate risks and fight uncertainties.

The risk management process embraces a number of activities that aim to identify uncertainties, prevent risk occurrence, and mitigate or ideally eliminate negative impact. I separate the process into two stages such as Risk Assessment and Risk Treatment. Please read this Guide to learn more about how to identify and assess project risks.


A great project manager communicates up, down, and sideways within the project to make sure everybody knows what and how to do. Communications help run projects smoothly and without sudden dangers and emergencies.

The communications skill is not just being able to talk right things to right people at right time. It also involves the ability to listen and make right decisions. A situation analysis helps understand current behaviors and problems and then start planning for two-side communications. Please read this template to learn more.


Along with the listed top 5 skills of a great project manager, there are other skills and abilities that allow project managers to be more effective. For example, problem solving, conflict resolution, confidence building, negotiations, and many others.

In my PM practice, I try to develop all the skills; however, top 5 skills remain the most important and critical in my project manager career…
Thank you for your time. Please feel free to comment my article. Thanks again.

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