11 Key Skills You Need as a First-Time Project Manager
August 15, 2019

11 Key Skills You Need as a First-Time Project Manager

By Brian McHale

So you’ve just been told you’ll have to manage a project and you’ve never done it.

Hoo boy!

First things first: take a deep breath. It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

We’ll explain how to acquire 11 key project management skills you need as a first-time project manager.

Grab a cup of coffee, it’s time for project management 101.

We promise you’ll be a pro by the time you’ve finished reading!


Crash Course for a First-Time Project Manager

Here’s the thing: you’ll pick up the lingo soon.

Soon enough, using terms like project charter will be as natural as ordering coffee.

What really matters is being equipped with the project manager skill set.


1. Communication

If you don’t pick up a single skill other than communication, you’d still be an above-average project manager.

Yes, even if this is your first time managing projects.


Because projects, tasks, and everything else depends on people.

You need to understand how to communicate with your team, top management and clients.


An example of a project communication plan

An example of a project communication plan
Source: Warren Lynch

Each type of stakeholder has a preferred mode of communication and the type of information they want to get.

Make sure that everyone gets and understands the information you’re sending them.

Pick up project management communication skills by reading the following articles:


2. A First-Time Project Manager Has to Be a Thorough Problem-Solver

As a project manager, you have to be a thorough problem solver.

When planning and executing a project, scan the horizon every once in a while.

Apply common sense to situations to ascertain whether something’s going to become a problem in the future.

A thorough problem solver

Meet with your team and offer your help.

Discuss issues and progress honestly and openly.

Consult them and your mentors for their opinion on problems, and insist on thorough responses.

Become a problem-solver by reading the following articles:


3. Time Management

As a first-time project manager, you can make sure your schedule and resources work by:

When you’ve planned out everything, run the scenario by a mentor or your team to see if it’s viable.

Once you get started on the project, keep an eye on the progress (you can use Project Central) and communicate about any new requirements or issues.

Manage your time like a pro project manager:


4. Task Management and Delegation

First lesson of project management: don’t micromanage.

You’ll just wear yourself and your team out.

They’re capable professionals who need guidance, not handholding.

You can guide them through task management, which is one of key project management skills.

Task management consists of:

  • Breaking down the project into tasks
  • Delegating and assigning tasks
  • Setting deadlines and priorities
  • Determining task dependencies
  • Monitoring progress
  • Giving and receiving feedback.

Make sure you’ve assigned responsibilities clearly and accurately.

For example, if a marketer has to finish the marketing plan in order for a sales rep to create a sales plan, make sure the marketer is staying on track.


5. Flexibility and Change Management

As a (first-time) project manager, you don’t have to be afraid of changes.

All you need to do is stay flexible.

First of all, you should create a project charter that clearly outlines your change management policy:

  • Will you accept changes thorough the project?
  • How will they be handled?
  • What are your project constraints?

Assess each proposed change clearly and define whether it will make you go over budget, and if you have the resources needed to implement it.

Improve your change management skills:

Free Project Plan Template in Excel

Click to download our Free Project Plan Template in Excel to begin simplifying your project management.

6. Risk Management

The main types of risks you may have to deal with are:

  • Budget and scope creeps
  • Poor performance
  • Lack of stakeholder engagement.

Fortunately, you can intercept them by creating documents like project scope statements, and creating communication plans before you get started.

Risk management

Keep your wits about you, though. Make sure you’re constantly scanning the horizon and identifying potential problems before they’ve occurred.

Risk management 101:


7. Leadership and Motivation

As a project manager, you’ll also be a leader.

This doesn’t mean you should get all authoritarian on your team.

However, you should make responsibilities clear, and insist on feedback and honest communication.

Lead by example.

Lead by example

Ask for your team’s opinion, and show them that getting the project done is a priority.

Additionally, help them complete their tasks; be that through the use of new tools or communicating with top management.

Improve your leadership skills:


8. Negotiating

As a project manager, you’re going to be working with diverse people in diverse roles.

You have to understand their personal goals before you start negotiating with them.

When it comes to negotiation, you should approach it calmly and by keeping the end benefits the other party wants in mind.

Should a problem persist, know who you can escalate it to.

Improve your negotiation skills:


9. Technological Proficiency Is One of the Key Project Management Skills

There’s no reason to do everything on your own.

Not when there are tools that can help you.

From Office 365 to integrations like Project Central, you can automate task management and focus on helping your team.

Improve your project management tech skills:


10. Tracking Progress

As a project manager, you have to keep your eyes on the prize.

You need to do everything that’s in your power to get your team to the finish line in time.

In order to do that, you have to monitor the status of your project and make sure you’re improving accordingly.

Fortunately, you can use project management tools to help you with that.

Learn how to track project progress:


11. Team Management

Finally, being a project manager also means being a psychologist.

You need to know how your team thinks, so you can make sure they stay on the same page when it comes to the success of your project.

Know how your team thinks

Team management will help you make sure your team members are performing to the best of their abilities.

And when you can rely on your people, you can bet your first project (and the ones that come after) will be a resounding success.

Learn how to manage your team and successfully complete your projects:

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