4 Soft Skills Your Project Management Team Needs to Succeed in 2021

If you have project management experience, then you know how important it is to have a smoothly functioning team that can work together to make tough decisions, guide clients and peers confidently and use executive planning skills to come up with impactful strategies. 

Three cheerful professionals working together on a laptop in a bright modern office setting.

Project management teams need to be able to work like a finely oiled machine, so it’s crucial that soft skills are honed to the expert level in each individual involved. This blog explores why soft skills are so important in the project management world and how you can ensure that your team is functioning at a competitive level with the most important soft skills to suit current industry demands this year. 

How Soft Skills Enhance Teamwork

As automation and the use of technology continue to contribute to the way businesses are run, soft skills become ever more important, especially when we work in teams. Just as technology is evolving, soft skills are evolving, as well. This evolution in valued skills matches the needs the customers and clients are asking the market to meet, so we’re able to continually, year by year, hone in on what exactly makes teams work well despite the rapid rate of growth and change we experience in today’s world. Here are some of the most important soft skills that enhance how people work with one another:

  • Active listening
  • Creative decision making
  • Critical thinking/reading
  • Coordinating with and leading others
  • Emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Flexibility and adaptability 
  • Negotiation
  • Conflict and change management

It’s important to note that high emotional intelligence and empathy are absolutely crucial to the success of a team. Emotional intelligence involves the ability to name and understand emotions both in oneself and others. Empathy is the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes but working to understand how they are feeling at any given time. 

An empathetic team will be good at listening to client and peer needs, making sure to really understand questions and directions before ever starting a project. This makes them good at handling tasks effectively and providing outstanding service. They will also notice if conflict comes up before it becomes a problem and will be able to effectively diffuse any tensions before carrying on in a project and creating a risk of making mistakes. 

Those who work with high emotional intelligence are disciplined, good at creating strategy that is effective, and use their previous practice across fields or disciplines to inform how they contribute to current/future projects. 

Soft Skills + Project Management

Soft skills for project management are specialized in that they need to be exceptionally effective to drive real results that will keep clients happy. Project management teams are groups of leaders who are working together to share responsibilities and drive tangible, impactful results for their organization and/or clients. Ideally, project managers will have a wide set of hard skills and soft skills to draw from, but it’s their soft skills that inform how they will work with the information they do have. 

Here are some of the most important soft skills that project management teams should have:

  • Dynamic leadership
  • Internal motivation
  • The ability to motivate others
  • Open and honest communication
  • Active and empathetic listening
  • Conflict management
  • The ability to build trust
  • Creative decision making
  • Organization and time management

Soft Skills to Bring to Your Organization’s Project Management Teams

When it comes to making sure that your organization’s project management team is functioning to the best of its ability with finely tuned soft skill sets to draw from, we know that it can be difficult to identify the best place to start. Our work developing training courses for the workplace has allowed us to confidently determine the four most impactful soft skills for project management. Start by dedicating your time and efforts to developing these skills, and then build out your skill sets from there.

1. Leadership

An effective leader is able to address the needs of a team quickly and effectively to make sure that everyone is functioning to the best of their abilities. Leaders also help to make sure that a team has the resources it needs to complete a task and do competitive work. Leaders help with guiding goal-setting initiatives, mentoring newer or less developed members of the team, and maintaining a growth mentality that encourages everyone involved in a project to acknowledge their own limitless potential and power to make change. 

Leaders use their people skills to communicate openly and honestly with the other people they work with, and they are also able to monitor their own needs and limitations to avoid burnout or compassion fatigue. A project management team that is full of individuals with top-notch leadership skills will be able to effectively collaborate and share responsibilities just as well as they can give instructions and provide support. This helps to build and enhance motivation as teams work hard on their projects. 

2. Strong work ethic 

Bringing integrity into one’s work is not something that everyone can say they’ve done, as many people view their jobs as simply a way to earn a paycheck. Project managers are unique because they must have an inner passion and/or drive to be able to be good in their roles. 

Project management teams are full of people who have strong work ethics, knowing how to take on the right tasks that play up their own unique skill sets and talents while entrusting other tasks to the rest of the team. This helps to keep team members feeling confident and self-assured, which makes them strong workers. 

Project management is full of strict deadlines and unique requests, so each member has to have their own internal drive to perform well and get all work done. If one member of the team comes up short with this soft skill, the whole team may suffer. 

3. Organization

Each person is unique in terms of how they would define organization. What makes a person organized is usually highly specific according to how they digest information, learn new things, make plans, etc. Project management teams have regular check-ins to make sure that everyone is keeping their tasks and details organized in a way that not only makes sense to them but can be understood by anyone in the team if the need arose. Project management teams are able to stay organized by agreeing on clear expectations and adhering to details. 

4. Relationship building 

It’s not always easy to build trust within a team, an organization or with clients. It can take time to build up a reputation that lends itself to easy trust. Project managers have to be able to work well with any type of person and to be able to demonstrate that they are reliable with sensitive information. By being a positive team player, a project manager can learn how to establish open and honest communication amongst team members, which will affect how team members interact with everyone else. 

Regular team-building activities can help maintain feelings of trust and appreciation amongst colleagues, which keeps teams healthy and productive. Just as teams should put time into enhancing their relationships with each other, they should also put that same level of energy into building relationships with clients and coworkers who are not involved in project management roles. Project managers are great at networking and positioning themselves as dependable and effective people. 

How to Improve Your Team’s Soft Skills

If you’re feeling like your project management team has room to grow in terms of soft skills, you’re not alone. Each of the soft skills listed above can be developed, nurtured and improved using a combination of leading by example and implementing ongoing corporate training. 

For more tangible skills essential for project managers, check out this blog post on Keys to Successful Project Management.

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Jabulile Makhubo

Great share


It was interesting and purposeful. Everyone should learn these skills and practice.

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