6 essential soft skills for project managers

Why are qualitative soft skills as well as measurable hard skills crucial success factors for project managers? Find out how ZEP supports the basic skills of your project managers so that your projects are realised profitably.
6 essential soft skills for project managers

Project management involves the allocation of tasks and responsibilities, whereby specific skills are required for each interaction in the project. In addition to technical hard skills, interpersonal skills - i.e. soft skills for project managers - are also crucial. While the technical skills associated with a particular role are usually well recognised, the soft skills required often do not receive enough attention. In this blog post, we would like to take a closer look at the different hard and soft skills and find out how project time tracking software can help to support the most important competences of project managers.

Hard skills - measurable competences

Project management means managing work processes effectively and supporting your team in the successful and smoothest possible realisation of a project. Management processes take place at every level, be it among employees, in a team or as a manager The question of the competences relevant to project management is therefore not so easy to answer. This is because every management role requires specific skills, be it in the planning, implementation or completion of a project.

Hard skills include all measurable abilities that are documented by verifiable professional training or further education - for example, through certificates, diplomas or titles. These skills are based on relevant experience that results in a degree and the acquisition of specific specialist expertise. The hard skills required vary considerably depending on the industry and position. The following competences are important in project management:

  1. Mastery of project management methods and multi-project management
  2. Knowledge of agile project management methods, such as design thinking
  3. Strategies for learning from mistakes, such as lessons learnt
  4. Knowledge and application of legal framework conditions

As you can see, project managers need to have various hard skills in order to manage projects successfully. Fortunately, today they are also supported by project management software that can significantly improve management processes. Software such as ZEP contributes to the clarity and transparency of processes, promotes the coordination and communication of project processes and provides support, particularly in multi-project management, with a clear organisation of several parallel projects. However, as project managers are not machines either, hard skills are of little use if they are not supported by soft skills.

Soft skills - Qualitative competences

While software can compensate for or support many of the project management skills that may be lacking, soft skills are extremely difficult to substitute. This is because these skills are not technical competences that can improve project work or management in general through the use of a specific tool. Soft skills represent the competences of a project manager that cannot be quantified. At least not yet! The presence or absence of soft skills ultimately has just as great an influence on project success as the presence of measurable hard skills.

Soft skills are often referred to as key qualifications that can improve the interpersonal aspects of project management. The Psychologist Gerhard Blickle has defined soft skills in three overarching areas:

1. social competence

Social competence enables people to utilise cooperative and communicative skills in order to achieve goals in the area of social interaction. This includes the ability to empathise with employees, to act fairly, to show empathy, to be able to communicate and to be critical. Social skills are required in many roles and positions in the project, and a high level of social skills is expected from managers and management roles in particular.

2. personal competence

Personal competence refers to self-control and includes aspects such as controlling one's own motivations and emotions in professional behaviour. This competence arises from personal characteristics, values and individual needs. Personal attitudes influence self-image and self-confidence. Aligning self-competence with corporate values can help to create a positive external image and strengthen identification with the company.

3. methodological competence

Methodological competence refers to the ability to master new and complex professional tasks, particularly in project work. The fast pace of the project business requires flexibility and the willingness to familiarise oneself with new and complex project management methods and to respond to new challenges in the best possible way. Methodological competence is based on fundamental intelligence and expertise, which make it possible to apply skills and abilities flexibly and across situations.

6 essential soft skills for project managers

You are probably well informed about the hard skills you expect from your project managers. But what soft skills do you actually value? These "soft skills" in particular can be crucial to the success of your projects. You should therefore pay attention to the following six soft skills when employing project managers:

1. leadership competences

Leadership or management is a central task in project management. Leadership is not just the name of a role, but also a crucial soft skill. Different leadership styles require certain competences, both in team leadership and in company management. Project management requires a particularly high level of interpersonal skills, as different employees require different leadership styles. A good manager knows how to recognise this and deal with it skilfully so that all employees are satisfied and can work purposefully. An authentic identification of the project manager with the values of your company is also important in order to maintain or improve the image.

2. flexibility & adaptability

Clear objectives are important, but it is equally important to be flexible if objectives are not achieved as planned. Unforeseen events can occur and your project manager must be able to react calmly and effectively in such situations. You can think of this as a toolbox containing all the tools (i.e. skills) you need. A competent project manager knows exactly which tool to use for what in every situation in order to achieve the best possible result. This adaptability is part of methodological competence and is based on self-confidence and intelligence.

6 essential soft skills for project managers

3. teamwork

Although project managers are often at the top, the ability to work in a team is a prerequisite. Project managers in particular need to be team players in order to lead their projects to success efficiently. Of course, you can't do this alone. After all, project managers are the interface between the team and company management and must communicate the interests of both sides. And it is precisely for these reasons that project managers must master the ability to delegate. They need to know who in the team has which skills, distribute tasks accordingly and thus make the project a success. This requires a high level of social competence!

4. conflict management

In any good team - especially in stressful situations or with tight deadlines - there can of course be the odd conflict or different approaches. Your project managers should therefore understand and master the basic conflict management methods (analysis, moderation, intervention) in order to be able to react in a cooperative and communicative manner when making decisions in conflicts.

5. critical thinking

Your project managers need to make decisions on a logical basis and not just take things for granted. The ability to think critically is important in order to make fact-based decisions. This requires methodical competence based on expert knowledge and intelligence.

6. creative brainstorming

Does your project management tend to be sluggish and unsuccessful? Appoint project managers who think "outside the box". This is the only way to get your projects moving again. You should therefore make sure that your project managers have basic methodological skills. Because only if this basis is in place, only if the manager knows what he wants, where he stands and has confidence in his abilities, only then will he be open to finding creative ideas to solve problems. This includes a certain amount of professional experience, intelligence and flexibility that enables the Design thinking process (understanding, observing, defining perspectives, finding ideas, developing prototypes, testing).

Digital support with ZEP

Whether as a conflict management officer, team leader or in general management functions - every management role requires certain soft skills. These competences are not as easy to verify in the recruitment process as hard skills. Instead of checking certificates, your recruiters often rely on their gut feeling (or years of professional experience) when assessing soft skills. However, soft skills can be tested just as effectively as hard skills. This requires more elaborate procedures and possibly aptitude tests. A look at the soft skills that no project manager should be without makes it clear: the effort is worth it! Instead of just having technical expertise, soft skills bring that little bit extra and a degree of cleverness to your projects.

It's the combination that makes the difference, because soft and hard skills go hand in hand and revitalise each other to a certain extent. These competences can be supported with project management software such as ZEP. This is because software such as ZEP supports you in the planning, project controlling and transparent billing of your projects. This means that good project management always consists of three elements - soft skills, hard skills and accompanying software. Support your project managers. Try it out right now! You can use ZEP Test 30 days free of charge and without obligation!

Tanja Hartmann CEP

Tanja Hartmann

Content Marketing Manager at ZEP

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