6 soft skills that lead to project management success

When we talk about improving the success of a project, we tend to think of how technology can achieve this, or the technical skills project managers need to boost a project's chance of success. In our article best-practice tips for managing people and their skills we cover some of these topics.  But what is often overlooked as vital for project success is soft skills. 

The management of a project relies on the key soft skill of communication.  A project manager needs to communicate with, and engage, a wide range of people both internally and externally.  The way we communicate is key when handling problems or barriers to success. With the right soft skills it’s possible to remove any bureaucracy and get the job done.

Here we look at six soft skills that lead to project management success.


1. Tying your project to business success

An important skill project managers need is the ability to tie a project to the Business’s success. Projects are all too often overlooked by executives or stakeholders who do not always recognise the value they bring. As a project manager, it is your job to use a business mindset, and communicate using language that executives or other stakeholders understand. That means showing the value of a project against key business metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPI's). Tieing a project back to a Business's KPI's communicates the value of the project in language the Business executives understand.


2. Emotional intelligence

According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize emotional intelligence, there are five key elements to it:
  • Self-awareness.
  • Self-regulation.
  • Motivation.
  • Empathy.
  • Social skills.

Emotional intelligence in this context describes a project manager’s self- and social awareness and their ability to form relationships with others involved in a project. By regulating emotions in the right way, at the right time means you can can handle situations calmly and objectively and:

  • Read the emotions of team members and empathise better;
  • Find common ground with resources and stakeholders to build trust;
  • Be aware of personal and team stress and how it impacts productivity;
  • Be open and able to adapt to internal and external changes.
  • Motivate your team and instill positivity and trust

Integrity is a sought after leadership quality that promotes a project managers personal position within a project team and in the eyes of clients, management and customers. Project managers are the project spokesperson and not only represent themselves, but also the whole project team. By acting with integrity, they can inspire trust and respect from stakeholders and help to motivate project resources.  Some ways to develop integrity are: 

  • Be accountable and deliver on commitments made;
  • Make tough decisions directly and honestly;
  • Establish a transparent communication process;
  • Take ownership and responsibility without shifting blame;
  • Make decisions fairly and without favouritism or prejudice

4. Recognise and build talent

Recognising the contribution others are making to the project and taking the time to celebrate and develop that talent is crucial to building a motivated team that performs at its best. Employee recognition activities are simple to put in place, and make all the difference to the success of your projects.

Great resources are hard to find, yet there is a risk that organisations let star project performers slip through their fingers by failing to recognise and reward their talent.  It costs a Business more to employ, train and develop a new staff member than it does to retain existing staff.  According to HR Review it costs over £30,000 to replace a staff member.  Therefore, it makes good Business sense to keep your existing team motivated and performing at its best.

5. Active Listening

The ability to listen is a powerful skill in project management, and one that is both undervalued and difficult to come by.  When you are busy it is easy to forget to re-connect with team members or colleagues to discuss any issues or queries. Taking the time to listen to colleagues can help build trust and accountability.  It can also help detect any un-anticipated risks and potential solutions to the problems. When performing active listening try to

  • Be patient and not interrupt others before they have finished;
  • Think about what is being said before responding;
  • Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions;
  • Ask the right questions to enrich the discussion;
  • Be aware of what is not being communicated and why.

6. Stay Curious

As organisational change moves at a pace quicker than ever before, project managers simply cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the changes going on around them. Therefore, it is important to stay curious, stay aware, ask questions, learn about the emerging trends in their role or any new skills or qualifications that can enhance their project management capabilities.

6 soft skills vital to project management success

  1. Tie your project to the Business's success
  2. Emotional intelligence
  3. Integrity
  4. Recognise and build talent
  5. Active listening
  6. Staying curious


Soft skills are often undervalued in the workplace because they are not easy to quantify. How do you put a value on listening, for example? (something for another article, maybe). Successful projects rely on good communication, so make sure that soft skills are one of the tools in your toolbox.

If you would like more information about managing projects successfully, please visit our other articles or drop us a line with your feedback. 


You may also like

[Infographic] Capturing the Value of Project Management
[Infographic] Capturing the Value of Project Management
23 January, 2017

A PMI Report 2015 revealing the key aspects that give high-performing organisations competitive advantage over low-perfo...

Why becoming a digital business is worth the change
Why becoming a digital business is worth the change
7 February, 2017

Digital Transformation might sound like an overused buzzword, but embracing digital tools in the right way can help your...