6 Essential Project Management Skills They Don’t Teach You at College

Aug 26, 2020 | Project Management

Most skills are practically impossible to learn without doing them yourself. You can’t learn to play the piano well just by reading how to play it. Likewise, you can dedicate all your life studying art, but you won’t become a great painter unless you sit down to paint and practice your art.

All these things apply to project management as well. Although many project management courses offer several hard skills, like how to account for risk or create a project plan, polishing your soft skills isn’t something they do.

Every aspiring project management professional needs to master these skills to advance their career. In this article, we discuss 6 essential project management skills they don't teach you at college.


Being a great delegator is necessary to become a successful project manager. Unfortunately, even the most competent people struggle delegating tasks effectively. You can always hand something off to your team easily, but proper delegation requires significant skill, intent, finesse and experience.

Effective delegators have the ability to accurately describe the outcome they want from their team. They are good at communicating their expectations and don’t even shy away from providing a possible path if it’s necessary. At the same time, they can hold team members accountable if their performance doesn’t match the desired results.

If you are weak at delegating, you will give someone a chance but will immediately take it back if the results are not exactly what you desired. Weak delegators complain abruptly about things someone wasn’t able to complete and announce how you have to complete things yourself if you want them done right.

If you want to succeed as a project manager, it’s important to become a delegator. Being weak at delegation seriously restricts chances for many managers because fail to rise above the level of their own personal productivity.


Conflict is a constant part of any working environment. No leader can get ahead in the workplace without having the skill to negotiate effectively. In projects, negotiation allows you to foster a workable agreement that helps you fit project constraints.

Every project manager has to perform a series of negotiations from beginning to end. You not only have to negotiate the budget, resources, and project scope, but also communication requirements, due dates, and as well as the parameters for success.

If project managers simply accept all conditions without assessing them or negotiating, they will fail to deliver the desired results and end making excuses in the end. There are several approaches become good at negotiation. You must assess the challenge closely, recognize your limitations, and agree with the demands that meet your capacity.

Choosing the Right Team

In college, you never learn how to pick qualified teams. Project managers must learn how to assemble the right people to get things done, even when the expectations seem unrealistic. Many project managers leverage RACI charts to outline work needs, define the position, and hire people who are most qualified for those positions.

Photographer: Sebastian Herrmann | Source: Unsplash

You can also create another effective way to hire intelligent and productive people for your team. For this you can find the most productive and smart people you can find and delegate tasks to them based on their strengths. This can help you develop a team with improved lateral thinking, are more versatile and excel at multiple disciplines.

Firing Someone

Managers who lead teams always face a situation where they have to let someone go. These decisions are hard to make, but terminating someone’s employment is the part of being a project manager and leader. Although it’s one of the most unpleasant things you do as a manager, you can never succeed without learning to do it smoothly.

If your team members are failing to do things they are supposed to, you won’t be doing them any favor by keeping them in your team. People with practice in this area suggest that it’s best to terminate people quickly, objectively and without being emotional.

Managing Up

It can be hard to handle people who work above you in the organization’s hierarchy. While some people excel at this naturally, most of us can struggle when we have a difficult boss. Project managers are leaders themselves but they also have to work under someone else in the company. Therefore, managing your boss effectively is an important skill to develop.

Learning how to manage up effectively depends a lot on how well you communicate. You can improve at this by keeping your boss informed about all activities you are driving and the progress you and your team has made. However, you should communicate everything in a way that your boss knows how he or she can assist you in working at your full potential.

Adapting to Change

Most times, businesses have created project plans made by smart people and implemented by everyone else. This ideology has been absorbed in project management as well where no one dares to question documents like the project plan. Most members try to follow it rather than suggest changes.

However, with the development of Agile, such approaches top project management have changed. Now project plans, more or less are taking a back seat and teams are becoming increasingly independent.

The Agile methodology dictates us to value responding to change over following plans. This is why priorities are changing for project managers, as well. Today’s market is extremely dynamic thanks to technology. Instead of following a rigid plan, project managers must learn to adapt to changing situations and respond according to the current scenario.

All those skills that make you successful while working individually can work against your when you work with other people. You have to combine both hard and soft skills to succeed as a project manager. Although it’s hard to master fundamental soft skills, you can have a great start by consulting an experienced project management instructor.

Project Vanguard provides high-quality project management online courses to help understand the building blocks of project management. It’s difficult to fill a project manager’s role, but with the right guidance and training, you can boost your management skills and apply project management techniques to expand your business’s growth.

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