Why You Do Need “Soft” Skills in Project Management

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

Project Managers are more and more concentrating on obtaining recognised qualifications in project management such as the APM PMQ, PMP or PRINCE2 accreditations in order to open up more career opportunities and progress in this increasingly professional career choice, but does this trend mean that project managers are neglecting the interpersonal side of their role and failing to develop their “soft” skills?


That is not to say that the formal project management approaches do not recognise the importance of interpersonal or “soft” skills – indeed the latest edition of the Project Management Institute’s PMBOK (5th Edition) does cover it (albeit in an appendix) but do project managers take it seriously and why is it important to them anyway?

Well perhaps the most important aspect of developing good interpersonal skills is that it helps to build trusted, motivated teams. The best project teams rarely develop by accident – you almost always find that one or more members of the team, and especially the project manager, are working, consciously or unconsciously, to create a good working environment; one with a “can-do” attitude and without a blame culture. These motivated teams will be far more resilient to problems during a project and far more likely to deliver a successful end product.

A motivated team that works well together will also be communicating well – not just talking or reporting or turning up for meetings but actually communicating in order to achieve something that will benefit the overall project. So if your team is motivated, get on well with each other and communicate effectively then this will create a confidence in the team that will help them to make good decisions (even tough ones) when necessary, and to be able to convince others of the necessity of those tough decisions. That confidence behind him/her will also help the project manager to negotiate for extra time, money or resources if required because the PM will trust the members of the project team.

And when conflicts or major problems arise it will be much easier to deal with them because the team has a good working relationship. That is not to say that everyone in the team will be bosom buddies but each member should, at least, be able to respect the other team members and value their contribution to the project.

Many project management courses recognise the importance and value of people skills and strive to teach not only the technical strategies required to be a successful project manager but also the “soft” skills.

So, what do you think? Are soft skills a necessary part of the project manager’s arsenal and, if you haven’t got them naturally, can they be learnt? Why not share your thoughts?

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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