Guest post by Wes Trochlil, President, Effective Database Management

What’s the single most important skill for a project manager? You might be surprised!

In 18 years of consulting, with ten years of association experience prior to that, I’ve had the opportunity to work on hundreds of projects, both large and small. And what I’ve learned over that time is that the single most important skill a project manager can bring to a project is not subject matter expertise (e.g., knowing everything there is to know about content management systems), but communication skills.

That’s right. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively, with a very diverse audience, is the single most important skill a project manager can bring to a project. (In fact, communication skills are so important that the PMI Project Management Body of Knowldege [PMBOK] dedicates an entire chapter to “Interpersonal Skills.” PMI is the organization that certifies project managers).

So what does effective communication for a project manager look like? Here are three aspects to consider. A good project manager:

Communicates the 5 Ws and an H. We all learned about the 5 Ws and an H when we started writing stories back in grade school: Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How. A good project manager communicates who is responsible for each element of the project, what they are responsible for, and how that element of the project will be completed.

Communicates the value of the project. Equally importantly, a good project manager communicates why each element of the project is important. Staff is much more likely to take care of their share of the project if they understand why their share is important, and ideally, how doing that part of the project specifically benefits that individual.

Serves as a cheerleader. This may seem like an odd requirement, but it’s a key piece of the communication puzzle. A project of any significant duration will by its nature have peaks and valleys. At some points the project will be going gang-busters, while at other points it may seem that the project is going sideways and will never end. One way a good project manager keeps the project moving is by serving as a cheerleader, reinforcing the value of the project, and reiterating to the project participants the successes that have already been achieved.

So when your organization’s next project rolls around, before you immediately head for the subject matter expert to manage the project, think about who has these most important skills. They may just be the project manager you’ve been seeking.

Want to hear more from the uber smart Wes Trochlil? Join us for a free webinar on Thursday, April 20. You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. Ask us Anything!


About Wes: Wes is the president of Effective Database Management, is the most published author on data management in the association market. For over 25 years, Wes has worked in and with over a hundred associations, non-profits, and membership organizations throughout the US, Canada, and Australia, from helping organizations select and implement data management systems, to using the database and data for improved marketing and communications, and advancing the organization’s mission.