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Competencies & Interpersonal Skills

Location:  PMKI > People Skills & Advanced PM Techniques > Competencies & Interpersonal Skills. 

A competent person is capable of applying knowledge effectively to achieve a desired outcome. This section looks at competency and some of the key characteristics and skills a competent manager requires to be effective.

The PMKI Library

Topics included in Competencies & Interpersonal Skills:

- Useful external web-links

Other related subjects within the PMKI:

- Personal Ethics
- Leadership & Motivation
- PM Qualifications
- Develop and manage the project team.

Temporary Subject List - this page is being rebuilt:

  • The Project Manager:  Competency,  characteristics, and skills:
  • Characteristics -
  • PP: The Accidental Project Manager – The Getting of Wisdom. The phenomenon of accidental project managers is explored, and ways to help them and their novice colleagues to increase their chances of project success by describing the project management skills needed for success.    
  • PP: The future of the PM Hero. In the first decade of the 21st century, the accidental PM change to the PM ‘hero’. A highly skilled practitioner who could almost singlehandedly create project success, but in the second decade of the 21st century this will no longer be enough.  Good project management will become business as usual, and effective PMs will need to display ‘5th Level Leadership’.  
  • PP: What Does a Project Manager Need to Deliver Successful Projects (In large and complex organisations)? This paper focuses on those aspects of a Project Manager’s skills and knowledge that must be invoked for project success in large, complex organisations by defining Project Management as a mixture of art and craft and how this connects to concepts of management and leadership.     
  • PP: Tapping the Power Lines (how to connect to this organisational influence grid). Successful completion of project deliverables depends on project management of both ‘hard’ skills (time, cost, scope—1st Dimension) and ‘soft’ skills (relationship management—2nd Dimension) throughout the project lifecycle to achieve project objectives that fully address stakeholder expectations.
  • PP: Advising upwards: managing the perceptions and expectations of senior management stakeholders. Part of the PM’s role is to understand senior management support is vital for project success and  to do whatever is necessary to ensure that senior stakeholders understand and fulfil the requirements of this role. This is about creativity in relationship management: there is no template or checklist to follow; this is not the realm of the faint-hearted. 
  • PP: Advancing Project Management in Learning Organisations.  Effective project managers are required to have both “hard” technical skills to help control the iron triangle of time, cost and functional scope as well as relationship management skills to work effectively with people and get the best out of them. This paper argues that project managers also need a third skill: we refer to it as tapping into the power lines. This is a skill beyond the management of schedules, budgets and milestones, beyond leading project teams or managing suppliers and users, and even beyond what is commonly regarded as managing a project’s senior stakeholders. The hypothesis, based on data gathered from three case studies, is that there is a need for project managers to be skilled in managing at the third dimension in large organizations; to understand the need for, have the ability, and be willing, to “tap into the power grid” of influence that surrounds all projects, particularly in large organizations. Without third dimension skills, project managers and their organizations will find delivering successful project increasingly more difficult. The second part of this paper will discuss how project managers might achieve competence in managing the third dimension both through individual effort and with the support of the learning organization.
  • Blg: What is your personal brand? If you want a stakeholder to ‘buy into’ your ideas, believe your communication or take action on your recommendations they need to recognise you as a credible messenger. Whilst you can build credibility over time, you only ever get one chance to make a good first impression and your personal brand will be a major contributor to the impression created in the mind of the person you are interacting with.  
  • WP: Social and Emotional Intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a basic tool that is the key to professional success; EQ and SQ are defined.  
  • Blg: Practical Project Politics. PMI expects project managers to be politically smart and recognises that the appropriate and skillful use of politics and power help the project manger be successful - organisational politics are explained.   
  • WP: The innate effect of Bias. Deeply embedded biases affect every decision we make the challenge is to accept people as they are and then work rationally within our innate biases; this needs a rational approach to an irrational problem!         
  • Competency -
  • WP: Competency.  Effective (ie, competent) managers need to know what should be done, have the skills to do the work and be willing to actually do the work - this paper describes the many aspects of competency.
  • WP: The Functions of Management. Project management is a subset of general management, the five functions of management are discussed in the modern context.
  • WPUnderstanding Power and Authority. The effective use of authority is a key part of project management and an element of leadership. Within organisations, management authority is defined as the power or right to give directions, make decisions, and enforce obedience; but this is rarely an absolute power, influence and soft skills are also needed.      
  • DP: GAPPS (2007) A Framework for Performance Based Competency Standards for Global Level 1 and 2 Project Managers. Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards (GAPPS) is a volunteer organisation working to create consistency in global standards.    
  • DP: APM Competence Framework. Developed by the Association for Project Management (UK). Project manager competencies.
  • WP: Six Thinking Hats. A thinking tool for group discussion and to assist individual thinking.    
  • Mosaic's list of web links to Competency Frameworks
  • Skills -
  • WP: Problem Solving. The process of solving problems effectively by generating alternatives and finding better means is at the heart of effective project management. This paper outlines the different techniques that can be applied to solve problems.
  • Art: Problems, Conflicts and Decisions.  Conflict management, problem solving and decision making are interrelated and all are focused on achieving the best possible outcome. This paper describes this interrelationship.   
  • Art: Learning from your Mistakes. You cannot attempt something new without occasionally making mistakes and if lessons are learned, years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience.  
  • WP: Systems Thinking. Systems thinking is a problem-independent way of applying principles and methods related to the successful engineering of systems, to meet stakeholder requirements ina rigorous way to integrate people, purpose, process and performance .  
  • WP: Decision Making. Decision making is a central part of any management role, this paper looks at the different types of decision and the options for making a 'good decision'. 
  • Download the PMI Ethical Decision-Making Framework   
  • Art: Are you a decisive or a divisive decision maker??  All effective leaders must make decisions – good ones are decisive, not divisive.    
  • Art: Wiser Group Decision Making. If ‘two heads are better than one’ why do so many committees make bad decisions? this article suggests some practical solutions.  
  • Art: Data to Wisdom – Creating and Managing Knowledge. The processes and documents used to transform raw data into the knowledge needed for wise decisions from a project controls perspective.            
  • Blg: Fine Tune your detectors. Good information is essential for good decisions.  
  • Art: Eliminating the fear factor. W. Edwards Deming's 14 key principles for management #8 is: Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. 
  • Blg: Phronesis – A key attribute for project managers. Working out the right way to do the right thing in a post-truth world is a key skill for every project manager.        
  • WP: Personal Time Management. This White Paper takes a pragmatic look at some of the options that can help achieve the maximum output from your valuable working time.   
  • Art: Dealing with difficult people. Effective ways to manage a dysfunctional relationship with a difficult person.  
  • Art: Understanding ‘Expert Judgement’. Expert judgement is and important concept; this paper explains what it is and how to apply it.  
  • Art: Know when to lose. Pick your battles! The art of effective dispute management is to make sure any ‘wins’ are worth the cost and more importantly making sure any losses are manageable.  
  • WP: The Art of Delegation. You cannot do it all yourself! Effective delegation is the key to success.   
  • Art: Valuing Soft Skills. Research demonstrating the importance of soft skills and their contribution to productivity. 

  • Teams,  Team development and Trust
    • Blg: Developing your team. You are responsible for building the team you lead! One of the key stakeholder management roles fulfilled by effective team leaders and project managers is helping their team members grow and improve.   
    • WP: Complexity Theory & Teams. Complexity theory helps understand the social behaviours of teams and the networks of people involved in and around a project.  
    • WP: The Art of Delegation. Delegation is when you assign responsibility to another person to carry out a specific task, and is one of the most important management skills to master.    
    • Blg: HPWP Lessons from Manufacturing (High Performance Work Practices). Applying HPWP in a project team environment to create success.   
    • Art: Practical Stakeholder Engagement.  SCARF the basic elements of effective stakeholder engagement - achieving an effective engagement with your team, leading to a constructive dialogue that helps create project success does need planning, processes and time.  
    • Art: Fairs Fair - Process & Procedural Fairness. Process fairness is quite distinct from outcome fairness. When you have to deliver bad news to a person, the processes you use are at least as important as the decision you have made.   
    • WP: Conflict Management.  The ability to deal with conflict effectively is directly related to overall management success and is a key aspect of relationship management.
    • ArtWhy are they (you) fighting?.  Emotions kick in quicker and are far more powerful than rational thought. Fight or flight is one of the most basic of survival strategies andhas to be managed to reduce conflict .  
    • Art: Eliminating the fear factor.   Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. If people are people are fearful of being ‘blamed’, the last thing they will do is pass on accurate information about an issue or a problem.          
    • Art: Perspectives on time!.  People see time differently. For some, time flows from the future into the present and on to the past at a steady rate; our plans for tomorrow become the actions of today and then the memories of times past. Others see time as a river carrying them forward to an uncertain future. Understanding these perspectives helps deal with different attitudes to punctuality.   
    • WP: Six Thinking Hats. A thinking tool for group discussion and to assist individual thinking.    
    • WP: The Value of Trust. Trust is a key element in the effective management of project teams and contracts. High levels of trust speeds up decisions and lowers costs.    
    • PP: Trust: a tale of two constructions.  Building and maintaining trust through understanding stakeholder relationships. This paper contrasts two projects and the effect of different contractual arrangements on their respective supply chains, to show how an attitude of sharing risk and a focus on building and maintaining robust relationships can lead to more efficient project delivery.  
    • Blg: Credit, Trust and Emotions. There is no credit without trust because there is always asymmetrical information in every transaction. But how much trust someone is willing to invest is driven by emotions as much s by logic.

The role of a Project Manager
General HR topics including team building and personality types are covered in the Human Resource Management page, communication skills in the Communication page. See also leadership and other general management skills below.

A project manager is by definitin a manager. The functions of managment are discussed in WP1094 and the linked subjects of power and authority in WP1095. Effective managers are also effective leaders
 WP1014 discusses a range of leadership skills.
Effecive project managers are good at prioritisation and personal time management, See: WP1054
The managers who provide direction and support to the project manager are discussed in WP1055.
One of the important roles a PM can play, particularly in Agile projects is that of a servant leader, WP1014 Leadership discusses many aspects of leadership, including the 
servant leadership.
Complexity is increasing. The nature of complexity theory and how to manage within a complex environment is discussed in WP1058.
Project Management Skills
Project managers are managers and require a significant cross section of general management skills. Some key skills needed by all managers include:
 -  Communication; included in the communication page a key communication skill is negotiating, see: WP1024.

 -  Leadership: WP1014 discusses a range of leadership skills, WP1001 discusses the link between ethics and effective leadership. Trust is one of the most important traits of a leader, people will not follow someone they do not trust. The Value of Trust is discussed in WP1030.  Great leaders are great motivators, some important aspects of motivation are discussed in WP1048. Leaders are also busy; WP1054 discusses personal time management.
 -  Conflict Management: conflicting viewpoints are normal, managing these conflicts is a key PM skill discussed in WP1041.  The ability to facilitate effective meetings is a key skill discussed in WP1067.
 -  Problem Solving: techniques for effectively identifying and resolving problems are outlined in WP1013. Decisions are usually needed to solve a problem. 
WP1053 defines the different types of decision a project manager will face ranging from dilemmas to problems and what can be expected from a decision.  
 -  Systems Thinking: the systems thinking approach to problem solving is outlined in WP1044.
 -  Complex Decision Making: Many aspects of both general and project management involve making complex decisions - this CSIRO paper provides valuable insights into how people make complex decisions: download the paper WP1053 defines the different types of decision.
 -  Data gathering: is a key skill; see: WP1068

 -  Blog (Dec. 2008): Learning from your Mistakes

 -  PMI Project Manager Competency Development Framework 2nd Edition is available free of charge to PMI members as a non-printing PDF For instructions on downloading the PDF see:

Useful external web-links

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