Team-Building Skills Every Project Manager Needs

The Project Management Institute’s Pulse of The Profession Survey for 2020 shows that an average 11% of project investment is wasted due to poor project performance. It also reports that organizations that undervalue project management as a strategic competency for driving change experience an average of 67% project failure outright.

PMI reports that for the first time, executive leaders identified which factors they see as the most important to achieve success in the future. The top three are: organizational agility (35%), choosing the right technologies to invest in (32%) and securing relevant skills (31%). A willingness to adapt is also crucial: 53% of organizations prioritized building a company culture receptive to change, and 65% prioritized leadership skills.

Team-building skills are essential to leadership from CEOs down to project managers, because they promote organizational agility and investing in the right technologies and skilled employees. Professionals with these skills also promote creativity and risk-taking, build trust and foster a desire among teammates to work together toward common goals with confidence.

So which team-building skills matter most for project managers? The following are team-building abilities every project manager needs. These aptitudes can come naturally to someone, but all require training and education to fully develop, and the Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Project Management online program from the University of Southern Indiana (USI) is designed to do just that.

Strong Recruiting and Appointing

According to TaskManager, 50% of good team management comes from building a good team. In order to flourish, employees need to feel that the role they have been recruited for or promoted to is an ideal match with their skill sets and aptitudes. In a team environment, each employee also needs to be confident that other employees have been similarly cast in their ideal roles so that the team can meet performance expectations.

Dr. Meredith Belbin, who studied teamwork for years, notes that people in teams tend to assume complementary roles in addition to their work-specific roles. Those such as coordinator, monitor, evaluator, shaper, implementer, completer and finisher enable teammates to contribute and interrelate in ways that underlie team success in the Belbin’s Team Roles Model.


Empathy, the willingness and ability to put oneself in another’s shoes to understand that person’s circumstances and feelings, has risen in value as a leadership and team-building skill over the years. The Businessolver 2020 State of Workplace Empathy report says that empathy in leaders consistently drives business impact, adding that “employees view motivation, productivity and lower turnover as key benefits of empathetic workplaces, while CEOs focus on empathy as a driver of financial performance.”

According to the study, more than 90% of employees, HR professionals and CEOs said empathy has been important every year since 2017. Furthermore, 83% of employees would consider leaving their current organization for a similar role at a more empathetic organization and 79% would choose an empathetic employer even if it meant changing their position, industry or career path.

Raising empathy levels in the leadership hierarchy requires developing wide-ranging solutions to employee issues. First, however, leaders should take a few steps to demonstrate empathy, including opening lines of communication, empowering change agents, emphasizing employees’ well-being and embracing new generational perspectives.

Communication and Collaboration

Atlassian defines project collaboration as “the energy that binds a team together so that it rises toward a goal and navigates the ups and downs (and sideways) as one.” The components of successful collaboration are effective communication, consistent processes and the right tools.

Good project managers must not only be able to share their ideas, issues and visions of project success and empower others to do the same. They must also be adept at using technological tools, including collaboration software like Asana, messaging software like Slack and video conferencing software like Microsoft Teams. These are especially important in remote work environments, which are becoming increasingly common. Collaboration tools facilitate workflows and provide transparency into task details and deadlines. Collaboration tools also provide updates on the status of projects as they move along to completion. To use these digital tools effectively, users must have excellent oral, non-verbal and written communication skills.

Active listening is another component of fostering strong communication and collaboration in a team setting. The project manager should set an example of mastery of this skill, which includes focusing on the speaker, drilling down on details, asking the right questions, fact-checking and summarizing the conversation.


Workloads and resources in a corporate environment are dynamic, with peaks and valleys. Managing simultaneous and complex projects requires flexible planning with built-in contingencies. Flexible project managers can lead their teams to adapt to different circumstances through a combination of experience, specific training and tools that support adaptability and make changes on the fly.

Well-trained team-builders are the backbone of every successful project and organization. If you envision yourself as a team-building project manager, invest in an MBA program specifically designed to develop the team-building skills that employers demand.

Learn more about the University of Southern Indiana’s online MBA with a concentration in Project Management program.

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