10 Must-Have Skills to Be a Successful Construction Project Manager

One of the keys to a successful construction project is having a reliable project manager. From monitoring the day-to-day activities of colleagues on a construction site to ensuring the project is finished on time and within budget, a construction manager has huge responsibilities critical to a project’s outcome. Beyond managing a project itself, a project manager also needs to report its progression regularly to the client and other stakeholders.

Not everyone has the skills to fill a construction project manager role. For this reason, it is important that business owners are careful in choosing and hiring the right person to manage projects.

Here are 10 skills and traits of a successful construction project manager.

1. Industry Knowledge

The construction sector is dynamic, with new materials and construction techniques being researched and developed each day. All top construction project managers have a firm foundation of the basics of managing a construction project while also being aware of the innovative strategies and methodologies that they can leverage to reach their goals. In short, a construction project manager is a lover of learning and will strive to obtain updated industry knowledge however they can.

2. Flexible Planning

Over the course of a construction project, things don’t always go as planned. Small changes can easily snowball into large ones. As such, it is important that managers have the flexibility to adapt to changes and plan adequately to prepare for them. They need to have a firm grasp of the project and the foresight for developments that may affect the timeline and overall plan. A good construction project manager knows that planning never ends in the pre-construction phase and they should continue revising and developing plans until the project ends. That’s why most construction PMs rely on Gantt charts to keep track of all the moving parts of the project.

3. Communication

Any given construction project has several stakeholders, including the client, outsourced suppliers, subcontractors, and others. Being on the same page is of utmost importance. Ensuring that a project is smooth sailing relies on the collaboration of all parties. From the back office functions responsible for securing the appropriate paperwork such as contracts, notices to preserve the right to file mechanics liens if necessary, and change orders, to the day-to-day field operations personnel on the job site, it is the construction project manager’s responsibility to talk to these people, update them about the status of the project, and ensure tasks are dispatched and executed. Since many construction mishaps result from miscommunication, a construction project manager needs to have outstanding communication skills and express themselves clearly in order to avoid problems.

4. Organization

Construction projects can and will overlap at a given time, and soon, any construction project manager will find themselves jumping from one project to another. A good construction project manager maintains a high level of organization to be able to keep up and stay on top of things. They have the knack for determining which things matter most and which ones can be pushed back, keeping the project time-efficient and within schedule.

5. Risk Management

Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong and the same holds true for construction projects. A construction project manager understands that there will always be a risk that some things will change from the initial plan. The project manager, along with their team, should be able to determine potential risks and devise a plan to address them even before a project begins.

6. Negotiation

Talking with stakeholders involves a lot of negotiation, especially on the allocation of budget and other resources, scheduling employees, change orders, and scope creep. Knowing how to negotiate well is one of the crucial skills that a construction project manager needs to possess. They need to be able to say no to unfeasible client expectations, disagree with suggestions that they think will negatively impact the project, and compromise if needed.

7. Financial Management

A construction project cannot start without a proper budget plan. Managing the finances of a project is one of the biggest responsibilities of a construction project manager as any small change can result in the project going over budget. They need to be able to track project spending and make forecasts, and even explore other opportunities for financing.

8. Micromanagement Avoidance

In an industry where projects are large and complex, micromanagement is a waste of time. The best construction project managers trust that their colleagues and team members have the skills to complete their tasks. By delegating tasks and clearly explaining the job to be done, they avoid getting caught in the project’s minutia and instead focus on the job’s results.

9. Technological Affinity

While the construction industry is still one of the least digitized sectors, it is slowly but surely catching up with the latest technological trends. For this reason, construction project managers need to have an affinity for the latest innovations that can help improve efficiency, collaboration, and success rates.

10. Openness to Feedback

A good project manager may have solid industry knowledge but that doesn’t mean they no longer need feedback. There are things that experienced field workers notice which even the best construction project managers may not. For this reason, a project manager should be open to feedback not just from clients and bosses but also from colleagues and team members.

Being a construction project manager requires many skills and traits as the role entails important responsibilities. As construction projects continue to get bigger and more complex, it is up to business owners to look for good candidates for the role and train them to master these skills.


About the Author: Patrick Hogan is the CEO of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.

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