Categories: Better IT Teams

The 9 Interpersonal Secret Skills to become a Ninja Project Manager

One of the most important skills and competencies a project manager can have is interpersonal skills. Also, referred to as soft skills which are used to communicate and interact with other project stakeholders. There are no specific interpersonal skills used just for Agile projects they are skills that can be used in any project or day to day circumstance.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. There are 4 quadrants are illustrated in the aligning diagram. For one to improve they first need to become self-aware and then self-manage before they can start helping others.

>> You can test emotional intelligence at this free online test here.


To be an effective proactive communicator is the single most important skillset for a project manager.

Both written via emails, letters, notifications to verbal via face to face, over the phone, video conferencing. A strong proactive communicator is a strong project manager. The secret to a proactive communicator is to understand expectations by creating a stakeholder engagement matrix.

For every project, you should create a stakeholder engagement matrix so so you can ensure you can be as proactive in your communication as possible. Below is a Stakeholder Engagement Matrix template you can use as a guideline:


Negotiating is all about achieving a win-win situation where both parties. Negotiations may happen within groups or individuals inside or outside an organisation. Scrumology article on Agile Contracts

Decision Making

Every project manager will need to make a number of decisions on a daily basis. From questions on the schedule, sequence, the budget they will be expected to provide guidance to the project team.

Project Management Skills Matrix


Collaboration is a joint effort of multiple individuals or workgroups to accomplish a task or project. Within an organisation, collaboration typically involves the ability of two or more people to view and contribute to documents or other content over a network.

A Free PDF from AgileAlliance on Breaking Down Silos

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is a time-tested concept that is both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. The phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. Firstly the word “leadership” is the science of leading a team and “servant leadership” is the philosophy and practice of helping a team thrive and hit its goals. Greenleaf discusses the “need for a better approach to leadership, one that puts serving others — including employees, customers, and community — as the number one priority. Servant leadership emphasises increased service to others, a holistic approach to work, promoting a sense of community, and the sharing of power in decision making”.

Key characteristics of a servant leader would include awareness, listening, persuasion, empathy and coaching. In Scrum, a Scrum Master is a servant-leader. Typical Scrum Master tasks would include:

  • Protector of the team,
  • Ensure they are all well informed and trained in Scrum,
  • Facilitates meetings and Scrum ceremonies,
  • Makes sure team doesn’t over commit,
  • Helps team reach goals

These tasks all require the same skills an efficient servant leader needs to be successful in helping a team reach its goals so we can confidently define a Scrum Master as a servant leader. More Info on Servant Leadership by the Scrum Alliance

Adaptive Leadership

Agile adaptive leadership is key for an organisation to effectively be Agile. These three things are a responsive strategy, being and doing Agile. Yes, it is one thing “doing” Agile in an organisation but it is another “being” an Agile organisation.


A project manager should be able to respond to the team’s needs and wants. This should not be mistaken in the PMP study guide for responsiveness in agile leadership of an organization.

Agile Project Responsiveness

A business should create an Agile business strategy which focuses on being responsive over efficient. This strategy should be focused on creating an IT Agility roadmap which is centred around the continuous delivery of software. An Agile organisation shouldn’t limit their process to Continuous Development or Integration but instead Continuous Delivery.

#2 Doing Agile

Doing Agile requires a top-down understanding where senior management lead the way when it comes to Agility, from business strategy to specific principles and practices. An organisation shouldn’t just be Agile in one aspect of their business but all including the likes of portfolio management and operations. Agile leaders use the following execution levels to help them achieve business goals:

  • Quality: Managing technical debt.
  • Doing Less: Prioritise features that bring the most value to a customer.
  • Engage/Inspire: Encourage and promote self-organizing teams.

#3 Being Agile

Being Agile requires managers to utilise Agile values and principles such as continuous delivery to create a highly responsive Agile organisation. Core principles companies should adopt to be Agile would be:

  1. Release Quickly: Releasing quickly gives a competitive advantage over companies who are trying to achieve perfection.
  2. Incremental Delivery: Incremental delivery gives the opportunity of gathering feedback and adapting to change.
  3. Deliver Value: The product does not need to be perfect but does need to deliver real value to the user.
  4. Coach the Agile Mindset: Coach employees in Agile so they can start thinking with Agile in mind.

More Information on Jim Highsmith you can check out one of his talks

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Shane Drumm

Shane is an Agile Project Manager who specialises in digital web projects. He has worked with numerous distributed teams in Asia, Europe, US and Australia. In his spare time, enjoy travelling, cycling, digital start-up ventures and hustling to help other business owners with their digital presence. Find out more about Shane on and please reach out and connect with Shane on LinkedIn.


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