Expertise and Soft Skills: The Many Talents of Project Managers


They work behind the scenes, but still play an integral role at modern companies: We’re talking, of course, about project managers! They create cost estimates, coordinate order processing, handle quality assurance, and support customers all the way from their initial requests to final deliveries. All this makes it a job that’s different every day and requires a special combination of expertise and soft skills.  

In this article, you’ll find out what makes a good project manager, what qualifications and soft skills they need, and what particular abilities are required in the field of translation.

What are soft skills? 

In modern work environments, area-specific expertise is no longer enough to guarantee a project’s success. These days, social, methodological, communicative, and interpersonal competencies – also known as “soft skills“ – are necessary along with business qualifications and technical knowledge. 

In contrast to “hard” skills (which describe the qualifications typical of a given profession), soft skills relate directly to an employee’s personality. For example, many project managers are now expected to be able to: 

  • Work as part of a team 

  • Work independently 

  • Stay organized 

  • Assert themselves 

  • Handle an increased workload

General competencies project managers need to have 

While the success or failure of a project depends on the abilities of all those involved, the project management skills of the person in charge are particularly crucial. Guiding projects toward the desired results is a big responsibility that not everyone is up to shouldering. That’s why the list of requirements project managers have to meet is long indeed – and soft skills are among the most important, no matter what the industry. 

Successful project leads across a variety of sectors are known to share the following eight key competencies:  

  1. Leadership
    Project managers need to be able to motivate their teams and get them committed to achieving common goals. 

  2. Problem solving 
    Whether it’s interpersonal conflicts or obstacles in a particular endeavor, good project leads know how to deal with critical situations and find appropriate solutions. 

  3. Communication 
    Plenty of studies have shown that communication is one of the most important determinants of a project’s success. Clear instructions and prompt feedback are considered especially crucial in this regard. 

  4. Cultural awareness 
    Insights into the cultural backgrounds of team members and other partners helps avoid misunderstandings and resolve conflicts. 

  5. Optimism 
    Good project managers see challenges as opportunities. This type of optimistic attitude aids them in getting a handle on stressful situations and meeting the expectations of their customers and teams even when under pressure. 

  6. Credibility 
    Professional experience and expertise are key factors in a project manager’s ability to gain the trust of his or her team. 

  7. Digital savvy 
    Successful project leads are always on the cutting edge when it comes to modern project-management methods. They also use digital resources to optimize their workflows. 

  8. Openness to different systems and platforms 
    Project managers typically deal with complex system landscapes and have to be able to adapt to new programs and processes on a regular basis.

The field of translation requires special project-management skills 

Project managers play a critical part in the translation industry, as well. No agency could function without them: They serve as liaisons between customers and translators and are involved in virtually every step of the translation process. In many cases, a project manager is the customer’s first point of contact and the last person to check the quality of a translation before it’s delivered. 

Making sure that a translation project goes smoothly generally requires a broad range of experience and expertise. Meanwhile, customers aren’t the only ones whom project managers need to keep happy; the same applies to the translators who provide their services to the agency in question. This is often a balancing act that takes tact and a knack for negotiation. 

Project management skills that customers expect from an agency’s employees 

Companies tend to place significant demands on translation agencies they are trusting to ensure their international success. Customers like these expect clear explanations, timely deliveries, and pertinent information as soon as it becomes available. Project managers frequently have to open customers’ eyes to the finer points of the industry, as well. This might relate to the advantages of a professional translation or the differences between language services like transcreation and localization, for example.  

At the same time, customers simply rely on project managers to find the right translator for the job at hand. Not every translator can produce a particular translation; along with knowledge of the target language, the person needs to specialize in the subject in question, whether it’s medical or marketing material. 

And when problems arise, who’s expected to jump in? You guessed it – the people who intermediate between translators and customers. Unfortunately, different time zones often make it difficult to discuss solutions in a straightforward manner. That’s when project managers sometimes have to make decisions on their own to keep projects on track and ensure the customer’s satisfaction. 

Skills that translators expect project managers to have 

Translators have their own list of characteristics they associate with good project managers, and soft skills are once again close to the top. The following competencies are particularly appreciated: 

  • Realistic expectations: Good project managers respect limits and understand when translators turn down jobs because they don’t have time or the necessary qualifications. 

  • Feedback: Translators appreciate project managers who pass on not just criticism, but compliments, as well.  

  • Respect for one’s time: Not all the details of projects are relevant to translators. Effective project managers filter such information down to what’s essential before forwarding it. 

  • Empathy: Translators are obviously people, not machines, and they think highly of project managers who show an interest in them and respect them as colleagues. 

  • Selling skills: The value of quality language services isn’t always readily apparent. Good project managers thus also have the ability to convince customers of the advantages of a professional translation, which helps in negotiating fair compensation for translators. 

Given the many expectations project managers face, it’s basically impossible for one person to meet them all. It’s more the right combination of project management skills that enables project managers to really gel with their customers and team members. When everyone involved knows what everyone else expects of them, it makes people more willing to accommodate one another – and that’s a key factor in any successful partnership. 

Do you consider synergy an important part of your projects? At Lexsys, the teamwork that takes place among our project managers, translators, and customers is vital to what we do. Our experienced project managers will be right there with you every step of the way, from an initial cost estimate to the final delivery of your translated material (and beyond, if necessary).  

Get in touch with us if you want to put your international projects in dependable hands. You can count on our project managers at Lexsys to offer advice and support as we fine-tune your contracts, online content, technical documentation, and other materials to your target markets. 

















































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Simon Fry


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