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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers

18th October 2018

successful project management

If you’re a fan of business literature, then you’re sure to have read Stephen R. Covey’s book titled ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ – but if you haven’t read it yet, then we highly recommend that you do. 


Stephen Covey studied 200 years worth of literature on ‘success’ to come up with seven common characteristics that could be described as the habits of successful people. The habits are cleverly thought out to move the reader through the following stages:


  • Dependence: the paradigm under which we are born, relying upon others to take care of us. 
  • Independence: the paradigm under which we can make our own decisions and take care of ourselves.
  • Interdependence: the paradigm under which we cooperate to achieve something that cannot be achieved independently.


All of these stages are applicable to project managers, but we’ve focussed mostly on the third and converted Covey’s habits to make them relevant to the world of project management. 


1. Evaluate then Act 


As Covey points out – what makes us humans different from animals is our ability to choose how to react to a situation. Highly effective project managers will analyse a situation and evaluate the pros and cons of going down various routes to solve the same problem. Which is quickest? Most efficient with man power? Most cost-effective? Then, the project manager will take action and set the wheels of the chosen plan in motion. 



2. Be a Starter-Finisher 


Covey’s second habit is ‘begin with the end in mind’. This is a great habit, but the key difference is that Covey meant this to be the creation of a personal mission statement. And, as any project manager will know, the whole point of being a project manager is to guide a project through to completion – and so as this habit seems to be a given, we thought we would replace it with ‘be a starter-finisher’, and here’s why: 


Within any project we have to manage there can be dozens (if not hundreds) of mini projects and tasks. Compound this with the fact that one project with its 100s of tasks is one of multiple projects we might be managing at any one time – amounting to thousands of tasks. 


In order to fulfil each project as a whole, all of these tasks need to be started and finished. Spinning so many plates at once requires us to be focussed and 100% committed to completing each and every task – as missing just one email that needs to be actioned can cause the whole project to grind to a halt. 


3. Prioritise and Organise Everything Meticulously


A good project manager will become almost obsessive about prioritisation and organisation. It’s a level of organisation that some people wouldn’t be able to comprehend – but it’s the only way to make things work. 

Using tools, methodologies and software can help you to become a more organised project manager and save you 8 hours each week to spend honing your other habits. 


If you need help to organise your projects, find out more about our software Timeline Expert that seamlessly integrates between MS Project and PowerPoint to create and update project timelines at a click of a button. Start your 30-day FREE trial today.   

4. Resonate and Communicate


This habit really is two-fold – because in our experience, you can be an extremely effective communicator, but if people aren’t motivated to work with you, then they won’t. This is why the ability to resonate with your co-workers, bosses and customers is just as important as your ability to communicate with them.


5.  Balance empathy with outcomes


As a project manager, it’s easy to always focus on completing tasks, goals, milestones and projects – but at what cost? Empathy is one of the most important traits a good project manager will have. You will need to empathise with your colleagues and genuinely care about their feelings and their workloads, as well as your boss’s pressures and the needs of your customer. Empathy must not be put to one side in favour of outcomes.


6. Take Calculated Risks


Of course it’s more natural to be risk-averse when managing a project, but successful project managers will be willing to move out of their comfort zones to take calculated risks when necessary.


7. Lead with Modesty and Accountability


‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ As a leader, you need to bring together groups of people for a greater good – but you need to do so with modesty and accountability – this habit will earn you the respect you need from all parties to bring a project successfully through to completion.


What do you think the habits of a highly successful project manager are? Join the conversation on our Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages. 

Do you need more help to organise your projects?

Why not sign up for a FREE trial of our project management software which integrates seamlessly between MS Project and PowerPoint to create and update project reports and timelines at the click of a button.