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Top 5 Habits of Successful Project Managers

While there are hundreds of good habits, there are some that are must-haves for project managers. Let’s look at 5 habits of successful project managers

Remember when you started out something new be it painting, a subject at school or just driving a car. As time passed, you started realizing that there are certain habits that govern anything that you do in your life. For example, when it came to learning a new subject at school, you quickly inculcated all these habits without thinking of them as such – not giving up, thinking of better ways to deal with the problems, getting help from your friends, discussing things and so on.

The art of successful project management is just that. There will always be tons of things to handle and monitor for a project manager. While there are hundreds of good habits, there are some that are must-haves for project managers. Let’s look at those in detail.

1. They make sure good processes are in place

As project managers, we don’t just handle one project. We handle multiple projects going on at the same time. There are thousands of tasks, different teams to handle, different deadlines to monitor, performance reviews and the list goes on and on.

How do you guarantee that something doesn’t go out of your notice and cause havoc later on in the project? By putting in processes in place.

Below are a list of some examples that you can keep in mind and make a process that suits your team’s and organization’s requirements:

  • Break the work into specific, manageable tasks and assign it to the team members in a project management software so that there is no confusion and misunderstandings
  • Set a clear follow-up and review procedure so that everyone on the team knows whom to approach when they need any approvals or any help.
  • Set milestones particularly for those projects that have a very long duration so that the team stays engaged and motivated.
  • Know how to set priorities among tasks and keep the team updated about the same.
  • Set dependencies between tasks so that once a dependent task is complete, the next person in line is notified and the work is not delayed.

When you sum all these things up according to your requirements, you set a proper process in place. It’s beneficial in that neither you nor the team will be left to guessing the next steps and wasting unnecessary time on it, there will be no misunderstandings and the arguments that result because of those.

2.  They make sure that the team environment is conducive

How do you go about achieving this? Below are some things that can help you in bringing up a conducive team environment –

  • Communication: As a project manager, you know how important a role communication plays. You need to be approachable so that anytime something goes off track, the team can approach you instead of trying to hide the problem. Encourage everyone on the team to talk openly, to ask questions and to come up to you if they have a better idea of doing things than what you’ve been doing.
  • Focus on solutions, not on problems: Instead of indulging in blame games when something goes wrong, successful project managers focus on finding the solutions. Constant blame gaming and pointing fingers at each other will only make the team environment hostile and can lead to project failure.
  • Don’t micromanage: Daniel Pink in his book Drive says “Intrinsic motivation in the workplace is governed by three factors: autonomy, mastery and purpose. While mastery and purpose is dependent on the employee, autonomy is something a manager can provide. Everyone these days want to find their own way of doing things. They don’t want to be micromanaged and told at every step what to do.”
    As good project managers, give your team the freedom to try new things out, stumble and learn.

3. They are decisive

Project managers need to deal with a lot of uncertainty. Along with uncertainty comes the need for making quick decisions. A good project manager should know both according to the situation in hand:

  1. Taking every detail into consideration and then making a decision.
  2. Making quick decisions with what little information they have at hand.

Agreed, your decision might not go right every time. But as a project manager, you shouldn’t delay or drop the responsibility on your team just because you’re afraid of the outcome. And what’s more, your team will respect and look up to you if you are a decisive person and don’t let things remain loose.

4. They know when to not be consistent

Well, what is this about? You made a project proposal, project plan, a project scope, you set tasks on your task management software to be consistent, so that you don’t deviate from the set path.

But we all know that in today’s world, there are bound to be changes. Something unexpected is always going to creep in. Like the time when your key employee took a long break, a project’s deadline got changed, clients demanded something completely of the plan, etc. To stay on the same path despite of these changes will be unwise.

When you have put too much effort into making that perfect plan, you’re bound to stick to the same. This type of thinking is known as confirmation bias in decision-making where we ignore the newly threatening information so that we can stick to our original beliefs i.e. in this case our original plan.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon has a belief that consistency of thought isn’t a positive trait. He says

Smartest people are the ones who revise their understanding, are open to new points of view, information, challenges and contradictions to their own way of thinking.

Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon

As successful project managers, you should learn to forecast changes, manage risks and change your plans as and when needed.

5. They adapt to the new

There are so many things happening in the project management world right now. We have come a long way from chalking out plans on whiteboards to making detailed ones on the project management software of now.

Read books, interact with people from your field, talk with your team, read blogs and articles to stay abreast of the latest developments and technologies that will help your team and organization as a whole. You never know which piece of information will help you when.

And don’t be afraid to shed your old ways of doing things. The more you say no to change, the harder it will become for you to accept it later on when you don’t have any other choice.

Conclusion

Some popular psychology websites and columns say that it takes 21 days to form a habit. But that’s often not the case. What you practice repeatedly becomes a habit. And there are no time periods for that. You just need to keep learning and inculcating those habits in the workplace. While these are just 5 habits, there are a lot more that you need to keep doing when it comes to being a good manager – be good at project scheduling, ask questions, empower your team, make sure you and your team don’t get burnt out, make good plans and the list goes on and on.

Becoming a good project manager is not a linear process. You keep walking, you stumble, you fall sometimes, you learn and you keep continuing that process over and over again.

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