9 Habits of a High-Performing Project Manager

SECOND EDITION                                                         

By Arun Singhal and Puja Bhatt

North Texas, USA



This paper is for project management (PM) professionals at all levels who want to improve the practice of PM in their organization by deploying better habits. A constantly changing project environment dictates the use of every possible tool, process, and habit. Inasmuch as these habits are neither revolutionary nor unique, when applied together they can positively influence the outcome of projects in a very significant way. Each habit’s simplicity is powerful and easy for any project manager to adopt. High-performing project managers routinely deploy all 9 habits to achieve excellence in executing small or large projects worldwide.


What is a habit? Simply put, a habit is a behavior pattern that is regularly followed. In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey defines a habit as the intersection of three dimensions: knowledge (what to do and the why), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do). Transforming a behavior into a routine habit requires conscious effort in all three dimensions: our recognition of the need and associated reward, an understanding of how to exhibit the behavior, and most importantly the willingness to change. The knowledge, skill, and desire are typically acquired and developed through experience and shaped by our own sense of ethics, values, professionalism, style, responsibility, and fairness.

While Stephen Covey’s habits are universally applicable across all professions, we have chosen in this paper to identify habits that are specifically tailored to the field of PM. In today’s PM environment just using the PM tools and processes correctly sometimes does not cut it. Employing tools does not necessarily achieve all of the project or organization’s goals. Real improvements come from positive changes in how people work and interact. Therefore, even the smallest habit can reap big benefits in the quality of our daily work and lead us on the path to achieving our professional and project goals.


Much is written about a project manager’s technical competencies and people skills; however, there is almost nothing available specifically on a project manager’s habits and/or traits backed by some research and data.

Over the last 10 years, the authors leveraged their own experiences on various projects listed in Appendix A to interview more than 25 project directors/managers between the ages of 45 and 65, representing at least 12 different countries/cultures. When interviewed, these project managers on average had 25 years of industry experience, hence, representing a total of 625 years of overall PM experience. Interview questions were open-ended, allowing the project managers to draw from their own experiences within project management. From the interviews, we developed a list of dozen critical habits. We then surveyed an additional 25 project managers, asking them to rank the list of dozen habits based on two criteria, ease of adoption and potential impact on the project environment. The survey also provided project managers the opportunity to add one or more habits not already captured in the list. We analyzed the survey results and selected and consolidated our findings into 9 high-performing habits. Finally, we reorganized the 9 based on similar themes and alignment to Project Management Institute (PMI) principles and best practices.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 8th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2014. It is republished here with permission of the author and symposium organizers. For more about the annual UT Dallas PM Symposium, click here.

About the Authors

pmwj29-dec2014-Singhal-Bhatt-AUTHOR1Arun Singhalflag-usa

Texas, USA

Arun Singhal, PE, MBA, PMP is a certified Project Management Professional and a six-sigma yellow belt with 30 years of experience on technically complex multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects worldwide including the USA, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, India, Canada, Australia, and Argentina. His projects include nuclear and fossil power plants, metro rail, voice & data telecommunication networks, iron ore mining and many more. He has trained more than a thousand senior managers around the world in project management. He holds a Bachelor and a Master degree in Mechanical Engineering from The George Washington University and a Master of Business Administration in Finance from The University of Kansas. Arun can be contacted at [email protected].

pmwj29-dec2014-Singhal-Bhatt-AUTHOR2Puja Bhattflag-usa

Texas, USA

Puja Bhatt, MBA, PMP, has over 12 years of consulting experience in providing strategic planning, business transformation, and program and project management to multiple federal government agencies across the DC metro area. She has worked with several multinational and management consulting firms such as GE, IBM, REI Systems, and Booz Allen Hamilton, managing large-scale change management projects from start to finish. Puja’s change management engagements have leveraged her expertise in assessing and deploying digital solutions to clients including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Commerce (DOC), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the General Services Administration (GSA), the Department of Education (ED), the Department of Justice (DoJ), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). In her most recent consulting role, Puja is leading the transformation of a Program Management Office (PMO) for a multi-million dollar digital strategy program into an enterprise-level PMO. Puja completed her MBA at the R. H. Smith School of Business. She is an active member of the Project Management Institute and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). Puja can be contacted at [email protected].