Proactive project managers are people who focus their efforts and attention on the long-term as opposed to being reactive in the present moment. They believe that their actions matter and that they can positively influence a situation by doing something about it.

One of the best ways in which you can be proactive as a project manager is to work with your team and stakeholders to actively identify, analyze and mitigate project risks before they turn into issues. You can also make a concerted effort to build strong and lasting relationships with your stakeholders so that you are able to draw on their knowledge and support the day you need it. When you keep your stakeholders abreast of developments and have an excellent rapport with them, they are very unlikely to ever turn against you. They respect you and they know that you are actively working to improve all aspects of the project on their behalf.

Another way to be proactive is to carry out project reviews and to liaise with your team members on a one-to-one basis. Ask for feedback and investigate if there is anything at all you can do to optimize the way the team works. In addition, be proactive and explore if your QA activities are as good as they can be. Poor product quality is one of the biggest reasons for project failure.

Reactive is the opposite of proactive. Reactive people often hold a belief that they have no control over a situation. This could relate to the behavior of an unreasonable stakeholder or the issues that arise during a project. They surrender and wait until a potential problem has become a burning issue before they take action.

One of the reasons why some project managers give in and become reactive is that their workload is so big that they feel they have no option but to firefight in the present moment. But in reality, we always have an option even if it is not an easy one. If you feel overloaded and overworked, look at how you can delegate more, how you can get better at saying ‘no’ to new requests and how you can optimizing the way you manage your time.

To become more proactive, make it a habit to regularly engage in the following:
  • Spend time on your own and with team members identifying anything which could go wrong on the project. Thoroughly analyze the risks and identify an owner and mitigating actions. Do this as often as possible.
  • Ask team members as often as you can what is preventing them from moving forward or what could make them work more effectively.
  • Build strong relationships with all key players on the project. See things from their point of view, understand their interests and address their issues and concerns.
  • Carry out project reviews and encourage a culture of learning and contribution. Discuss how past issues can be avoided and take action to make improvements.
  • Demonstrate and prototype the solution to the customer and end users as often as possible. Ask for feedback and verify that what you are building matches their requirements and expectations.
  • Identify and review your project controls on a regular basis. Assess if they are working as expected and keeping cost, quality and time under control.
  • Actively manage your stakeholders’ expectations through face-to-face meetings and regular project reporting. Make them appreciate which risks, issues and constraints you are facing. Make sure there are no negative surprises.
  • Organize knowledge sharing and fun team building activities to improve morale and motivation.
  • Assess your own working practices and determine how you can optimize the way you spend your time. Could you, for instance, start delegating more?

Republished with permission from Susanne Madsen

Susanne Madsen

About Susanne Madsen:
Susanne Madsen is an internationally recognized project leadership coach, trainer, and consultant. She is the author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook and The Power of Project Leadership. Susanne’s belief is that project management success is as much about leading people as it is about managing tasks, events, and processes. She is a firm believer and practitioner of the GTD (Get Things Done) approach and enjoys helping people formulate and achieve their goals. For more about Susanne, please visit

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