Every Summer we kick of our Summer Series and to launch this year’s series, I am pleased to bring you a guest post by Susanne Madsen, Author of ‘The Project Management Coaching Workbook – Six Steps to Unleashing your Potential’.
She’s a seasoned Project Manager and has written a great book that provides easy-to-follow steps that anyone can use. The exercises and comprehensive insights will help anyone interested in learning about project management. Anyone considering Project Management should really consider getting her book.
I have actively managed projects for over 15 years and have coached and mentored project managers for about four of those years. Although I always knew that project management is as much about managing people as it is about managing tasks and processes, it took me an astonishingly long time to really internalize it and practice it. I used to spend the majority of my time managing plans and resources and thought I would excel as a project manager by mastering all the correct tools and by having the right qualifications. Only later did I start to proactively lead people and relate to team members at a deeper level. And what a difference it made!
In order for project managers to be successful at delivering projects, they must be able to build relationships and lead a team to success through their vision and engagement. They must have drive, confidence, and attitude. They must be project management champions, lead by example, and have an outstanding ability to relate to people. That’s what will really set them apart. At the same time, of course, they must not forget to be effective at managing tasks and processes.
As a project management coach, one of my primary functions is to emphasize the leadership element of project management to my coachees. I do that by working with the individual to make him or her recognize their unique talent and inner leadership voice. In my experience, attending just a few coaching sessions can give people the tools and support they need to excel and develop their leadership abilities alongside their tasks management abilities.
Two of the most common project management challenges we address through coaching are; building effective relationships with senior stakeholders, and leading and motivating a team. Let’s briefly look at them below;
- Building Effective Relationships with Senior Stakeholders: Project managers often hide behind their desk and prefer to communicate via email as opposed to picking up the phone or meeting stakeholders face to face. The project manager may even avoid stakeholder contact as it’s a potential source of conflict, requests and changes. But in order to deliver a project successfully, project managers must spend time with the project’s most powerful decision makers on a regular basis. That means proactively engaging them on a one-on-one basis, listening to their concerns and suggestions, taking on board their feedback and understanding their success criteria. If you need to take action to improve stakeholder relationships, first create a stakeholder map using the matrix below. Then start to spend time on a one-2-one basis with those stakeholders who have the most power and influence over your project. That encompasses opponents as well as allies.
- Leading and Motivating a Team: Many project managers see their team members as “resources” who are there to work on project tasks within the allotted time. But if project manages are to build a high performing team they need to understand what each person’s aspirations and strengths are, and what motivates each person to do their job even better. To best support and lead the team, project managers must learn to adapt their leadership style to each team member. Someone who is very experienced and motivated needs to be led and managed differently to someone who is relatively inexperienced and lacks motivation. If you want to improve the way you lead your team, first place your team members on the matrix below according to how competent and committed they each are. Then start adapting your leadership style to each individual, so that you delegate when people are able to work independently, and nurture when team members need your support and direction. Finally, start to spend more time with each person to understand what they each bring to the table.
Project managers who would like to work on their professional development and become highly effective project leaders can use the six step approach from my newly published workbook. The steps are designed to increase the individual’s confidence and competence and make people take action to become the project manager they wish to become.
The first three steps of the book are briefly described below.
Step 1: The first step in reaching any goal – in this case becoming a successful project manager – is to define and understand what your goal looks like. What kind of project manager and leader do you want to become? Who has inspired you in your career, and how can you start inspiring others in a similar way? A good way to summarize your ambitions and intentions is to capture them a vision and mission statement. The vision and mission statement becomes your beacon and measure of success.
Step 2: The second step in the process is to carry out an honest self-assessment of your current project management skills, attributes, and capabilities. The aim here is to help you reflect on your skill set so that you get a better understanding of what your strengths and development areas are – and in turn start to appreciate what you need to change in order to become a more successful project manager.
Step 3: The third step on your road to project management success is to seek feedback from people you work with and who are in a position to comment on your performance. Asking others for feedback can be daunting and will require courage, strength, and determination. It may, however, be one of the most determining actions you take on your road to success.
The remaining three steps relate to project management best practices and leadership techniques, and to taking action to move forward.
To read more feel free to check out her book on Amazon.com – The Project Management Coaching Workbook: Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential
About Our Guest Contributor
Susanne Madsen is a published author, program and project manager, mentor, and coach with over 15 years of experience in managing and rolling out major change programs, using both agile and waterfall methodologies. Susanne is a PRINCE2 and MSP practitioner and holds several qualifications in the area of personal performance and corporate and executive coaching.
Her recent book, The Project Management Coaching Workbook – Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential, is a direct result of Susanne’s project management coaching work over the years.