“It is not your ability to manage tasks and resources that will set you apart,” writes Susanne Madsen in her new book, The Project Management Coaching Workbook. “It is your ability to manage relationships and lead the team to success through your vision and engagement. As much as knowledge matters, it is your drive, confidence, and attitude that will really help you get your projects over the finishing line.”
Madsen has written a unique and practical book aimed at project managers who want to perfect their craft and those in the role of coach to project managers. You can use the checklists and exercises to assess yourself and improve your skills. If you work with others in a coaching role, this workbook could form the basis of your coaching interventions.
6 Steps for self-coaching
Madsen outlines six steps for you to work through as part of a self-coaching exercise:
- Create your vision
- Benchmark current skills
- Get feedback
- Create an action plan
- Review guiding practices
- Review progress
The book aims to guide you through these six steps so that you can be your own coach, identifying where you are not as proficient and helping you work on these areas. A large part of this is establishing where you are starting from, which requires both self-assessment and feedback from your colleagues.
Using feedback for improving skills
It is very much a workbook and there are spider diagrams to fill in about each project management dimension, including time management, quality management and stakeholder management, amongst others. This first exercise will give you a personal rating against 80 project management skill areas, so you can quickly see where your strong and weak points are.
You then repeat the exercise with customers, your manager and team members, so you have a complete picture of perceptions of your performance, all of which can be recorded in the workbook, although you will probably want to photocopy the pages so you can get feedback from multiple people. At this point you can identify where you want to dedicate time for improvement. Or, if you are using Madsen’s book as the basis for coaching one of your project team, you can use this assessment to discuss with them their potential areas for improvement.
Keep going for success
“One of the differences between ordinary and successful people is that successful people do not give up when presented with an obstacle or challenge. They pick themselves up, get to the root cause of the issue, and change their approach accordingly. Successful people come across as many roadblocks as everyone else, but instead of giving in and blaming others, they change their approach and do something about the situation. They are proactive and keep trying new ways.”
She suggests forming a support group of project managers to act as a day-to-day sounding board. This could be useful, especially if you do’t have a formal coach or mentor and are using her book to develop yourself. If you don’t have a real-life network in your company, you could join external groups like the APM or the project management organisation in your area. You could also tap in to networks online like LinkedIn groups and Gantthead.
As well as providing the framework and forms for a coaching assessment, Madsen also included hints and tips to help you improve in certain areas. I particularly enjoyed the advice about making sure that you know what red, amber green actually mean, so that your reports are meaningful.
Although I am biased towards books that use the Oxford comma, overall I thought this was a structured, useful book. I would like to see the worksheet pages available as a digital download as once you have written in the boxes and completed the spider diagrams you will find it difficult to use again when you come to reassess you skills in a year or so. In the absence of that, make sure you take a photocopy of the workbook pages before you write on them, so if you want to review your progress and reassess yourself, you can.
That continual reassessment is important. “Keep looking inward, reassess what you really, really want to achieve as a project manager and do’t let anything deter you from reaching your goals,” she writes. “Be the best you can in everything that you do, and you will set a great example for others to follow.”