Project ManagementSusanne Madsen

6 Steps to Project Leadership Success

Projects undertaken today are generally becoming larger, more complex and increasingly cross-cultural. The need to manage multiple stakeholders and user groups, a dispersed project team, cutting edge technology and a multi-faceted product to tight deadlines is ever-increasing. For project managers to be successful at navigating and delivering these types of projects, not only must they be good at managing events, processes and resources, they must also be excellent at leading people and at building relationships at all levels. Project managers must fully embrace the project's vision and set a great example for others to follow. They must have drive, confidence and attitude and have the ability to lead the team to success through their vision and engagement. But how do project managers become all of this? How do they become project leaders? Most people learn and progress through a combination of experience, observation and study. But with that approach alone many project managers may never become leaders. They may never learn to fully believe in themselves, to focus on their strengths and to recognize their inner leadership voice. This is where coaching and mentoring play a role. Coaching helps project managers to focus on the essence of what they want to achieve and subsequently assists them in achieving that. In my experience, attending just a few coaching sessions can give project managers the tools and support they need to excel and develop their leadership talent alongside their tasks management abilities. But even without a coach physically present, there are ways in which project managers can effectively work on their professional development. By following the 6-step process below, they will access some of the most powerful coaching techniques, learn to overcome their day-to-day challenges and move faster towards project management success. The 6 steps are designed to increase the individual's confidence and competence and make people take action to become the project manager and leader they wish to become. The six steps are extracted from The Project Management Coaching Workbook, a practical step-by-step guide which I recently published in cooperation with Management Concepts.   Step 1: Clarify your Project Management Vision The first step in reaching your goal ““ in this case becoming a successful project leader”“ is to understand what your goal is. 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? What are your strengths and how can you better make use of them? Spend some time really thinking about these questions and visualize your goal, say five years from now. Then summarize your ambitions and intentions in a vision and mission statement. The statement should reflect your values and aspirations and it must, above all, inspire you. Have a look at his blog post for concrete examples and a guide on how to compose it.   Step 2: Assess your current skill set The second step is to carry out an honest self-assessment of your current project management skills, attributes and capabilities. The aim is to make you reflect on your abilities so that you get a better understanding of what your strengths and development areas are. That will help you appreciate where you need to improve and focus your efforts in order to move to the next level of success and honor your vision and mission statement. To make a start, click here and take the project management assessment available at Management Concepts. It is a comprehensive evaluation of 80 dimensions of project management which covers task management as well as people management and leadership. Step 3: Ask for feedback The third step on your road to project management success is to seek feedback from people who are in a position to comment on your performance. Asking others for feedback can be daunting and will require courage, strength and determination. But it may be one of the most determining actions you take. It is likely to highlight blind spots you were not aware of as well as your hidden potential and unique talents. These are positive aspects of your personality which others notice but which you are not fully aware of or not properly leveraging. To get started, copy the assessment from step 2 and distribute it to managers and peers who know you well and whose feedback you value. Alternatively, you can simply ask people to answer the following three questions: (1) What should I continue to do; (2) What should I start doing; (3) what should I stop doing. Step 4: Create an action plan The fourth step is to create a plan of action and execute on it. To do that, choose the three capabilities or improvement areas that would have the biggest positive impact on your performance and overall project management mission if you were to improve on them. Look at the outcome of your self-assessment and the feedback you received from your peers in order to decide on which areas to focus. Write down what you will do in each improvement area and by when. When you create a written record of your intentions, you are much more likely to follow through with them. If you have a tendency to procrastinate and not carry through with your actions, work with a coach, mentor or a friend who can help you stay accountable and committed to your development plan. Step 5: Learn more about project management and leadership techniques To accelerate your development and inspire you to try out new techniques, the fifth step is to read up on guiding practices and exercises relating to project management and leadership. Focus your efforts on the topics and areas you most need to develop per your action plan. These could be related to risk and issue management, project estimation, business case creation, understanding the subject matter of your project, team building, motivational and leadership theories, time management, stress management, communication skills and stakeholder management. Search the internet for the subjects you are interested in or reference The Project Management Coaching Workbook. Compare the guiding practices you read up on with how you manage yourself and your projects today. Then decide which new techniques you want to incorporate into the way you currently work and by when you will do so. Step 6: Review your progress The last step is to regularly review the progress you are making and determine if you are on the right track. Carry out the first review four to eight weeks after finalizing your action plan so that you have had time to implement the new techniques and work on certain behaviors. It is important to regularly review your progress, actions, goals, and capabilities, because huge changes happen when you start to work on yourself and your professional development. As part of the review, revisit your vision and mission statement as well as your self-assessment. Establish in which ways you have moved closer to your goals and take credit for your achievements. Find a way to reward yourself. If you have not made as much progress as you had hoped, look at the root cause and identify ways in which you can address them. It is by consistently taking action, observing the results, and adjusting your approach that you overcome challenges and achieve your goals. To get further help and assistance, work with a project management coach directly or purchase The Project Management Coaching Workbook from Amazon, from the publisher or from The Book Depository.

Susanne Madsen is a published author, public speaker, project manager, mentor, and coach with over 15 years of experience in managing and rolling out major change programs. 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. To find out more about Susanne, please visit her website at You can also follow Susanne on Twitter: @SusanneMadsen.

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