Why Project Managers Should Consider a Project Management Coach

In this blog we talk a lot about methods and strategies for project managers to manage projects and lead teams. There is no doubt that project managers carry a lot of responsibility, but do we ever undergo proper training? Some of us may have, others are often thrown into the unfortunate position to either “sink or swim”. Regardless of your professional project management background, or lack thereof, consider a project management coach.

Project management coaching is becoming a popular method of training today. This is because project managers are seen more as leaders rather than managers. Project management coaching strategies often involve teaching project managers how to lead teams rather than focusing only on risk management, managing projects and teams, and getting caught up in administrative tasks. Project management is seen more and more as a leadership role.

Professional project managers know that many responsibilities involving managing projects and leading teams require problem-solving and decision-making. Having a mentor or project management coach to lean on and bounce questions of off related to these have proven to be very helpful. This could even involve a situation when a project manager is asked a difficult question that relates to the performance of a particular team member, or an important and risky decision involving a challenging project with a difficult client. It has proven that having a project management coach to guide a project manager in these situations is more than helpful. The coach will also teach the project manager how to be a real “leader” in these situations and deal with them effectively.

Project management coaching can occur in various formats, all depending on the needs and preferences of the project manager. Project managers can sit through training sessions or discussions on an individual basis or even attend seminars or other lectures on a weekly or monthly basis. In addition, working with a coach can help with dealing with difficult situations or questions, such as the example outlined above, but the purpose of a coach is also to help pinpoint exactly where a project manager needs to make changes. This could be his or her approach or tact when dealing with other team members, the ability to remain calm when faced with troubling or intense situations, or even just time management.

Ultimately, working with a professional project management mentor or coach will really dive deep into the needs of a project manager. Where does a project manager really need help? Where can he or she really improve? How and where will he or she benefit most from working with a coach? These are all areas where a professional project management coach will consider when working with a project manager.

All in all, if project managers feel like they need additional training or guidance, or even just some advice that would help them be successful in their current roles, consider working with a professional project management coach. This could mean in a current project management role, obtaining professional management certification, or starting a brand new project management career. A professional project management coach can help a project manager really improve and shine on any areas that need improvement and reach overall success.

5 Important Project Management Lessons

Professional project managers would agree that project management is a wide realm of responsibilities through which extensive experience, knowledge, and competence is required. While project managers are intelligent and highly competent professionals, there are many lessons to be learned from working in a project management role. Regardless of how much experience or knowledge a particular project manager has, most would agree that they are always learning, as no two projects are ever the same.

Here are some of the most common, hard, and true project management lessons project managers can learn from:

1.     The key to understanding. Understanding is really key in project management. This could be understanding customers, understanding project instructions or specifications, understanding a product, or even team members and how they function together. In fact, most common errors can be avoided in these categories as they almost always relate to “understanding”, whether it involves specific instructions or communication. The key to understanding? Remember the “Three V’s”: Vet, Verify, and Validate.

 

2.     It’s up to you to clarify. Playing off the point above, if anything appears vague or unclear, then it’s up to the project manager to clarify. Even if a project, specification or other instruction may seem obvious, never assume. The key to understanding a particular project is understanding the impact the final deliverables have and how the product will be used. What is the goal or mission of the project? How can understanding those project goals help you be a better project manager?

 

3.     The secret behind any manager… is a successful and competent team. Most managers or supervisors won’t admit it, but their success is directly tied to their teams. Teams that work and perform well together and deliver successful projects to customers will ultimately be the star teams in any manager or supervisor’s eye. Project managers have the opportunity to function as leaders here, in helping and encouraging their teams to succeed as valuable team members and as professionals.

 

4.     Encourage creativity. Again, playing off the previous point, project managers should encourage team members to succeed as valuable team members and as professionals. One way project managers can do this is to encourage creativity among team members. Project managers should listen to and welcome any new ideas related to projects, policies, process, or protocol. If things should be done a different way, why not consider it? An organization and a project is only as successful as the creative talent behind it.

 

5.     Take responsibility for decision-making. As a professional project manager, we all encounter making decisions on a regular, if not daily basis. There may be times when we are asked questions or asked to make decisions, whether by a team member, vendor, or other department member, that we cannot answer. If we can’t answer the question or make a decision immediately, find the answer or research appropriately in order to make an effective and smart decision. Don’t put it on another team member to answer. If project managers can’t take responsibility for decision-making, then we cannot expect team members to.

 

Finally, it is true that professional project managers are faced with difficult and often challenging decisions and problems on a regular basis. Unfortunately, one way we learn as human beings is by making mistakes. However, the professional world only allows for so many mistakes before our careers are in trouble. This is why it is important for project managers to consider these important factors and lessons in project management.

Stakeholder Management Processes and Pointers

 

When it comes to projects, there will always be those who’re more invested, excited and prepared than others. Regardless of your situation, some of the greatest assets and liabilities which will be evident throughout your project will be the other stakeholders involved. Management of these personnel will either make or break the project with which you will be involved.

Stakeholder management involves several key components many of which often come naturally in any business or project decision. However, the mapping of processes–like what occurs in nearly any project–will help to clarify the who, what when, where, why and how of the project so as to ensure more rapid success.

Identify and Connect

Finding the stakeholders is very difficult, but you’ll almost never be able to find that for which you are unaware. Mapping out your stakeholders includes time for identifying those who’ll be most desperately needed for your project. Sometimes those involves will seem to have little involvement at the outset, but their decisions will have lasting effects down the road.

Once you have identified key management and input personnel, it is essential that such individuals are not only contacted but brought in for initial discussions and preparation for the project. During this project planning process, you may find some individuals will become frustrated or even annoyed, but understanding who each stakeholder is and what they bring to the table along with where they fit in the value chain will be of utmost importance. In many cases, it helps to identify who the emergency contact is during critical moments through the project timeline. If nothing else, this gives you a pulse on who to call when something goes wrong, for things certainly will.

Mapping

Project mapping can often be treated lightly, but once you have key stakeholders in place, a lack of mapping can take key individuals off track from the original goal. Creating and informing key individuals of your project’s map will be extremely helpful for ensuring the project goes off without a hitch.

Monitoring and Review

When progress is measured, it improves. When progress is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement increases.

Feedback for each stakeholder not only allows for improvement, but also gives a way for you as the manager to see where holes may occur in your current processes. While monitoring and project review can often seem mundane and sometimes progress is slow, not doing so ensures that almost nothing will be done to improve or change over the course of time.

Your projects may prove difficult, but ignoring the stakeholders could be the most detrimental toward the success of your endeavor. Get them involved early and often and keep them in the loop for key milestones. You’ll be glad you did.