Unleash your Project Manager’s Superpower

Discover your Project Manager's Superpower

I’ve been re-reading Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” … and thought I’d share a bit about why I do what I do – I think my work is all about finding and honing your super power to achieve success and fulfilment in what you do; whether that’s supporting you and your team to deliver change more effectively, or working on your career development.

I remember the day in school, back in the last century, in my career guidance teacher’s office. I was drawn to the “systems analyst” job leaflet which emphasised this role as being focused on solutions, understanding how things relate to and connect with each other, being curious and finding solutions to problems. We were lucky to be students at a newly built secondary school for girls in a small Irish town, with access to multimedia equipment, computers and programming classes, a photography darkroom, leadership and media studies – and this was back in 1984!

My interest in these areas naturally led me into IT, software development, technical support, business analysis, project management and consulting roles, but I found myself more and more relying on people skills such as communication and collaboration; facilitating and mentoring project teams to achieve their desired outcomes. Any technical issues could usually be solved much more easily than the challenges of getting a group of people to agree on what outcome they were working towards, and ensuring clarity about how they were going to get there. This is borne out by the The Standish CHAOS Report on IT projects for 2015 which lists the top 3 critical success factors in projects as being

  1. Executive Support – where a leader provides emotional and financial support to encourage and assist in the successful completion of the project.
  2. Emotional maturity – where the leader needs to be able to harness the ability of the project team tio work effectively together
  3. User Involvement – where the users are engaged and have a vested interest in the project decision-making and information-gathering process, and are supportive of the process.

These days, having qualified as a professional coach and working with project managers to help them develop their potential, the theme of finding solutions, working on developing emotional intelligence skills, and supporting people through change continues in my work.

In a world where things change faster than the speed of light, we need to aim for business agility by ensuring that our smart, experienced and resourceful team members are focused and have clarity about where they want to go, but are also empowered to work effectively together, to make decisions, be accountable and responsible and deliver on their commitments.

But from my experience leading and mentoring project teams, this is not easy. The traditional role of a project manager involves a fair amount of telling people what to do – which is necessary at times. However there are many common issues that can derail project teams

  • Getting agreement on what the desired outcome or “future state” is … there can be as many viewpoints and agendas as there are stakeholders
  • Understanding what the starting point is – the “current state” … if you don’t know where you’re starting from, how can you make progress?
  • Knowing who needs to be involved and when and how, and keeping these stakeholders engaged throughout with open and regular communication
  • Dealing with curveballs – change happens… knowing how to prepare for it and being agile enough to handle this and still achieve the desired results
  • Managing people who don’t directly report to you … this sometimes nebulous relationship that can make it feel like you’re herding cats or pushing porridge up a hill!
  • Developing the team and working through conflict in a healthy way
  • Getting stuck in the detail (or down in the weeds) without having a chance to see the big picture, what’s really going on… we need a balance of both.
  • Ability to prioritise what’s important – otherwise nothing gets done.

So what if you could have a magic superpower to help with all of this..?

In my view, your secret superpower lies in being coachable, and being able to coach others. Not just shouting instructions from the sidelines but learning the deeper leadership skills of asking questions, listening, being present and seeking to understand and help colleagues to develop their own resourcefulness and creativity.

In the transport sense, coaching is about putting people on a bus and getting them from A to B.  In the development sense of coaching, it is not about driving them there, but helping them to get clarity on where they want to go, to identify a route map of how to get there and check in on progress to keep them on track.

By learning the skills to coach yourself and others, it allows you to empower people to be accountable, to achieve clarity on the outcome for individuals and groups, to identify obstacles and risks, challenge beliefs and think more creatively.

This is the essence of true agility – where bureaucracy and silo thinking is minimised, and there is just enough structure to support progress in a sustainable way.

So if you want to develop your superpowers as an Agile Coach or Project Manager, it’s worth investing in professional coaching for yourself to develop these skills, and when you experience the power of coaching you will see for yourself how you can develop your own superpowers and raise your game as a project manager, increasing the value you can deliver and taking your career to new heights.

Liz Barron is a Leadership Coach specialising in working with Project Managers and Business Consultants and their teams, to help them deliver change more effectively, maximise business agility and realize their full potential. http://www.realize.ie

 

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