Executive Coaching – What’s in it For a Project Manager?

I’ve been in various IT leadership roles since I started my career over 20 years ago and there is nothing quite as challenging, or as rewarding, as being a Project Manager. As well as all the very important technical skills a Project Manager needs such as the ability to build a schedule and budget and track to them, understand the delivery lifecycle, and report status, a Project Manager needs to be a negotiator, a team builder, a collaborator, an influencer, and an innovator PMP certification. These roles require leadership skills of the highest caliber. It is this combination of technical management and leadership ability that makes the role so challenging.

So why is this? The problem is that it’s rarely the case that the Project Manager has a clear scope, a team that he manages directly, no issues, and no-one external to the project with whom he needs to influence or negotiate. Project Managers are typically required to operate in a matrix environment, where they have little or no control over resources, timelines, or deliverables.

They are likely to spend a considerable amount of time negotiating for more resources, trying to influence stakeholders to nail down the scope and deliverables, and trying to find innovative ways to deliver according to a tight, often time-boxed, schedule. In the midst of all this, they need to be role models to keep the team members engaged and leaders who can effectively navigate different types of people from the variety of organizations with which they must interact. This is no small feat for a Project Manager of a small project, let alone a larger multi-million dollar IT project that is typical of today.

How, then, can Project Managers find help and support on their career journeys, ones that often turns into journeys of self discovery and self growth? There are many courses to teach specific techniques for managing a project, and there is the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. There are also many Project Management leadership courses with topics such as team building, collaboration, and negotiation. Though these courses are invaluable to developing technical and leadership skills, Executive Coaching is also invaluable to Project Managers as they find themselves in increasingly complex and stressful environments, and as they strive to institutionalize new learnings.

So how can Executive Coaching help? The Executive Coach (who may be either hired directly by the individual or by the Project Manager’s employer) will start by understanding the client’s goals. This will form the basis of the Coaching Agenda – the key goals that will be worked on over a period of time, including guiding the Project Manager to define what ‘success’ will look like.

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