Episode 214: Benchmarking Your Project Management Skill Set (Premium)
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This episode is sponsored by The PDU Podcast:
In last week’s interview with Susanne Madsen about her book The Project Management Coaching Workbook: Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential we discussed very high level principles that you have to consider when setting out on an improvement journey. We didn’t really discuss anything that you could do or give you steps to follow to get you started.
Let’s change that and give you a few ideas on how to start on the journey to becoming even better project managers. So in this interview Susanne takes us through step 2 in the book, which is the self-assessment.
We begin with discussing the importance of knowing what your current capabilities are (strengths and weaknesses) and how the process assists you in assessing this through the extensive self assessments (10 categories - 80 dimensions). This helps the project manager pinpoint where they need to focus their attention in order to succeed. Then we review 3 of the 10 categories that need to be assessed and close with a discussion about the importance of feedback - both in the context of providing effective feedback to team members in order to grow others and create highly motivated team members and receiving feedback from peers and managers in order to progress your own capabilities and career.
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #214. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner.
In last week’s interview with Susanne Madsen about her book The Project Management Coaching Workbook: Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential, we discussed very high level principle that you have to consider when setting out on an improvement journey. We didn’t really discuss anything that you could do or give you steps to follow to get you started.
Well let’s change that, because this here is a premium episode for all you premium subscribers out there and today we want to give you a few ideas on how to start on the journey to becoming even better project managers.
So in this interview, Susanne takes us through step 2 in the book, which is the self-assessment.
We begin with discussing the importance of knowing what your current capabilities are, strengths and weaknesses, and how the process assists you in assessing this through the extensive self assessments, which consists of 10 categories and 80 dimensions. This helps you as the project manager pinpoint where you need to focus your attention in order to succeed. Then we review 3 of the 10 categories that need to be assessed and close with the discussion about the importance of feedback, both in the context of providing effective feedback to your team members in order to help them grow and create a highly motivated team and also receiving feedback from peers and managers in order to progress your own capabilities and career.
So without further ado, please take a look into this mirror here. Enjoy the interview.
Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Susanne Madsen, Project and Program Manager, Mentor and Coach.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Susanne. Once again, welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™.
Susanne Madsen: Thank you so much, Cornelius! It is an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be here.
Cornelius Fichtner: Wonderful! So we brought you back for a second discussion about the first book that you have written – “The Project Management Coaching Workbook: Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential”. The idea today is to open up your book and take a look at one of the 6 steps. Not the whole step, because it’s going to be a rather long discussion otherwise. But we want to take a look at a few items in step 2 which is the Self-assessment.
But before we do that, let me go back to the last discussion that we had, the final question. We talked about how to stay motivated and progress personally and professionally as the final question in our first interview. That triggered a question to me because you said it’s very important to work with a coach or a coaching group or have a peer group around you. Do you personally coach people and people hire you as a coach?
Susanne Madsen: I do, I do! And I think what’s so fortunate about being a coach is you can actually do it remotely. Some people really feel that they have to be face to face and where I can, I will meet up with people face to face at least once or twice.
But on the phone, you can be extremely focused on the phone because you just focused on what’s being said and you don’t worry about how you appear. So that can be very powerful to actually be a coach remotely as well.
Cornelius Fichtner: Excellent, alright! So let’s get into the underlying principles here for step #2 which is that you have to create a self-assessment, a benchmark of your current skill sets. So what then is the importance of knowing what my capabilities are, my strengths and weaknesses in order for me to be able to unleash my potential?
Susanne Madsen: Well most fundamentally, there are really two things you need in order to progress. First of all, you need to know where you want to go to. That’s the goal and that’s step #1 of the book. And secondly, you need to know where you are currently which was back to your question because if you don’t know where you are, if you don’t have a benchmark for where you are, how do you know what to improve. And really, I have two over-arching themes in the book which kind of converge a little bit.
One thing is yes, there are best practices for being a project leader or a project manager and the self-assessment in the book helps people kind of tune in to what those best practices are and what the things are that they might want to consider if they want to be successful.
But the other thing is: What are your individual strengths? Okay. It’s very well that I say to you. I think you should be such and such a project manager. But you can only get people really inspired and truly successful if they tap into their own potential.
So that’s the second theme here is: People must know what their own unique talents are because there are, I don’t know how many hundred, thousands of project managers out there, and all the good ones are good in a different way. So that’s something I’m really trying to emphasize with people in the book as well. What are your unique talents? What kind of project manager do you want to become? And then we’ll look at the self-assessment to see: “Okay! Within all those dimensions that we assess you in, five of which are task related and five of which are people management related, where do you need to focus?” Just because we do a benchmark with this. Let’s give you an example, Cornelius.
One of these self-assessments I have is about tracking cost. Let’s say you score yourself absolutely low in tracking cost. Then I could say to you: “Okay, well, clearly you need to improve in this area if you want to be a successful project manager.” But not necessarily, you just need to make sure that it is being addressed on your project as a whole. So the reason why I say this is that you can benchmark yourself in my book in all the 10 dimensions and you can then see where your strengths and weaknesses are.
Your weaknesses doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to address them. It just means that you take a conscious decision and say: “Is it a problem or not? If it’s not a problem that I’m not very good at tracking cost, then I must just make sure that I delegate it, have someone else do it.” So that’s really the importance of the self-assessment is to become aware where you stand so that if you have some weaknesses that you don’t want to work on, well at least make sure that you address them in some way either by getting someone else to do it or by improving yourself.
Cornelius Fichtner: You write that there are 10 categories and 80 dimensions that you have to go through in that self-assessment step. How long would you say it would take somebody to actually do a good in-depth self assessment; does that take a week, 2 weeks? How much time do I need to invest?
Susanne Madsen: I actually recommend people doing it several times so when they read initially, they make one pass through where they are. And as they read on and understand more and they start to take action, they go back after let’s say a couple of months and they re-do their assessment because then they understand that they have in fact progress and that gives people a huge motivational factor.
But in the initial pass through, I would say: How long does it take? Well you could sit down and do it 4 hours maybe. But it can be very intense. So it’s very intense, people might want to do a couple of 2 areas per evening. So over a week, definitely, people could do it.
Cornelius Fichtner: Right, so probably better not to do the whole self-assessment in one go. Think about it. Let it percolate. Let things come and float to the surface overtime. That’s personally how I like to do self-assessment because it allows me to think things through a little better.
Let’s zoom in onto a couple of these areas here. And frankly, I’m no good at tracking cost. So not my favorite ones. So let’s skip that one and the two that I have selected that we would like to take a closer look at and see how that’s done is the first one, Managing and motivating the team. And then second one, we want to also take a look at the Leadership behavior.
So when I do the self-assessment for managing and motivating the team, what do I look at? How do I rate myself?