Talent Development Centre

Project Coaching – Think Like an Athlete

Project Coaching - Think like an Athlete

Guest Post by Gabriele Maussner-Schouten, Project Consultant and Coach
Check out the end of this post for details about Gabriele’s limited Project Coaching offer

I admit it – I am a play-off sports fan. I love watching sports when the best teams battle it out for first prize. Especially this year, watching the play-offs was a welcome distraction from COVID-19. Often, the difference between the high-performance teams is the coach. Without ever questioning it, all of us understand the value of a coach to an individual athlete and a sports team. A coach understands and believes in the strengths of the team, provides perspective and a vision.

It is a close relationship, and it goes far beyond developing a training schedule and fine-tuning each athlete’s performance. The coach understands how to leverage the inherent strengths of the team to overcome their challenges. There is great respect for the work of a coach AND, we would consider it a significant risk to an athlete’s performance if he or she decided that a coach is no longer needed.

So, why are we so hesitant to apply the same logic when it comes to projects and project managers? We move our organizations forward through project work. Often, the company future is at stake. Yet, I hear far too often “I just want to get the job done and I have no interest in paying for a project coach.” Every cost-conscious person can relate to this statement. However, the rate of IT project success has hardly improved over the last 10 years and studies show the same pitfalls over and over.

  • Lack of executive sponsorship and accountability,
  • Vaguely defined goals and insufficient communication,
  • Scope creep and lack of risk management,
  • Skill re-allocation and skill deficiency.

Since so many of the pitfalls are related to soft skills, there is a good chance that the right coach can be the difference between a successful and a failed project. Projects are tough, project managers need to work across the departmental silos, have great persuasion skills as well as stay patient and calm when conflict arises or a project team member misses an important deadline.

A project coach can help to provide a different perspective, build self confidence by highlighting the unique strengths of the project manager. Complete trust and mutual respect are essential for a supportive coaching relationship. To be effective as a project coach, the coach needs to be able to listen to the project manager, able to relate and help the project manager to weigh all options. Often, by just talking through the options the best possible path becomes clearer.

Like in professional sports, a coach can be extremely successful with one team and sports organization, but not achieve the same success with a different team. Here are some tips to find the right project coach for you:

  • A great sense of mutual trust
  • Excitement to work with one another
  • Confidence that the project coach will add value and can make a difference

A project coach provides perspective, insights and most of all a safe space to discuss project challenges freely. Like a sports coach, the project coach understands the strengths of the project manager and knows how to enhance the skill set and confidence of the project manager.

“Athletes don’t only use a coach when there is a problem with their technique; they understand that no matter how good their technique is, there is always room for improvement.” – John Perry, Sport Psychology

Project Coaching for Charity

I have a few Project Coaching spaces available right now, and I’d love to help you with your project for just a charitable donation!

As a seasoned project professional, I am very much aware of the challenges that project managers face on a day to day basis. We, as project managers, lead cross-functional teams and need to continuously problem solve and engage our project sponsors in a meaningful way.

Have you experienced one or more of these challenges?

  • You have a disengaged project sponsor and critical project decisions are made late
  • Project scope is bigger than expected and your sponsor is demanding to meet it within the initial set timeline and resources
  • Some project team members are consistently late on their tasks without a good explanation
  • There seems to be a project grapewine and you are not part of it
  • Not sure on how to communicate ‘bad news’ to your project sponsor?

Being a project manager is a very demanding role. The objective of project coaching is to become a trusted partner as well as a sounding board for ideas and a safe space to talk through project challenges.

How do we do it?

  • Set-up of 6 coaching sessions
  • Each session is between 45 and 60 min long
  • First Meeting: set coaching objectives and manage expectations
  • Discuss potential coaching themes
  • What worries you most on your projects?
  • Do you have specific coaching situations that you would like to discuss?
  • Is there a specific skill that you like to develop?
  • Agree on meeting logistics
  • Second, third, fourth and fifth meeting: Coaching sessions on agreed upon topics or on a specific situation that has arisen in the previous week
  • Sixth session: Coaching, recap and conclusion

Learning about project management in a classroom setting is very different than applying them in real life work scenarios. Coaching provides “on the job” support and skill enhancement in a safe and positive way.

What are the Options?

  • A coaching contract to sign up for 6 virtual coaching sessions (45-60 min each) in exchange for a $150 donation for your local Foodbank or United Way.
  • One on one virtual coaching sessions (60 min) in exchange for a $20 donation to your local Foodbank or United Way

How to Get in Touch

For more information, please contact me through LinkedIn or email me at gmaussner@sympatico.ca.

About Gabriele Maussner-Schouten

Gabriele Maussner-Schouten is a respected project consultant and coach with more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing practical solutions for project management success. Her expertise ranges from managing large IT projects for both private and public-sector organizations, ranging from mission- critical ERP implementations and content management solutions to providing leadership for major special events and support for enterprise-wide communication strategies.

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