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Coaching: Buy 4 weeks, get one free

Get ahead with my coaching plan


If you have been thinking about how to boost your project management career in 2015, then this might help. I’m offering new coaching sign ups a week free when you buy 4 weeks.

I offer an online, e-coaching service. I’m your online coach and you’ll get all your project-related questions answered on a daily basis. Let me tell you more…

How it works

E-coaching is an easy way for you to get access to support and career resources whenever you need it. You don’t have to be tied to a particular time for a phone call and you don’t have to wait until the next session to get some advice. It’s also affordable and manageable, so if you thought you’d never be able to engage the services of a coach, think again!

The initial engagement is only for a month. You email me your questions and I’ll send you back my answers. There’s no nonsense, just honest, practical solutions. You put those ideas into practice and by the end of the month you’ll be managing your projects better. And you’ll get a week free if you order before the end of January 2015.

The basic rules are one question/problem per day, Monday to Thursday. We both get to take Friday, Saturday and Sunday off to recharge and make some action plans for the coming week. If you’ve got a few things to ask, store them up and email each day.

The emails then form your record of what we’ve discussed.

Who should do it?

If you are working in project management or would like to work in projects and need some help sorting out some of the daily problems you face, putting together a career plan for your next job, improving project communications, getting to grips with virtual teams or practically any other project-related problem, then you should do it!

We can cover pretty much anything you want but you’ll need to be self-disciplined to manage the emails and action the responses during the month. If you stick at it, you’ll get a lot of advice and resources and you’ll be supercharging your projects and career!

Ready to sign up?

One month’s e-coaching costs £299 or $499. Plus if you order before the end of the month you’ll automatically get your extra week free. You can start whenever you like. It’s totally bespoke to you so if you are interested, get in touch with the contact form and I’ll send you the terms. If you’re happy to go ahead you make the payment via PayPal and we’ll get started!

I hope to be working with you soon!


How to provide constructive criticism

How to give constructive criticism

This is a guest post by Sarah Clare.

As a manager, there is sure to come a time when you have to address poor performance or substandard work. We all make mistakes, and we can all find ways to improve our work. When you are a project manager, it is your responsibility to make sure that you help your team to learn from those mistakes and to find ways to improve the quality of their work.

However, delivering constructive criticism can be difficult. You may not know how to distinguish it from plain criticism, or you may not know how to deliver it in a way that your team members do not receive negatively. Learning how to give criticism to inspire positive change is a skill that must be learned.

Here are a few tips for how you can better provide constructive criticism to your team:

Deliver it in person

E-mail might be the best way to communicate with busy professionals, but it’s not always the best way to communicate sensitive information. There is no tone in e-mail, and something that you intend to say with empathy and understanding may be read flat or even with malicious intent. It is important to have these conversations in person so that your tone of voice and body language can help to soften the message and to inspire a sense of team work to accomplish a mutual goal.

Focus on discrete, actionable changes

Criticism can very easily turn into a personal attack or a rambling rant that encompasses everything that you’re unhappy about with the employee. It is important to be very deliberate by thinking about what you intend to say before you approach the employee and to have a goal in mind for improvement. You can then focus on small, actionable changes that the employee can make to solve the problem, rather than providing vague feedback asking for improvement with no ideas about how to make it happen.

Focus on one or two actions at a time so that you do not overwhelm the employee. Once those are made, if additional changes are still needed, you can revisit the conversation to evaluate progress and to suggest continued improvement.

Be liberal with praise

Criticism is always hard to hear, no matter how well you deliver it. You can make it a little easier to bear by being liberal with your praise as well. Don’t wait until you have something negative to say to offer praise. Make it a habit to praise your team members when you see them doing something great or when they deliver good work. When you have to provide constructive criticism, you can build on that praise by highlighting recent accomplishments or aspects of the project that have been handled particularly well.

Encourage problem solving

You can engage the employee in figuring out how to solve the problem together in order to promote learning and real improvement. If you tell the employee what you would like to see change, it may not always be effective. You may only train the employee to do what you are asking in order to avoid repercussions – but the employee may not understand why the change is necessary or valuable and, therefore, won’t change the underlying behavior that caused the problem in the first place.

Image of computer

Don’t use email to give criticism

Instead, encourage problem solving together. Instead of providing a solution, talk with the employee about the problem and ask for feedback about what can be done to improve the situation. The process will encourage learning that will facilitate long-term change.

Provide a model

If you lecture an employee about being tardy but then don’t roll into the office until 10am every day, you aren’t going to be very effective in inspiring change. It is important to provide a positive role model for the kind of behavior that you want to see.

In addition to providing your own role model, you can support employees in making positive changes by providing mentorship opportunities, support, or ongoing training.

It’s never easy to hear criticism, and it can be even harder to try to give it in a constructive way. Developing thoughtful strategies for delivering criticism can help ensure that your message is heard so that you and your team can work together to create positive change. These strategies can help you accomplish those goals.

How do you handle giving constructive criticism to your team? Share your tips for success in the comments!

About the Author: Sarah Clare is a writer and oversees the site projectmanagementsoftware.com, where she has recently been researching time tracking software. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys cooking and scrapbooking.


Win a copy of Leading and Coaching Teams to Success

Leading and Coaching Teams To SuccessTime for another giveaway.

This time, it’s a copy of Leading and Coaching Teams to Success: The Secret Life of Teams by Phil Hayes. It’s about what happens to teams behind closed doors, and you can read my review of it here. As I say in the review, the book talks about how teams gossip, go off the rails and implode. There’s something cathartic about reading about teams in a worse state than that of your own.

I interviewed Phil earlier this year and he convinced me that team coaching helps groups move from being great performers to excellent performers, so it’s not all about remedial action.

Want your chance to get the book? Click here to contact me with the phrase “My team has a secret life” and I’ll put your name in the hat.

The giveaway closes on Friday 17 August 2012. This copy of the book is an advance reader’s copy so it has a slightly different cover to the copies you’ll find in the shops.

Normal terms and conditions apply: read them here if you are new to my giveaways.

If you don’t want to take your chances with the giveaway, and want your own copy now, you can buy it on Amazon.co.uk or on Amazon.com.


Earlier this year I reviewed The Project Management Coaching Workbook by Susanne Madsen (Management Concepts, 2011). You can read that review here and an interview with Susanne about the power of questions here.

I’m delighted to have a copy to give away. This is a unique and practical book aimed at project managers who want to perfect their craft and those in the role of coach to project managers. There are plenty of checklists and exercises to assess yourself and improve your skills. Alternatively, if you work with others in a coaching role, you can use this workbook to form the basis of your coaching interventions.

The book covers 6 self-coaching steps:

  1. Create your vision
  2. Benchmark current skills
  3. Get feedback
  4. Create an action plan
  5. Review guiding practices
  6. Review progress

Sound good? Click here to contact me with the phrase “I want to unleash my potential” and I’ll put your name in the hat.

The giveaway closes on Sunday 24 June 2012.

Normal terms and conditions apply: read them here if you are new to my giveaways.

If you don’t want to take your chances with the giveaway, and want your own copy now, you can buy it on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.


Focus on Coaching: Interview with Kevin Ciccotti

Kevin Ciccotti

Kevin Ciccotti

In the last part of the Focus on Coaching series, I’m interviewing Kevin Ciccotti, CPCC, ACC. Kevin is a coach who has chosen to work specifically with PMPs (although I expect he’d work with any project managers). I asked him why.

Kevin, how did you get into coaching?

I will say my path to coaching was not exactly a straight line. I spent many  years working in different organizations, from hotel-casinos (I grew up and still live in Reno, Nevada), to airlines, and a few others before ‘settling in’ and working for more than 25 years for a world-class manufacturing company that happened to be the world’s largest slot machine manufacturer. The last 16 of those years were spent in management, and that is where I really began to develop my ability to help my team members build upon their strengths, overcome challenges, and create successful careers.

One of my employees told me, “You’re wasting your talents here. Not that what you do for us isn’t appreciated, but you have so much to offer beyond these walls. You need to think about how you can reach more people and help them the way you’ve helped us.” Well, those words both inspired and terrified me. The truth was that I knew I wasn’t playing to my own strengths. So I researched coach training programs, and attended one of the best in the country.

It’s been more than four years now since I left my corporate job and started my coaching business and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done. I haven’t looked back once, or regretted a second. That, for me, is the ultimate definition of success.

Why did you choose to work with project managers?

In my previous job, I was heavily involved in product development – from product concept, to planning and development, to production, and ultimately end of life cycle, or obsolescence. One thing that was a constant was that no matter how well team members knew each other, regardless of skill sets, we struggled to get traction on new projects. For me, it was a fascinating, and sometimes frustrating, study of how complex relationships in the workplace can be. We’re all on the same team, right? Then why is there so much conflict, so little cooperation?

When I became a coach, I honestly thought I’d left all that behind. Then, I began coaching the CEO of a technology company that specializes in ERP implementations and PPM/BPM processes for large corporations. After working with me for a while, he mentioned that what I do as a coach could greatly benefit project managers who struggle with leading teams – especially when they have no direct authority over members.

That sparked something in me, and I investigated further. Over the last four years, we’ve seen an incredible shift in the workplace, and all of us are faced with unprecedented challenges. Companies have dramatically cut staff and asked people to do more with less, and PM’s are under more pressure than ever to get their teams engaged and working together effectively. I’ve since joined PMI, have spoken at multiple events, written articles for a number of publications, hosted webinars, and created a one-day workshop called The Human Factor in Project Management, and I absolutely love working with PM’s!

Well, we are lovely people. One of the things you’ve said is that some of our behaviour is down to brain wiring. Does that mean that there are some behaviours that we cannot change?

While it’s true that many of our behaviours are influenced by the way our brains are wired, that by no means implies that we are automatons who are simply running on programs. Ultimately, we always have the power of choice in any situation.

For example, think of a time when you faced a major change or uncertainty in your work or life. If you’re like the vast majority of people, your initial response was probably one of resistance or fear. That’s because the brain is literally wired to see change as potential threat, it craves certainty.  Anything new and unusual triggers us to make a ‘toward or away from’ decision, based on moving toward a perceived pleasure or reward, or away from potential pain.

The most important thing to be aware of in those times is that you get to decide what the change means. Of course, we all know that not all change is inherently bad, nor is it always good. Our ability to discern the events, study our choices, and then make a conscious decision about how to proceed, gives us the power to make more effective decisions. So, regardless of the situation, we are not slaves to our brain’s default settings.

Hmm, interesting. How does understanding human behaviour help project managers coach their team members?

It’s really all about increasing awareness. We all tend to view and interpret the world around us through the lens of our own experiences. And, what’s ‘true’ for me is not necessarily true for you or anyone else. Without that understanding, we tend to judge others who don’t share our perspectives as ‘different’ or even ‘wrong.’

When Project Managers learn to see the individuality in team members, they’re much less likely to judge them or their behaviours, and they are far more likely to develop a better sense of connection with them. In the end, my belief is that the single most important aspect of leading teams is your relationship with the people on that team. Understanding human behaviour is a gateway to understanding the people around us. Now, I’m not talking about turning PM’s into psychologists, but having a basic
understanding of behaviour is essential to learning not only how others view their world, but also how you view and interpret your world.

What’s your top tip for project managers who want to start better understanding the way that their project team members work?

Wow, it’s so difficult to come up with just one. I’d have to say that if there were only one thing PM’s could do it would be to really work to become a better listener. And when I say that, I mean don’t just hear what’s being said, but really listen for understanding. So many times, we get caught up in the busyness of our day and our projects, and we don’t give our people the attention they may need. When team members don’t feel heard, it can dramatically impact their level of engagement. When we take the time to listen, even if no action results from it, the person feels heard. And it’s a big difference maker.

For the project manager, this can translate into stronger connections with team members, a deeper level of trust, and more effective communication. All of this can absolutely work to the PM’s advantage when it comes to getting the most from their project teams.

Thanks, Kevin!

Kevin Ciccotti has been a student of peak performance, interpersonal communication, and human behavior for more than 25 years. He was trained at The Coaches Training Institute (CTI), the world’s largest in-person coach training organization. He is certified by both CTI and the International Coach Federation, and in 2012 was named President of the Nevada Professional Coaches Association.


This short series is looking at coaching in a project management environment. Today, I’m reviewing The Project Management Coaching Workbook by Susanne Madsen (Management Concepts, 2011).

“It is not your ability to manage tasks and resources that will set you apart,” writes Susanne Madsen in her new book, The Project Management Coaching Workbook. “It is your ability to manage relationships and lead the team to success through your vision and engagement. As much as knowledge matters, it is your drive, confidence, and attitude that will really help you get your projects over the finishing line.”

Madsen has written a unique and practical book aimed at project managers who want to perfect their craft and those in the role of coach to project managers. You can use the checklists and exercises to assess yourself and improve your skills. If you work with others in a coaching role, this workbook could form the basis of your coaching interventions.

6 Steps for self-coaching

Madsen outlines six steps for you to work through as part of a self-coaching exercise:

  1. Create your vision
  2. Benchmark current skills
  3. Get feedback
  4. Create an action plan
  5. Review guiding practices
  6. Review progress

The book aims to guide you through these six steps so that you can be your own coach, identifying where you are not as proficient and helping you work on these areas.  A large part of this is establishing where you are starting from, which requires both self-assessment and feedback from your colleagues.

Using feedback for improving skills

It is very much a workbook and there are spider diagrams to fill in about each project management dimension, including time management, quality management and stakeholder management, amongst others. This first exercise will give you a personal rating against 80 project management skill areas, so you can quickly see where your strong and weak points are.

You then repeat the exercise with customers, your manager and team members, so you have a complete picture of perceptions of your performance, all of which can be recorded in the workbook, although you will probably want to photocopy the pages so you can get feedback from multiple people. At this point you can identify where you want to dedicate time for improvement. Or, if you are using Madsen’s book as the basis for coaching one of your project team, you can use this assessment to discuss with them their potential areas for improvement.

Keep going for success

Madsen writes:

“One of the differences between ordinary and successful people is that successful people do not give up when presented with an obstacle or challenge. They pick themselves up, get to the root cause of the issue, and change their approach accordingly. Successful people come across as many roadblocks as everyone else, but instead of giving in and blaming others, they change their approach and do something about the situation. They are proactive and keep trying new ways.”

She suggests forming a support group of project managers to act as a day-to-day sounding board. This could be useful, especially if you do’t have a formal coach or mentor and are using her book to develop yourself. If you don’t have a real-life network in your company, you could join external groups like the APM or the project management organisation in your area. You could also tap in to networks online like LinkedIn groups and Gantthead.

As well as providing the framework and forms for a coaching assessment, Madsen also included hints and tips to help you improve in certain areas. I particularly enjoyed the advice about making sure that you know what red, amber green actually mean, so that your reports are meaningful.

Although I am biased towards books that use the Oxford comma, overall I thought this was a structured, useful book. I would like to see the worksheet pages available as a digital download as once you have written in the boxes and completed the spider diagrams you will find it difficult to use again when you come to reassess you skills in a year or so. In the absence of that, make sure you take a photocopy of the workbook pages before you write on them, so if you want to review your progress and reassess yourself, you can.

That continual reassessment is important. “Keep looking inward, reassess what you really, really want to achieve as a project manager and do’t let anything deter you from reaching your goals,” she writes. “Be the best you can in everything that you do, and you will set a great example for others to follow.”

Buy on Amazon.co.uk
Buy on Amazon.com


10 Things I love about managing projects

Click the graphic to see it full size. The variety. Today, IT, tomorrow talking to Marketing. Every day is different! Leading a team. Teamwork makes the day more interesting. The tech. Getting to try new apps. Problem solving. It's satisfying to put things right. Introducing new things. Delivering change is fun! Communicating. There's lots of… Continue Reading->

Free project action log template

My To Do list is massive. So I have developed an action log to control my tasks. I copy and paste actions from conference calls, steering group meetings, team meetings and those chance conversations you have in the corridor into this. I can filter it by task owner when I am talking to someone and… Continue Reading->

Giveaway: Get Fit with the Lazy Project Manager

I interviewed Peter Taylor, otherwise known as The Lazy Project Manager, last month. He shared some tips on how to manage project health checks. I have a copy of his book, Get Fit with the Lazy Project Manager, to give away. Contact me with the phrase, "I'm a bit fit" and I'll add you to… Continue Reading->

What George Orwell Can Teach Us About Project Management

This is a guest contribution by Mark Phillips, PMP. “What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about.” George Orwell George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, is the last essay in his wonderful Penguin Book called “[amazon text=Why I Write&asin=014101900X]” In the essay… Continue Reading->

Women in IT Awards: the results

The inaugural Women in IT Awards were held in London on Thursday and I’d been nominated, with my colleague, for work on a large IT transformation project at Spire Healthcare (the project forms the major case study in my book, [amazon text=Customer-Centric Project Management&asin=1409443124]). This photo is of us just before dinner was served. It… Continue Reading->

What I’m reading: January 2015

This post contains affiliate links.                 I’ve complained before about not having much time to read but things are getting better now I have shifted my commute so I actually get a seat on the train in the mornings. I cannot adequately explain how much better this makes my day, even though it means leaving the… Continue Reading->