Coaching a new project manager in the automotive industry

We were approached by one of the largest automotive manufacturers who were looking to develop their project management capabilities.  As part of this it was agreed that classroom based training wasn’t always the most appropriate approach.  Therefore we undertook to coach ‘Melanie’, a new project manager with experience of supporting the organisation’s telecommunications infrastructure and systems who wanted to rise to the challenge of project manager.

Over a period of four months we worked with Melanie to look at how she would grow.  She was given a new project by the organisation (with fixed deadlines of course!) that would be used to test her skills to the full. Fixed deadlines, external suppliers and contractors, a multitude of internal stakeholders with their own agendas and the knowledge that if it was not successful the whole organisation could grind to a halt certainly focused her mind.

We started by looking at her current skill set, what she had learned and her experiences so far.  Getting her to recognise her strengths as well as areas to develop further was important to boosting her confidence.  This was quickly followed by coaching on a number of fronts – scoping the project, contracting with the client, and developing a realistic plan were all imperatives.  Work quickly moved on to managing stakeholders and her relationship with the management team.  She realised that developing a good relationship with her sponsor was important, although due to personalities not as easy as it could be.  As time went by Melanie seemed more confident and assured in her role, managing relationships well and asserting her and the project’s needs where necessary.

Was the project successful? Well of course.  Did Melanie make it as a project manager? Well that’s now her career.