Chip Bell defined mentoring as - "Someone who helps someone else learn something that he or she would have learned less well, more slowly or not at all if left alone".
In the early years of my career, I changed career streams from an Electronics environment into a Project Office as a Project Administrator. The Manager of the Project Office (Gordon DesBrulais) was a knowledgeable and experienced manager, who was passionate about Project Management. I was extremely fortunate to have such a person as my mentor and coach. He assisted me in igniting my passion for project management - something that has never left me. As a result, it has become one of the pillars of my foundation, in giving back, within the project management community.
I have stayed within the Project Management industry for the past 20 years and have managed many projects and programmes, with one of my principal philosophies being people work with me and not for me.
Accordingly, keeping this philosophy in mind, you will realise that people are fundamental to the success within Project Management.
I have had the opportunity of developing a number of junior Project Managers and seeing them grow within their careers. The benefit has been intangible; satisfaction, improving self-esteem, and thus also growing myself (professionally and personally) during this process.
One of the critical success factors within the Project Management Profession is to nurture junior Project Managers. Mentoring and Coaching can cement a solid foundation within the individual and should develop the individuals confidence in managing projects, as well as improving the teams performance and motivation.
While baptism by fire or throwing one into deep end, often remains a popular strategy for getting new employees up to speed, I would suggest the following approach for junior Project Managers:
Be the hero
- Perform a personal SWOT analysis: Create a plan to develop their weaknesses, but also focus on maintaining and developing their existing strengths and analysing the opportunities.
- Perform a project management competency skills assessment, to identify the gaps that exist between the actual and the desired competencies
- Create a plan to get to the desired competency levels: (1) On-the-job training - The major benefit being the imparting of significant on-the-job knowledge, experience and lessons learned to assist the acquiring of new skills and building existing ones. (2) Formal training: Aim to acquire an internationally recognised certification e.g. PMIs Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) or PMIs Project Management Professional (PMP)®
- Allocate the junior Project Manager to a Project Manager to job shadow.
- Ideally, allocate the junior Project Manager to a low risk project or to a subproject of a major project.
- Ensure you are available as a safety net (if required).
- When coaching, it is of utmost importance to relate your real life experiences and stories and thus use "I" and not "you". This will make the coaching more authentic.
- Dont take ownership of the learning of the junior Project Manager, he or she must take responsibility of their own learning.
- Be aware and more importantly, understand personality style differences as well as cultural differences.
So where does a junior Project Manager go, if he or she wishes to gain from the experience and wisdom of a more seasoned manager? We all have heroes great artists, entrepreneurs, sports players, explorers or fictional heroes. Someone we look up to. Someone who embodies everything we admire. And you know what? That someone is you!
When people admire a hero, they are tapping into their own unrealised potential. They typically possess the strength, imagination, ethics and other qualities that they admire in the hero, even if they have never used them before. Thats why the heros example resonates so strongly within themselves.
The junior Project Manager will be looking at you as their hero and wanting you to assist them in their development within the Project Management Profession. If you are a senior and experienced Project Manager, why not think about making the investment in your junior Project Managers (or budding Project Managers). Share your skills, knowledge, experience, expertise and lessons learned. By doing so, you will encourage, motivate and inspire them to develop their competencies and reach their full potential. Reap the rewards and remember Mentoring and Coaching is for winners who seek to move up to the next level.
In years to come, when these junior Project Managers, that you have invested time developing, will become experienced senior Project Managers (ideally CAPM® and PMP ® certified) and they will be developing the next crop of junior Project Managers.
The illustrious Winston Churchill said - We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. So dont ask why, but rather look ahead and say why not!