Monday, October 15, 2012

Prioritizing work with urgent and important - it would be funny if it weren't so true!

One of the very best tools for managing task overload is to get a grip on prioritizing work into what matters (important) and what's critical (urgent). This prioritization method is from Stephen Covey's classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - it's an oldie but really practically useful.

A simple grid is the best way to visualise this. You can use a white board too.

This is a wonderfully funny youtube clip of the marvellous Harold Taylor demonstrating why the urgent and important style of prioritization and work organization is extremely valuable - stay tuned to the end and you'll see why this is important for not just you but those in your organization too.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

How do I find a great coach or mentor?

As a coaching professional I seem to meet a new coach every day - either in the flesh or online. They either tell me they can coach anyone to transform their life or they talk about who they connect with most.  It’s the second group I warm to most, because life experience matters in coaching.

The most excellent skill set that we learn when certifying as a coach is massively valuable, it does help us support people in transforming their lives in small and large ways but, to me, a coach will really help you move onward and upward if they also understand the specific work or life challenges that you are living right now.

Seek out coaches who have had 

formal coach training 
life experiences that matches your situation.  

The most effective lasting change happens when it becomes part of everyday life. When integrated into what  and how you do things on an every day basis, change really sticks.  Change sticks when it fits in, when it helps you make life easier. Someone who understands your every day can more easily help this happen. 

A great coach will help you discover how this can work for you and  because every one is different there is no one right way to do this. Ask your coach how they coach people, then ask how they can meet your individual needs, challenges and help you find your best opportunities for development.

The best way to find a coach is by referral (from HR, from professional association, from colleagues), but what suits your colleague may not always suit you because, you are, well, you. Using an online search can also help. Not all qualified coaches are listed on the professional coaching association’s lists but those on the list are most likely qualified. Mentors used by your professional association may be open to taking on coaching clients. 

The very best thing you can do is try a coach out: email and ask for their coaching resume to check if their training and life expertise matches your needs; if it does, ask for a free laser coaching session - after 15-20 mins on the phone you will have a sense of whether this person gets you and your situation. 

Final thought: if you can’t find a match ask a coach to help you find the right coach for you.

Check point: Formal coach training?
Check point: Has this coach resolved a similar or related issue to yours or worked or lived in a related environment to you?
Check point:  Does this coach have a game plan that is flexible to your needs and perspectives?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

the value in being mentored

In Calgary we have an excellent PMI chapter who have the vision to run a really great mentoring program for some lucky PMs. How do I know this? I'm one of their mentors.  

If you are not lucky enough to be in the PMI_SAC program what can you do? There is real value in having a mentor and they are  around you everyday if you look. 

Who could your mentor be?

We often have a contact with people in our lives that walk their talk in certain areas or have skills that we would like to emulate ourselves.

Life is full of mentors, and realising this helps us build our own expertise and the resources that help us succeed. Mentors can come from all walks of life and, like friends there is no one mentor that fits all; no-one will match you exactly because well, because you are you.

People who intimidate us because they are great at what they do or who give good strong (and sometimes hard to hear) feedback will make the best mentors. If someone around you inspires you to step up and do better they might be the very person you are looking for.

Informal mentors

Many of us have mentors in our life just because they are around us when we need them - proximity mentors if you will.

This mentor is unlikely to know that they are your mentor, you simply benefit from being exposed to their experience. For some potential mentors the mentoring arrangement has to not only informal but strictly watch and learn. Other times you might be able to ask curious questions which get a potential mentor to reveal more about how or why they do something in a particular way.

Formal mentors

Managing to be in a formalized mentoring relationship opens up your mentors experience to you more fully. You can easily ask them questions, they by being a mentor will make time available for just that.

Additionally, trained or experienced mentors will start to ask you questions to draw out what your challenges are, what you already know and help you build on your natural talents.

Asking curious questions

Whether you are in a formal or informal mentoring relationship developing curiosity is the first step in learning.  Formulating curious questions is a way to explore something without the expectation of knowing the answer. They are open ended questions, often not fully (or grammatically - eek! don’t tell my grammar mentor!)  formulated. They are designed to get the other person talking.

How did you chose that approach?
I’m intrigued how your worked out that ...
Would you mind telling me more about the way you ...
You always seem to successful in this situation, how do you get it to work out so often?
If you can’t ask your mentor a question directly or can only ask questions infrequently then your curious question helps you focus on what you want to observe in the mentor’s behaviour.

The best way to learn from a mentor is to be curious and act on it. So, who’s your mentor?

If you would like to be experience the coaching aspect of mentoring the Calgary Project Managers Mastermind Group is a great place to meet one 

or you can call me