How a coach can assist an IT project

December 2004

Walsh works on getting the team members to be more assertive. "We realize we need to be more verbal in meetings," Moneysmith says. "My personal challenge is to 'blurt.' When things come up that bother me, I can't sit back and think about it while nodding my head. I need to bring it out on the table."

The team members begin to speak up at departmental meetings, and they see results almost immediately. "It's been very positive," Moneysmith says. "When we have something to say, we say it, and people are listening to us."

January 2005

As Walsh sees opportunities for development, she suggests tips and techniques, including the following:

Assertiveness: Recraft e-mails to be more direct when communicating with the boss. Instead of saying, "Can we do this?" say, "This is what we want."

Empowerment: Instead of asking for permission to proceed, feel confident enough to move forward with your ideas and then send your manager a note.

Communication: Be firm and straightforward. Instead of sending wishy-washy messages that ask for help but give the recipient an easy out, say, "This is what I need by this date."

Difficult situations: Present the facts, even if they are harsh, then work out a solution. Focus on the data, process and fix.

As the team becomes more comfortable with Walsh, they add their own items to the coaching agenda. "We've opened up and asked for assistance," Moneysmith says. "For example, in the hallway someone said, 'Hey what do you actually do in your job?' I took it as insulting, but Gwen said, 'This is an opportunity for you to market yourself.'"

Walsh then helps the group to fashion "marketing lines, tag lines and comeback lines" to use in various situations.

February 2005

Team members have gained enough confidence to try stepping out of their comfort zones. Previously, Moneysmith had run the meetings with business people, but now the others try that role. "It's safe because the other two are there to jump in and back you up if you need help," she explains. "You're not by yourself."

Walsh continues to help the team improve its project management skills and personal skills in tandem. For example, they begin work on a project prioritization matrix by asking the IT directors how the company and IT prioritize projects. They find that the process is neither formal nor documented.

The team members formalize the process the directors describe, adding weights and values to rate and score any project through hard data rather than gut feel. Then they practice their soft skills. "When we took it back to the directors, we had to present that tactfully so they would accept it," Moneysmith explains. "We didn't want them to feel we were telling them how to do their jobs."

Moneysmith is stepping into her leadership role. She realizes that she has taken the coaching agenda out of Walsh's hands. "In the early meetings, I'd be rushing around making sure I got my action items done," she recalls. "Now, I usually have an agenda."

"Blurting" has become so second nature that during departmental meetings, attendees turn to Moneysmith with an expectant "Aren't you going to say anything?"

"When she learned to blurt it out, it was like a light switch turned on, and she hasn't turned it off since," Walsh says.

March 2005

The project is nearly done. Walsh coaches the team on how to analyze findings, document their analysis and get buy-in from the departments on their methodology. Once the analysis is complete, they practice presenting the information to better handle difficult questions from the audience.

In this final round, they are still simultaneously working on personal growth. Moneysmith's new focus is delegating project tasks.

"Gwen has helped me realize I can't do everything," she says. "She showed me how to stay connected but not do the work -- how I can still check up on it, but I don't have to own it."

April 2005

The team gives its final presentation. "It went great -- very smooth, and nothing they threw at us caused us any concern," Moneysmith reports. A week later, after focusing on lessons learned, the group is ready for a new project.

CIO McQuiston says the engagement was a big success. "I see a physical difference [in Moneysmith]," he says. "I see a person who is more confident and more able to confront issues and ideas. She shows a lot more boldness, in a good way.

"[The team] served up an end product that was on time, well organized and very useful," McQuiston adds. "There's no question the project was a success. It will serve as a guidepost for us developing our capital expenditure plan and everything else."

Everyone was impressed with the team, he adds. "And when I started to get 'Can they work on my project?' I know there's something positive happening."

Moneysmith knows it, too. "When I started out, I was kind of scared of the project; I hadn't done something in this manner before. I questioned my ability and how everybody would react," she recalls. "Now I don't think I'm scared about tackling anything they throw our way."

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