Interview with Susanne Madsen, speaker at the Project Management Forum

Susanne-Madsen roundToday, we give the floor to Susanne Madsen who will introduce herself through some interview-style questions.
Internationally recognised project leadership coach, trainer and consultant, Susanne will speak about the power of project leadership at the Project Management Forum.


What are the most important skills of a good manager and leader?

In my work I always distinguish between management and leadership as a big part of what I do is to help project managers transform into leaders. I see management as predominantly task-oriented and logical where the manager relies on his or her authority to get work done. It’s a transactional approach where the manager knows more than the people they manage and therefore reverts to telling people what to do.

Leadership, in contrast, is much more about attitudes and behaviours rather than specific skills or knowledge. Leaders don’t assume that they know it all (how could they in today’s complex world) and are therefore more likely to ask questions than giving orders. A leader doesn’t rely on authority to get work done but uses an engaging and motivational approach where they tap into the individual’s strengths and aspirations. At the same time they paint an appealing picture of the future state that they would like the team members to contribute to.

For project managers to be effective in their roles they need to be excellent managers (who are good at planning, tracking tasks, and delivering to time, cost and quality) as well as good leaders (who are excellent at setting the vision, leading and motivating the team, influencing senior decision-makers and delivering value to the customer). The problem arises when project managers use a transactional approach when they interface with people and mange them rather than lead them.


What is your motivation to be a speaker at the Project Management Forum?

Ever since I had my leadership epiphany seven years ago my mission has been to help project managers become better leaders – leaders who are able to deliver real business value, innovate, motivate, empower and collaborate. I used to be a highly-strung project and programme manager myself and believed that I needed to know it all and do it all. When I realised that there was another way, my life and career changed dramatically.

The project managers I coach today often make the same mistakes as I used to. What can help them isn’t just a better understanding of how to generate value for their clients but also to get better at leading, influencing and connecting with people. Being overly rational, task-oriented and good at getting things done isn’t enough.

Speaking at this conference enables me to share some thought-provoking ideas with project managers who are interested in moving beyond a purely transactional way of managing projects and into leadership.


What key message would you like to address to the attendees of the Project Management Forum?

It will come as no surprise that I will be talking about how project managers can further their journey into leadership. One of the ways they can do that is by taking a greater interest in human psychology and what makes people tick. After all it’s people who deliver projects, not processes. Any project manager who wants to be successful will need to develop and make use of their emotional intelligence in addition to their cognitive intelligence. It’s about listening, observing and asking questions – and not feeling that they have to know all the answers. They must be the enabler, guide and coach and give people the autonomy to decide how to do their work. Tightly controlling people is one of the most predictable ways of disempowering the team and killing innovation.

Understanding human psychology can also help project managers to overcome the so-called “resistance to change”. The truth is that people resist because they believe they will lose something of value (such as status, belonging, or competence) or because they fear they will not be able to adapt to the new ways. To overcome this resistance we have to understand and address the underlying emotions that people associate with the change. It isn’t enough to just communicate more. It’s when we focus on building trust and removing doubt and fear that resistance disappears.

And then I would like to encourage project mangers to start thinking of themselves as role models. When we know that other people will follow our example, we raise our standard and become more conscious about how we act, how we impact others, and what practices we use to run our projects. Our industry needs great role models and I would love to see more project managers step up to the challenge and begin to mentor people around them.


Where can we find you online? Twitter, LinkedIn, something else?

I am active on Social Media where I regularly publish new posts on Twitter (@SusanneMadsen), LinkedIn and on my website,  I encourage people to check out my site as I have made a lot of resources available to download for free.

My latest book the Power of Project leadership also has it’s own website for people who are interested in the references I used along with reviews, interviews and endorsements.


Discover the portrait of  other speakers of the Project Management Forum here. And don’t forget to get your ticket to the conference, if you haven’t done it yet!

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