It’s likely that you’re currently running a multitude of projects within your team, right now. But do your team have a strong record of working well together? Achieving project goals without disputes? Reaching the conclusion of a project feeling inspired and motivated to do even better next time?

If you’re shaking your head at this point, this 5-part Project Management for self-leaders blog series is for you. Through this series, you’ll discover how your team can exceed your organisations’ wildest dreams with their project management and delivery skills. From inception to reflection, your projects would be so much better with a little self-leadership boost.

As this is the first installment in this series, you’ll be digging into some background on Project Management as well as the importance – and how to – of visioning and goal setting. Let’s begin.


According to the Association for Project Management:

Project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget.
A key factor that distinguishes project management from just ‘management’ is that it has this final deliverable and a finite timespan, unlike management which is an ongoing process. Because of this a project professional needs a wide range of skills; often technical skills, and certainly people management skills and good business awareness.

As you’ll know, if you’re a regular Self Leadership Initiative blog reader, people management skills – from the perspective of being a powerful self-leader – are at the absolute heart of The SLI difference. If you’re new here and not familiar with The SLI ethos, you might want to check out this ‘about’ page.

So, digging in to Project Management, it’ll help you to know that most Project Management models agree that there are 5 key phases of any project:

  1. Initiating – recognising the need for a project.
  2. Planning – outlining all of the tasks, responsibilities and timescales.
  3. Execution – kicking off the project and following the plan.
  4. Monitoring – continuous evaluation against the plan and KPIs, making changes if needed based on time/finance/quality targets.
  5. Closure – celebrating the finish, evaluating the outcome, sometimes handing over.

Now this is all especially important for you as you probably, like many of The SLI’s clients, find that many of your projects are carried out by individuals within teams who still have other responsibilities and duties. This means that they must manage their project timeline and resources alongside their other work. Perhaps this has previously caused tension and headaches in your team?

Projects may be initiated by the Project Manager or internal team members themselves. They may also be initiated by external stakeholders. Either way, it is important that wherever a project comes from, it is clearly defined. This helps to:

And this is where the importance of visioning and goal setting comes in.


1. Consult the stakeholders

Stakeholders are individuals that are involved with, or affected by, the project; or those who could have an impact on the project. This may include customers / service users, other staff members, members of the public, legislators, community members and more.
As you identify the need for a project, it is important to consult with all of the key stakeholders to ensure that you understand what is important to them in this project. This may include meetings, interviews or surveys to hear everyone’s views.

2. Be mindful of motivation

Broadly speaking, human beings are motivated by two things: towards pleasure and away from pain. When consulting with stakeholders, take notice of which driver their language choices tend to fit within; are they more driven to pleasure or away from pain? This helps you to understand whether the project is driven by necessity or desire – and it may help you communicate more effectively with your stakeholders as the project progresses. This leads us very neatly to…

3. Identify the purpose

Simon Sinek[1] famously says that great leaders always start with why. He identified that in any project, company or service you can identify three strands:

  1. What – the product, the project, the service
  2. How – the approach, the unique selling point
  3. Why – the underlying ethos or purpose

He made the point that the most effective and persuasive companies started by communicating why they do things, rather than what they do, as this leads to emotional engagement in the process.
This principle applies just as well to Project management as it does to brand communication. Digging into, and continually referring back to, the ‘why’ both at the beginning and throughout the project will empower your teams to achieve amazing outcomes from their projects.

Frustratingly, many stakeholders will frequently hone in on and default to the what element. This is a pitfall self-leaders avoid as they understand that, if you don’t understand why – the underlying purpose of a project – then you may not actually meet the needs.
Each why driver builds a clear picture of, and context for, your projects and will guide the types of tasks needed to make the project a winner. They can also open up different creative routes to solving the problem.

Some questions to run through with your stakeholders to make sure that you understand the why or purpose are:

Once you have a clear view of the purpose behind the project you can move on to identifying the elements of the project itself, as the next stage in your project visioning / goal setting.

4. Identify features and benefits

Now it’s time to establish the core elements of the project in more detail. This means looking at the features and benefits of your project.

The features of a project / service / campaign are the facts or specifications about it. They explain what it is, how it works and even finer details like price and time scales.

Some of the features-related questions to run through as part of your Project Management visioning / goal setting are:

The benefits of a project / service / campaign emphasise how it will positively impact the individuals / teams / organisation involved. It answers the question, “Why should I care?” or, ‘What impact does this have?” We’re tapping into people’s needs, wants, lifestyle or sense of self here.

This stage of the process appeals more directly to peoples’ emotions and is often the element that helps people to get motivated and take action.


When managing a project, it important to be aware of both aspects. You can use the features to explain the what, where and how – to set the timelines, organise the details and hold people accountable during implementation.

The benefits will be more useful when communicating with stakeholders about the importance of the project, the intended outcomes and when trying to motivate people to support you or carry out the work.

Now that your features and benefits are clear, it’s time to really get stuck in to the goal setting section of planning your project.

5. Use SMART goals

This model is a handy tool you might recognise from people development within your organisation. It’s also regularly used in Project Management to help define the scope and timing of your project. This is essential to creating a clear, detailed project plan. Let’s take a quick look at what SMART goals look like in the Project Management context:

Specific – focusing on key features / outcomes / requirements.
Measurable – you can quantify what success looks like (end result or process).
Attainable – it is realistic; you have the skills, resources and time to do it.
Relevant – it has a sensible purpose related to other goals and priorities.
Timely – it has a deadline or milestones to help you track progress.

When working with stakeholders or team members to define a project, asking SMART questions can help get to the root of the project needs much more quickly. Empowering a more motivated and aligned project team.

Pop back on the 11th May for the next installment of this 5-part series, where you’ll get expert insights into how to get organised for project management success. Whilst you’re waiting, you might be interested in these blog posts looking at failure, time management and proactive self-leadership.

If you’re already itching to get started and unlock the Project Management potential and power of your team, The Self Leadership Initiative is here for you. Book in a FREE 30 minute chat with Founder Gemma Perkins to discuss your team’s needs today.

[1] Simon Sinek – How great leaders inspire action