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Create a Goal Map for your Project Management Career

Career Goals in Project ManagementAs 2017 draws to a close and we embark on a new year it may be time for you to review how far you have come and where you are headed as a project manager. If you don’t take time out to consciously direct your career towards your desires you might drift and end up in a place where you don’t feel your talents are being fully appreciated or utilised.

I’m not suggesting that you simply make a list of resolutions for the New Year. These superficial intentions often fail to materialise because we don’t put sufficient thought and focus behind them. Instead I’m suggesting that you make use of a much more powerful tool – a Goal Map! In this post I will explain what a Goal Map is, why it’s so powerful and how you can use it to set and achieve your project management goals.


What is a Goal Map?

A goal map is a visual and verbal representation of your goals.  It consists of two pages that are essentially based on the same template. On the first template you use words to capture your goals, the reason why you would like to achieve them, who you feel can help you achieve them, what action you will take and by when. This in itself is a very powerful exercise, which helps you to consciously direct your life and career towards your desires. But this first template only uses words, not images, and therefore only speaks to your logical left-brain.

The real power of the goal-mapping exercise is to translate your words into images, and this is where the 2nd template comes in.


Left-brain Goal Map (for words)Right-brain Goal Map (for images)


On the second template you draw or cut out images that represent your goals. In contrast to words, images speak to your subconscious, which is a major player in determining your actions and priorities. On this second template you visually represent your main goal, your sub-goals and the real reason and purpose behind them. You also draw images of the people who can help you achieve your goals as well as the specific actions you will take along the way.  Just identifying your goals isn’t enough. You also need to take action to get there.

As you can see the two templates are almost identical, apart from the fact that the first one is for words and the second one is for images. One template for each half of the brain!


Where does the Goal Map originate?

I first came across the Goal Map technique when I trained as a coach in 2009. I attended a one-day workshop with Brian Maine where all attendees created their own Goal Map. We really got creative and were sitting on the floor with lots of crayons.

When I look back at the goals I drew out in 2009 it’s striking that almost all of them have since materialized. And I had some pretty big goals!

At the time I was working as a full-time project manager in financial services. My desire was to work as a coach, consultant and facilitator and to write books. I envisioned a future where I had more flexibility and where I was helping people develop their project management and leadership skills.

On my Goal Map I drew flipcharts, books, people and tall buildings because I still wanted to work with corporate clients. My goal seemed distant at the time and I didn’t yet have a clear roadmap for how to achieve it. The Goal Map exercise helped me visualise where I really wanted to go and what some of the stepping-stones were in getting there.

Less than four years after I attended the workshop with Brian Maine I had completely changed my career. In 2013 I started working as a full-time project leadership coach and trainer and had written and published my first book.

You can create the same transformation in your career. All you need is lots of colourful crayons, magazines with inspiring images, and one to two hours of your time. If you’re quite happy where you’re currently at, you can use this technique to simply fine-tune your objectives and ensure you stay on course! The Goal Map isn’t just about making radical changes.


How do I Get Started?

The best way to get started is to first spend time developing a strong vision for where you’d like to be in three to five year’s time. Allow yourself time to dream and to be honest about what you would like to achieve in your career and who you’d like to become.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you’re managing and leading the project of your dreams. Envision that everything is exactly the way you want it to be: the type of project you are running, its size and complexity, the people involved, and your own capabilities as a project manager and leader. Imagine that you are every bit as successful as you want to be. Feel it and see it.

Keep picturing yourself in the future, and be as specific as possible in your observations. Where exactly are you? What are you doing? What kind of project are you running? Who are you interfacing with? What type of leader are you? What skills and interpersonal qualities do you possess? What is the bigger impact you are having? Keep imagining yourself in the future.

Now open your eyes and write down what you saw. Where and who would you ultimately like to be three to five years from now? Describe your main goal in the yellow part of the Goal Map. Use whatever words come to you.

Once you’ve written down your main goal capture four sub-goals that support your main vision.  There is also space in the Goal Map to write down three reasons why you’d want to achieve these goals. There must be a higher purpose behind them as otherwise your goals quickly become empty and meaningless.

The last steps on the left-brain Goal Map is to write down three actions that can help you achieve your goals. This goes in the “how” boxes. You also add three names of people who can help you. This goes in the “who” boxes. Lastly you put down today’s date at the very bottom of the page as well as the target date for when you’d like to realise your goals. As you fill in this page your conscious left-brain is beginning to figure out what it takes to get to your destination. It’s working hard to figure out all the steps needed.

But as we said earlier, we also need to engage the unconscious mind. Take the second right-brain template and translate your words into images. If you don’t feel like doodling yourself, cut out inspiring images from a magazine and glue them on. Don’t hold yourself back. I’ve run this exercise numerous times in corporate environments – and even in the construction industry!  The results are great once people let go of their barriers and allow themselves to be creative. Use as many images and colours as you want and be as detailed as possible.

Please leave a reply below. We’d love to hear how you get on!






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About Susanne Madsen

Susanne Madsen
Susanne Madsen is an internationally recognised project leadership coach, trainer and consultant. She is the author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook and The Power of Project Leadership (Jan 2015).

Prior to setting up her own business, she worked for 17 years in the corporate sector leading large change programmes of up to $30 million for organisations such as Standard Bank, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. She is a fully qualified Corporate and Executive coach and a member of the Association for Project Management (APM).

Susanne specialises in helping managers improve their leadership skills so that they can gain control of their projects and fast-track their career. She does this through a combination of training, coaching, mentoring and consulting.

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