Coaching is a process that helps an individual reach their full potential – mainly through the coach supporting and empowering them.
Effective coaching relies on a relationship between coach and coachee that is based on the needs of the individual that is being coached, rather than the desired outcomes for the coach or their company.
Coaching is intrinsically linked with good leadership and its emphasis on skills such as listening, encouraging, supporting and communication – rather than goal and objective setting, controlling, directing and delivery of bottom line results.
For this reason, managers may be less well placed to coach because their relationship with the coachee is likely to be based on a more directive approach, with emphasis on the company’s goals, rather than an individual’s needs.
That does not mean that managers won’t benefit from learning how to improve an individual’s performance, however. Anyone who is prepared to learn coaching and mentoring skills will be able to make a difference within their team.
Fortunately, project managers are now embracing leadership more than ever before, with the ability to lead a team being seen as more crucial to its success than managing it – as discussed in our previous blog: The call for project managers to lead, rather than manage.
Where the ultimate aim is the successful outcome of a project, being a good leader ensures the project manager is able to pull a team together and motivate its members on a common objective, in order to get the best performance out of them.
Given that leadership and coaching go hand in hand, a project manager who can encourage and motivate an individual, as well as the overall team – cannot fail to benefit.
For project managers specifically, helping an individual build up their confidence and unlock their potential – particularly by stretching and challenging those to whom they delegate – will result in project success.
It can help maximise the standard of work they have delegated so that it is in line with project expectations and goals.
Coaching also allows a project manager to have greater control over the different elements of a project, keep track of how individuals are doing with their tasks and control the quality of the tasks undertaken – even if they’re not an expert in that particular area.
Greater control of tasks set will help take the risk out of a project, and give more predictable results – especially when coaching someone on a task that is high value.
As well as control and predictability of results, coaching will also help with other issues, such as how to motivate someone who is struggling, how to keep them focused or how to utilize their strengths better.
Ultimately though, a project manager will benefit a lot more from a team that is empowered, confident, independent and fulfilled by what they do.
Given that the principle of coaching is to empower someone to find the answers themselves, the onus is on the coach to understand the individual’s needs and to adapt their coaching style to suit them.
One of the most important techniques in coaching is to ask the right questions, those which will enable the coachee to find their own solution to a problem, rather than being given the answer.
By adjusting the level of direction depending on how capable a person is, the coach will be acting as a mentor, giving power to the team to take on more responsibility, rather than in a position of power.
This involves the coach first identifying the skill and capability level of the individual, in order to select the right coaching style for them, such as the direct or entrust style. For more on this see ESI’s Coaching and Mentoring Model.
When any manager or leader gains the skills needed to coach, the impact on them, the individual they are coaching and the organisation, shouldn’t be underestimated.
Project managers should also not underestimate the benefit of taking on a coach themselves. Even the most experienced and knowledgeable PMs can come up against barriers, or times when they need supporting.
This is particularly apt for those who are training to be good leaders – with post-training coaching proving invaluable when it comes to not leaving training in the training room.
For an idea of what to expect from ESI’s Coaching and Mentoring course, watch the video on our You Tube Channel.