Coaching is a highly effective management tool and yet, too few project managers adopt a coaching style when supporting their project teams.
Even if you are not a full-time project manager, why would you not use the power of coaching to deliver your projects on-time and on-budget? The truth is many project managers simply do not understand coaching and therefore they have received little or no formal training. So what are the benefits of coaching in a project management context?
1) Coaching encourages members of the project team to think and act for themselves
One of the many benefits for the project manager is that if team members learn to find their own way and to solve problems on their own, they will not need the same level of support and direction from the project manager the next time a similar scenario or problem arises – saving time, increasing performance and boosting self confidence and morale.
2) Coaching encourages diversity
When the analysis and development of solutions are all undertaken by the same individual, in this case the project manager, solutions tend to be narrow and similar. By allowing project team members to work out their own ideas and strategies and allowing them to achieve the project’s outcomes in their own ways, often results in stronger, more robust solutions than otherwise would be possible.
3) Coaching allows effective learning
By allowing project team members to take responsibility they will learn to fail, how to address challenges and how to succeed without the constant direct intervention of the project manager. Through coaching, they will learn to learn and learn how to improve and lead.
The ‘old-school of management of telling and advising’ with extensive use of phrases such as, “Do this” or “Do that” or “Let me tell you how…” are swapped for more empowering and coaching based questions and phrases: questions like, “How would you do this?” “How can this be improved?” and “What will success mean to the team?”
Of course, there are times when a more directive style of management is required especially with new projects and project teams. But as project teams gel and move from the ‘forming’ stage to the ‘performing’ stage of Tuckman’s group model, there is more and more scope to adopt a coaching project management style.
Like the use of all management styles, it is all a matter of balance: coaching can be counter-productive if over used. The real skill is not learning how to use the tools and techniques of coaching, but knowing when to use them. Smart project managers are conscious of their approach; they ask for feedback from team members and clients; they recognise that there is a time and place for coaching; and they make sure they acquire and develop their own skills and competences so that they can select the right management style and techniques for the right situation.