Coaching Skills Improve Project Effectiveness
"What alternatives do I have on this project? Have you considered all of the options?" If you are a project manager, you have probably asked these questions at some point on a project. You rely on your project team to investigate and provide realistic alternatives to the challenges you face on your projects. You don't have all the expertise to consider and assess viable alternatives. However, you can help your technical and subject matter experts to generate feasible options by applying skills from the world of professional coaching.
Project managers are not expected to be technical experts on the project details. Project managers provide value by applying planning; facilitating, scheduling and communication skills to coordinate the efforts of team members from multiple disciplines to reach a common goal.
Professional coaches help successful clients achieve even greater results. Professional coaches listen attentively and ask effective questions to partner with clients and work on problems together. Project managers trained in coaching skills can help team members to collaboratively find solutions and overcome objectives that move the project forward.
You may be wandering which coaching skills are appropriate on project teams, and how to you apply coaching skills. Ironically, the answers to challenges on your projects are found not through providing answers. Options and alternatives are uncovered by asking questions. The answer is in asking questions as an interested outsider to the project. Act as if you are not attached to the project and suspend judgment as you coach team members to question assumptions, challenges and beliefs.
Use Socratic questioning method in your project meetings. Put yourself in the role of an inquisitive newcomer to the project and ask questions of the project team. Ask "What is holding us up here? Explain what the impacts are of this task being delayed. What evidence do you have that this course of action will work/will not work?".
Using open ended questions and seeking to understand by asking the team members to explain the situation to you, will bring out new solutions that were not previously identified. As project manager you don't have the answers. Using coaching skills you can create the space and lead the team through powerful questions to uncover new solutions to overcome problems. Project team members may be working long hours to complete the tasks and not take the time to create space for thinking about alternative solutions. As the project manager, you bring value merely by creating the space for members of the project team to step back and reflect on progress and options.
Project managers should also hire a personal coach to experience the benefits of coaching. The fastest way to learn the coaching skills that will benefit your project team members, is to observe the example that your professional coach sets for you. Learn from the model that your coach sets on how to ask powerful questions. I learn best when I have an example to follow and you will also benefit from being coached by a trained, professional coach. You don't have to go it alone. Hire a coach to help you and set the example on how you can help your project team.
In summary, you will improve your effectiveness as a project manager when you learn coaching skills. Hire a coach to experience the benefits. Then listen attentively and ask powerful questions on your projects to find new solutions with your project team and get ready to enjoy the benefits of better solutions on your projects.