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Topics: Career Development, Leadership, Talent Management
How to educate/teach/mentor a PM to be proactive?
Hypothetical scenario: a PM has an employee on a team who does things his own way, no laws or regulations are broken, employee does his job but does not ask to be mentored to become better.
The PM's mandate and job requirement is to mentor team members. Since an employee does not seek PM's mentorship, the PM refuses to be proactive and continuously reach out to the employee.

How can I educate/teach/mentor the PM into being proactive?
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A good question. I would expect a line manager to offer coaching to any subordinate as part of normal line manager duties. This should apply to a Project Manager as well. Coaching is a leadership skill that requires training so that should be a consideration as well for any line manager,
PM should learn about Risk management, planning an adequate risk strategy, identifying actual or possible risks, evaluating them and determining possible responses. These processes help to be proactive.
Mentoring is a pull system. Somebody has to ask (i.e. need) for mentoring. Trying to force mentoring on a team member is not mentoring. The only thing you can do in your situation is to make yourself available and to lead by example.
Agree with Stephane, mentoring is a 1:1 trust based relationship, it can be offered but not forced on the mentee. If the PM has offered it to no avail and nothing changed, there is no reason to go back and try it again.

Coaching is different though: it can be forced when the PM observes a skill gap or a behavioral flaw (compared to the given standards), which hampers project objectives, the PM can invite the employee to discuss this as a problem, even with the direct manager. If the employee then refuses to participate in finding a solution, this might be a reason to replace him or her.

Note: mentoring must be friendly, coaching can be coercive.
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1 reply by Tim Podesta
Mar 13, 2020 1:18 PM
Tim Podesta
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Agreed, but coaching still needs to be accepted not coerced - that is the skill of the leader
Mar 13, 2020 1:14 PM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
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Agree with Stephane, mentoring is a 1:1 trust based relationship, it can be offered but not forced on the mentee. If the PM has offered it to no avail and nothing changed, there is no reason to go back and try it again.

Coaching is different though: it can be forced when the PM observes a skill gap or a behavioral flaw (compared to the given standards), which hampers project objectives, the PM can invite the employee to discuss this as a problem, even with the direct manager. If the employee then refuses to participate in finding a solution, this might be a reason to replace him or her.

Note: mentoring must be friendly, coaching can be coercive.
Agreed, but coaching still needs to be accepted not coerced - that is the skill of the leader
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1 reply by Thomas Walenta
Mar 13, 2020 6:49 PM
Thomas Walenta
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Tim, that is the best case that you both solve the problem and improve the employee. I only had to fire 4-5 from my project teams in 35 years and I viewed all of them as my own failures.

Coaching targets the project objectives first, the employee second. Most people accept that they are forced to change.
This question is about how to turn a person from being perceived as reactive (i.e. wait-and-see) into proactive (go-getter & doer).
Veronica mentioned that there are some approaches that teach proactivity - so it implies an experiental (learn-apply-check-act) system.
Stephane noted that proactivity can acquired by imitating a mentor - a behavioral system.
Thomas wrote that coaching can be imposed (if necessary) - a direct approach system.

The project has end date (so Veronica and Stephane's approaches won't work) and lack of PM proactivity to help a team member to get better is hampering the entire team.

Let's suppose that Thomas' direct approach was applied and PM was coached to be proactive. The PM was furious because his perception was different (PM strongly believed that he was proactive, while the management believed that PM was not proactive).

Question: for next time, how to teach/coach/train the next PM/team member/person to jump from being reactive to proactive in the shortest amount of time without burning people out.
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1 reply by Thomas Walenta
Mar 13, 2020 6:38 PM
Thomas Walenta
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Andrew,

my understanding was not to coach the PM but the PM coaches the employee.

The assumption I make is if that an employee does not want to be mentored, it is absolutely ok for the PM not to mentor him or her. This has nothing to do with proactivity.

To be proactive, the PM must be able and convinced to be so.

Able means, the PM has room to think about the future and is not occupied with handling the present or even cover the past.

Convinced means it makes sense. Mentoring an employee who rejects it does make no sense.
Let's be careful in thinking that we know what's best for the employee. At the end of the day, each person has the wisdom to decide what's good for them. We all travel a slightly different path - some of us get there sooner than others.
Here we ago again talking about Project Managers trying to take the job of Functional Managers. :)

I am very curious to find out what do you actually mean by mentoring the employee to be better.

Real example: the employee is a software developer while the PM has never written a line of code in his life and from a technical point of view does not understand anything regarding software developing. This is a typical scenario.

In the above scenario what are some actual steps the "proactive" PM can take to mentor the developer in order to make him better? For me a better developer is one who writes better code.
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1 reply by Andrew Soswa
Mar 13, 2020 5:55 PM
Andrew Soswa
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Many organizations cannot afford or don't have hierarchies where there are 6 employees per each manager, 3 managers per each director, 3 directors per each executive (or whatever your structure is).
This is a very valid question not from developer world - this is from marketing.
Mar 13, 2020 2:15 PM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
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Here we ago again talking about Project Managers trying to take the job of Functional Managers. :)

I am very curious to find out what do you actually mean by mentoring the employee to be better.

Real example: the employee is a software developer while the PM has never written a line of code in his life and from a technical point of view does not understand anything regarding software developing. This is a typical scenario.

In the above scenario what are some actual steps the "proactive" PM can take to mentor the developer in order to make him better? For me a better developer is one who writes better code.
Many organizations cannot afford or don't have hierarchies where there are 6 employees per each manager, 3 managers per each director, 3 directors per each executive (or whatever your structure is).
This is a very valid question not from developer world - this is from marketing.
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1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Mar 13, 2020 7:06 PM
Adrian Carlogea
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My point was that you can't really mentor someone if you are not better that him in what he is doing. If in his job he knows more than you do that mentoring is simply impossible.

The domain and hierarchies have nothing to do with this. You can be a line manager and still not be able to mentor because of lack of knowledge.
Mar 13, 2020 1:42 PM
Replying to Andrew Soswa
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This question is about how to turn a person from being perceived as reactive (i.e. wait-and-see) into proactive (go-getter & doer).
Veronica mentioned that there are some approaches that teach proactivity - so it implies an experiental (learn-apply-check-act) system.
Stephane noted that proactivity can acquired by imitating a mentor - a behavioral system.
Thomas wrote that coaching can be imposed (if necessary) - a direct approach system.

The project has end date (so Veronica and Stephane's approaches won't work) and lack of PM proactivity to help a team member to get better is hampering the entire team.

Let's suppose that Thomas' direct approach was applied and PM was coached to be proactive. The PM was furious because his perception was different (PM strongly believed that he was proactive, while the management believed that PM was not proactive).

Question: for next time, how to teach/coach/train the next PM/team member/person to jump from being reactive to proactive in the shortest amount of time without burning people out.
Andrew,

my understanding was not to coach the PM but the PM coaches the employee.

The assumption I make is if that an employee does not want to be mentored, it is absolutely ok for the PM not to mentor him or her. This has nothing to do with proactivity.

To be proactive, the PM must be able and convinced to be so.

Able means, the PM has room to think about the future and is not occupied with handling the present or even cover the past.

Convinced means it makes sense. Mentoring an employee who rejects it does make no sense.
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1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Mar 13, 2020 7:09 PM
Adrian Carlogea
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Hi Thomas,

Can you please give me some concrete examples of mentoring and coaching. When I hear these words the only thing that comes to my mind is a more experienced worker teaching a less experienced one on how to go his job better. For me is all about doing the actual work.
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