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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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Mar 13, 2020 1:18 PM
Replying to Tim Podesta
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Agreed, but coaching still needs to be accepted not coerced - that is the skill of the leader
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.
Mar 13, 2020 5:55 PM
Replying to Andrew Soswa
...
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.
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 6:38 PM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
...
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.
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.
Adrian,

I am a mentor since about 10 years, now for about 10 people.

One is a Syrian refugee in Germany, who is in an apprenticeship to become a certified telecommunications technician. We came together because he needed help in learning Java (and thought as a longterm IBMer I must be good at it). Well, we tried this but I could not help in this respect. But during our initial meetings, it turned out that my life experience, my embeddedness in German culture and society, provided much value to him to become more stable, self-confident and successful. For example he had an assignment to develop a stakeholder analysis and for sure I could deep in this with him. And he imagined to create a startup with fellow Syrians and I could help him to ask the right questions and abandon this idea for the moment.

So for him and myself, it is a kind of friendship, a trust based relationship and due to my age I am more on the giving side but I also learn a lot about Syrian culture and society. A win.win.

Remember mentor was an elderly friend for Odysseus' son.

Another mentorship since 2002 is someone who needs someone to regularly reflect professional challenges, I helped him to change companies 3 times, deal with the people he came across and had conflicts with. In the beginning I was the SME for PMP, and he is PMP since years. But life goes on and is never perfect.

And then at an event 2 days ago, I presented about project leadership and we had a round where everybody introduced themselves. One former student of mine (I am teaching at university) did that and added I am here because Mr. Walenta inspired me to chose project management.

So for me, mentoring is supporting people to become better professionals and humans, help them find a purpose and vision, be a sounding board for problems and celebrate successes.

Coaching as a PM for me (and I know there are other views) is about creating a high performing team. Especially the best SMEs often lack empathy and therefor lack the ability to be heard. They need feedback about how they are perceived and nudges to change behaviors. And if they are not willing to change (or I am not able to break their wall of complacency), I will force them. For the benefit of the team. One bad apple can ruin a basket.
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1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Mar 15, 2020 2:28 PM
Adrian Carlogea
...
Thank you very much Thomas for taking the time to respond to my question, I really appreciate it.

So correct me if I am wrong, for you coaching does not mean teaching someone less experienced on how to better do his job, for example teaching a software developer how to write better code or how to make better design decisions.

For you coaching and mentoring is more about behavior and maybe soft skills. Am I correct? I always thought that coaching and mentoring always refer to more hard skills that's why I asked.

But no matter what is the scope of mentoring and coaching I believe that the coach or mentor must always have much more experience and knowledge in the specific area than those are mentored.Otherwise mentoring would be completely pointless as you can't mentor someone in a domain if he has more knowledge and experience in that domain than you.

In practice there is no guarantee that the PM would be more experienced and knowledgeable in relevant domains than the project team members. In IT you can start your first job as a Junior PM immediately after graduation and you may end up working with project team members that are more experienced and knowledgeable than you in absolutely everything including project management and soft skills.

But even if the PM has the knowledge and experience to mentor the team members if he works in a matrix organization he may end up on a collision course with the functional managers who may coach and mentor their direct reports in a different manner.
Use tools like Solution Selling or SPIN Selling to work on "the pain" and help people to change. Others tools are LAMP and Power Base Selling. You have to generate a change. You are trying to put in place a solution but, does it a solution for the rest of the people? Do they visualize they have a problem? Is the problem exists?. You will not push something that is not visualized as a solution except you try the change by revolution instead by evolution but, as you know, revolution is bloody. Remember: what is resisted, persist".
Perhaps it helps: https://www.projectmanagement.com/blog-pos...zational-change
Mar 14, 2020 5:46 AM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
...
Adrian,

I am a mentor since about 10 years, now for about 10 people.

One is a Syrian refugee in Germany, who is in an apprenticeship to become a certified telecommunications technician. We came together because he needed help in learning Java (and thought as a longterm IBMer I must be good at it). Well, we tried this but I could not help in this respect. But during our initial meetings, it turned out that my life experience, my embeddedness in German culture and society, provided much value to him to become more stable, self-confident and successful. For example he had an assignment to develop a stakeholder analysis and for sure I could deep in this with him. And he imagined to create a startup with fellow Syrians and I could help him to ask the right questions and abandon this idea for the moment.

So for him and myself, it is a kind of friendship, a trust based relationship and due to my age I am more on the giving side but I also learn a lot about Syrian culture and society. A win.win.

Remember mentor was an elderly friend for Odysseus' son.

Another mentorship since 2002 is someone who needs someone to regularly reflect professional challenges, I helped him to change companies 3 times, deal with the people he came across and had conflicts with. In the beginning I was the SME for PMP, and he is PMP since years. But life goes on and is never perfect.

And then at an event 2 days ago, I presented about project leadership and we had a round where everybody introduced themselves. One former student of mine (I am teaching at university) did that and added I am here because Mr. Walenta inspired me to chose project management.

So for me, mentoring is supporting people to become better professionals and humans, help them find a purpose and vision, be a sounding board for problems and celebrate successes.

Coaching as a PM for me (and I know there are other views) is about creating a high performing team. Especially the best SMEs often lack empathy and therefor lack the ability to be heard. They need feedback about how they are perceived and nudges to change behaviors. And if they are not willing to change (or I am not able to break their wall of complacency), I will force them. For the benefit of the team. One bad apple can ruin a basket.
Thank you very much Thomas for taking the time to respond to my question, I really appreciate it.

So correct me if I am wrong, for you coaching does not mean teaching someone less experienced on how to better do his job, for example teaching a software developer how to write better code or how to make better design decisions.

For you coaching and mentoring is more about behavior and maybe soft skills. Am I correct? I always thought that coaching and mentoring always refer to more hard skills that's why I asked.

But no matter what is the scope of mentoring and coaching I believe that the coach or mentor must always have much more experience and knowledge in the specific area than those are mentored.Otherwise mentoring would be completely pointless as you can't mentor someone in a domain if he has more knowledge and experience in that domain than you.

In practice there is no guarantee that the PM would be more experienced and knowledgeable in relevant domains than the project team members. In IT you can start your first job as a Junior PM immediately after graduation and you may end up working with project team members that are more experienced and knowledgeable than you in absolutely everything including project management and soft skills.

But even if the PM has the knowledge and experience to mentor the team members if he works in a matrix organization he may end up on a collision course with the functional managers who may coach and mentor their direct reports in a different manner.
Adrian

technical and soft skills are used and needed together. I can help any coder or architect to become better in performing on the project. It is a social system and I am leading it.

Without that context you may be correct, in a pure knowledge competition they will outshine me, but not in the project.

And in the case of mentoring it is key they trust me to make a difference and that is why I can.
...
1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Mar 16, 2020 10:25 AM
Adrian Carlogea
...
Hi Thomas,

I am not sure in which domain you are working but trying to mentor SMEs in non-technical aspects in some domains can end up doing more harm than good.

For example some technical IT workers such as IT Infrastructure technical experts perform a very stressful work and they may get irritated quickly.

I know a case of a very good server system administrator that had very poor communication skills, people working on the projects ended up being afraid to talk with him because if they were not asking the right questions he was getting irritated very quickly.

At some point a PM escalated these issues to his line manager only to find out that he was actually managing his line manager. This system administrator had the name of his line manager in his email signature almost like a hint for those that had issues with him to be able to escalate. Escalation however was futile as the line manager was not doing anything about this.

If you try to mentor or coach this type of people in soft skills they will get irritated very quickly and would just tell you in your face to get lost. This guy was doing it and nobody could do anything about it.
Mentoring is actually quite complex since it requires many things to be aligned to be effective. Maybe we should consider the reasons why some people do not reach out for mentoring. My personal opinion is that
a) Some feel that it is seen as a sign of weakness. I know it all and asking for help shows that I don't
b) Shy and introverted people tend not to engage easily with others and it takes a lot of effort for them to do.
c) They have no idea what a mentor is and how they can benefit from it.

The first one is difficult to engage proactively because they might feel like they are being patronized. But the last two can be engaged in a proactive manner quite easily. There are two ways of doing this.

1) Initiate a formal mentorship program and communicate the requirements and benefits clearly so as to allow people to assess if this is something they can benefit from
2) Start an informal process of mentorship by scheduling sessions that addresses either specific needs or general areas in project management. Schedule sessions once a fortnight or month with a topic that is relevant to what is coming up in the project and send an invitation. Attendance is voluntary and more often than not those you target attends out of interest. PS Make sure your presentation and facilitation skills are up to par ;)
Mar 15, 2020 3:47 PM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
...
Adrian

technical and soft skills are used and needed together. I can help any coder or architect to become better in performing on the project. It is a social system and I am leading it.

Without that context you may be correct, in a pure knowledge competition they will outshine me, but not in the project.

And in the case of mentoring it is key they trust me to make a difference and that is why I can.
Hi Thomas,

I am not sure in which domain you are working but trying to mentor SMEs in non-technical aspects in some domains can end up doing more harm than good.

For example some technical IT workers such as IT Infrastructure technical experts perform a very stressful work and they may get irritated quickly.

I know a case of a very good server system administrator that had very poor communication skills, people working on the projects ended up being afraid to talk with him because if they were not asking the right questions he was getting irritated very quickly.

At some point a PM escalated these issues to his line manager only to find out that he was actually managing his line manager. This system administrator had the name of his line manager in his email signature almost like a hint for those that had issues with him to be able to escalate. Escalation however was futile as the line manager was not doing anything about this.

If you try to mentor or coach this type of people in soft skills they will get irritated very quickly and would just tell you in your face to get lost. This guy was doing it and nobody could do anything about it.
Well, Adrian, we are all living in our own bubble of reality.

As a mentor I should be empathetic enough to sense the status of others. With their permission I can irritate them, and even change their lives / extend their bubbles.

This is a wonderful result of mentoring as well of influencing skills.

Yes, it is important also to see the context and the politics. Good examples I had were when people left their old jobs to embark in new opportunities.
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