Best #Coaching book ever! #TheCoachingHabit www.boxofcrayons.com/the-coaching-habit-book

I must admit when I was strolling through Indigo the other day, I wasn’t looking for a coaching book. In fact, it wasn’t even on my mind. I was there to buy my son a book because he left his copy at school and needed to finish reading the book by Monday. (Sound familiar, parents?)

So while my son tried to find his book, I sauntered over to the business book section and came across this little gem.

Two Reasons

This book is a gem for two reasons; the content is awesome and the author can actually write. I point this out because I usually slog through business books because the content is great, but the delivery is lacking. This book was very different, I picked it up on a Sunday and finished it on Wednesday. The book to easy to read, has great anecdotes throughout, and also a sense of humour to lighten the mood.

Michael Bungay Steiner introduces the 7 questions that are key to a coaching discussion. I won’t go into exquisite detail here as I want you to run out and buy the book. But he starts off with the Kickstart question of “What’s on your mind?” and concludes it with the Learning question of “What was most useful for you?”. I don’t believe I have seen a Coaching method or book that includes a step for reflection and a retrospective. That combined with the question of asking “So what is the real challenge for you?” helps to cut through gossip, complaining, and unproductive coaching sessions/meetings. In short, this book is a must have for every manager and aspiring coach.

You even get a bonus of a brilliant 5 step method of facilitating a Strategy discussion. But I’m not going to tell you what it is, you have to run out and buy the book. There even is a complete set of entertaining videos to complement the chapters and reinforce the learning.

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore or amazon.

 

The #Two traits great #Managers have #PMOT #Coach

Managers and management in general usually have a bad reputation. That is probably  doubly so for middle managers. These roles are usually the first ones identified for job reduction and attrition. Why is this? Truth be told, it is an exceptionally difficult role that not many people excel at. Usually people excel at one aspect or another of the role, but not at all of the aspects.

What makes a great manager?

So what makes a great manager? The manager must be an agent for the decisions and directions that come from above AND be an advocate for the teams that ultimately execute the work. Unfortunately, most managers tend to primarily identify with either agency or advocacy, but not both. Most managers focus their effort on managing the teams, but not managing the executives. Managing-up is one of the most difficult and challenging skills and most also be welcomed by the culture of the organization.

It is a delicate balancing act that experienced managers deftly handle – the right balance of agency and advocacy that promotes high-performing teams both above and below them. If this balance is not appropriate the manager usually defaults to just concentrating on one or the other – to the detriment of both executives and teams.

But when a manager has the right balance, they build credibility with both executives and teams. Once that credibility is built, the managers are then invited in to discussion and designs to influence, contribute, coach, innovate, and inspire both executives and teams.

Two Traits

The two traits that a manager or Project Manager must have to reach this level of proficiency are Business Knowledge and Realization Knowledge.

  • The manager or Project Manager must understand the business domain, business strategy, and culture of the organization they are an agent for. Why does the Business Exist? What is the Strategic Plan? Who are their internal and external clients? Who are their competitors? What are their values and principles?
  • The manager of Project Manager must also understand the realization domain and implementation processes as well. Whether the realization practice be accounting, engineering, software development, or teaching – the manager needs to understand the work and the profession. How do we implement changes? What professional skills are required? Who are the experts and why? What are the industry-accepted best practices? What are the new methods and technologies on the horizon? What practices are no longer being used?

Only when the manager has both these traits, will they have the credibility to be invited in, contribute, coach, influence, and help to innovate the strategy of the business and the implementation of business initiatives.

This is a not an easy combination to achieve and the lack of the these traits can lead to just ‘paper-pushing’ as the manager doesn’t have the credibility or knowledge to do more. Most times a manager may have one or the other trait and while this is beneficial, true high-performing teams arise when the manager or Project Manager has both.

Our responsibilities as managers is not to just perform administrative duties, but to relentlessly inquire and learn both about the business domain and the realization domain. Only then will the manager be an integral member that makes the executive and team members better by coaching up and down.

Top 4 qualities for a leader/manager #agile #pmot

I’ve seen quite a few articles recently on the qualities to be a good leader, manager, and Project Manager. Most recently, I read an excellent article by Liza Wood on “Should you become a Manager?”. Highly recommended.

I thought I’d add my opinions to those already out there on what I feel are the top four qualities to be a leader or manager.

1) You are a competent team member already

I’m big fan of leaders and managers needing to be competent members of the team prior to expecting to lead or manage. If you are going to lead and manage people, I think you need to understand the issues your team is dealing with at a detailed level. I know not everyone agrees that this competency is required. I frequently see groups proposing that Software Development Project Managers don’t need to be technical. Let’s just say I must agree to disagree with those groups.

Although I think I’m an OK Project Manager for Software Development teams, I would never think I could be equally efficient managing a team of doctors or truck drivers. What do I know about those areas? How could I possibly help them in the issues they encounter.

2) You don’t want to make decisions for other team members and you don’t want to “manage” people

It is a red flag for me immediately when I hear someone say they want to manage. I wonder what their drivers are and whether they want to “manage” people due to the perceived status and traditional career path. Sometimes people will even confess that they want to be managers so they can make decisions.

I find the best managers are those team members that don’t want to manage. They also don’t want to make decisions for their team mates.

They grudgingly accept being a manager because:

  1. They are good at it
  2. They have the respect of their teammates
  3. They recognize it is probably the best way they can help the team and client

3) You enjoy working with clients and team members and helping to facilitate decisions

This point is connected to the previous item. Great leaders and managers love working with people and helping to facilitate decisions.

They love building relationships and helping people to grow in their careers.

Most importantly they love helping the team to solve problems by facilitating. They realize that the team must solve the problem and their role is to help the team build consensus as a group. Great managers always are careful to not offer solutions for the team. This would be the easy thing to do as the team is looking to the manager to make these decisions. But the really great leaders and managers will always defer to the team. (even though they have the preferred solution already decided in their head)

This deference to team decision-making can sometimes be perceived negatively by team members. I remember thinking this about one Project Manager I worked with. I thought that he wasn’t doing his job because he never decided anything, he always just deferred to us. Only in retrospect did I appreciate his masterful skill to facilitating team decisions.

4) You are always perceived as calm and professional and never blame anyone

Probably one of the most overlooked characteristics.

I feel that the job of a leader is to always build confidence in the team.

Great managers and leaders are always calm, never blame anyone, and just work the problem. Doesn’t matter how the problem arose – lets just resolve it.

And it never hurts to have a great sense of humour…