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The Value of Professional Coaching in Project Management or Engineering

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The word “coaching” is overused, misinterpreted, and unfortunately widely misunderstood. It is frequently used in the same sentence as “mentoring” and most people equate the two concepts as being similar. What is Coaching? Why has it become such a “buzz”-word, and does it really live up to its hype?

ProjectPro views itself as the curator of value and meaningful content when it comes to its community and its readership, and therefore gladly unpacks these concepts.

Coaching as a methodology

Coaching as a methodology started in the sports profession and can broadly be defined as “concentrating on directing, instructing and training either an individual or a group of people with the aim to attain certain goals and objectives”. During the 1970’s and 1980’s the methodology found its application in the business world and various forms/branches of coaching have since evolved. Coaching promotes enquiry, reflection and learning, rather than telling and teaching (which is what mentoring is more about).

Aenslee Tanner[1] aptly summarised coaching as “stretching and supporting” clients through structured conversations. In the accurate words of Miles Huckle “coaching” is widely accepted as “a series of structured conversations designed to enable a client (individual or team) to achieve their own goals”. Huckle continues to state that the client decides what they want to work on, and the coach helps the client get there by questioning, challenging and supporting them. The disclaimer to all of this is that coaching is about change; and the client has to be willing to change.

Modern neuro-coaching

The father of modern neuro-coaching, David Rock, elegantly distinguishes mentoring from coaching by employing a two axis Problem-Solution and Asking-Telling approach. Coaching asks about the solution;  Mentoring tells about the solution; Counselling asks about the problem; Consulting tells about the problem.

Why is this of value?

Why is any of this of value to the aspiring Project Manager or young engineer? Technical ability is important early in your career, and as you mature (or want to improve) the importance of this determinant diminishes. Technical ability will never disappear, but research shows that Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal strengths account for more than 50%[2] of personal success, irrespective of industry. Yet this fleeting skill is not learned automatically or mastered through textbooks. Only through deliberate practise, reflection, and consistent improvement. And this is where the coach is invaluable. The coach acts as a mirror and helps the individual reflect on the aspects which drive interpersonal performance and grow emotional intelligence:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Regulation
  • Self-Motivation
  • Social Awareness, and
  • Social Skills

Do you want to grow? Do want to achieve more in your career? Realise that you need help and that what got you here today will not get you there tomorrow!

Getting to the next level is not just going to require a step change in what you know. It’s going to require a step change in who you are.


[2] The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

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