Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

Effective Software Projects and Leadership and Teams13 Dec 2013 04:01 pm

Coaching & Mentoring for Dummies

I’ve often thought about writing a book about leading software development teams to share some things I’ve learned through the years.  Perhaps I still will, but in a way this blog serve the same purpose.  It seems the market for this particular topic may not be all that large and  to appeal to larger audience would probably water down the content so, I’ll likely just stick to this blog as time permits.

Recently I had the pleasure to work with Marty Brounstein and have been reading his book Coaching and Mentoring For Dummies.  At first you may be put off by the title, but I’m really glad I dove in. In fact, it makes me glad I haven’t tried to write a book.  It’s that good. Many times, I found myself say yes, yes, that’s exactly right.

What I really like about this book is that it takes many of the things you may innately do and codifies them through a set of simple disciplined tools.  Now following this to the letter will not make you a great leader, but there is so much in here that is fundamental to building a great team. Read it. Do it.

The scope of this book is too broad to cover it here in this brief post. Its a cornucopia of leadership 101 as much as coaching. Not surprising since these are so intertwined. Right off the bat in chapter 2, the topic of building commitment and the strategies there I have found to be spot on through my career.  When I see managers manage from positional influence, it makes me nauseated and I instantly lose respect for them. Leadership is exerting personal influence and can only be accomplished through hard-won respect. I blogged about this about 8 years ago and still feel strongly about it today.

If you are a book skimmer, don’t miss Part III, The Fine Art of Mentoring. Some of my most admired mentors and greatest leaders I’ve worked with have perfected the techniques here. I’m still a work in progress, but try to follow these practices, because they really do empower others and help you be a more effective leader. Just one little gem here I’ll call out:

In many situations, such as when mistakes are made or performance efforts don’t go as well as hoped, opportunities exist for employees to learn lessons and correct their course. Using questions to explore what happened and what can be done to make matters work better provides experiences for learning and growth.

Bingo Marty. This approach can turn a very difficult situation where people are already feeling defeated by failure into one of a hopeful feeling for an better future.  Blame is easy, improvement is not.

Next week I embark on a new professional adventure which I am very excited about. I am challenging myself to be a great coach even when the pressure is high and things don’t go as planned. I hope you will find Marty’s work insightful and helpful.

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