I’ve done a lot of informal coaching in my career – you know, the kind where you’re in conversation and someone says, “Gee, Sue, can you give me advice on…” and I get to cheerfully dispense my words of wisdom and then wish them good luck with their problem. Sometimes people seek me out and ask to talk over things with me, to help clarify an issue or opportunity. That’s also fun and from feedback I’ve received, people usually appreciate having me as a sounding board.

But I’ve recently been asked to take on a more formal coaching role with project leaders.I won’t be on the project teams, but I will meet with the project leaders to provide guidance. Some of my leaders are experienced and some are new to thewhole thing; some are using Six Sigma and others Lean. Mostly I try to tell them thingsI wish I had known when I started in processimprovement, and to give them good advice that they can take or leave at their discretion. If they run into problems I try to help develop an approach with them.

I’m at ease about technical coaching – tools, methods, reports, etc., but this “soft side” is more of achallenge for me.

As a “Driver” by nature I worry a lot about subconsciously trying to make them fit into the pattern that works for me, rather than letting them find their own way. Should I “give them enough rope to hang themselves” and then help them pick up the pieces? (I’ve been mentored this way myself and found it to be quite uncomfortable at the receiving end. On the other hand, I did learn a lot!) Or should I try to guide them on every foreseeable response and give them Plan A, B, and C for every contingency? (Over-thinking?) If they have a different personality style than I do, am I trying to make them more like me because that’s what I’m comfortable with? If I think they are going off-track, do I “give it to them straight” or tactfully share some hints on how it might work better the next time, so I don’t discourage them too much?

For those of you who are experienced mentors, can you share any general advice on how to balance the “push” of helping the project leaders to get their project deliverables accomplished, and the “pull” of guiding, aiding, and supporting?

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