Figure 1: The Hill Model for Team Leadership (Northouse, 2016, p. 366)
Coaching Potential and Advantages
Coaching supports team members to take responsibility for achieving goals (Cook, 2009, p. 11). Requiring little time investment and applicable to all circumstances, it improves performance (Cook, 2009, p. 13), while other leadership approaches require a significant time investment. It can resolve issues with colleagues/stakeholders, deliver improved stakeholder engagement/satisfaction (Cook, 2009, p. 18) and team empowerment (PMI, 2017a, p. 670); some leadership approaches, such as servant leadership, provide similar benefits, while transactional leadership and others do not. Coaching empowers PMs, through eliciting positive reactions from teams/stakeholders, promoting idea-sharing, and valuing contributions (Bianchi & Steele, 2014, p. 27). Teams benefit from an increased sense of responsibility/work-ownership, and engagement (Bianchi & Steele, 2014, p. 27) while PMs benefit as coaching recipients (PMI, 2017a, p. 49). Coaching increases trust and sense of community (PMI, 2017a, p. 364), whereas charismatic leadership does not. Coaching can be both face-to-face and virtual; the latter benefits from flexibility, with team members accessing it as-needed, it does not require the coach to be present, and the cost is reduced (Ahrend, et al., 2010, pp. 44-46). Other leadership approaches such as transformational/charismatic require in-person presence.
Coaching has disadvantages: LMX theory notes that leadership must be inclusive, performed fairly, to avoid inequities (Northouse, 2016, p. 142); the nature of coaching makes it challenging for leaders to ensure they distribute their time equitably. The Hill Model indicates that coaching functions best when used with other methodologies (Northouse, 2016, p. 142). Coaching assumes the team-member has the ability to find resources needed to achieve their goal (Cook, 2009, p. 12), which may not always be the case. Leadership approaches (e.g. servant-leadership) support team members without putting the onus only on them. Virtual coaching can prevent the creation of strong relationships as team members see it as only one of many available resources (Ahrend, et al., 2010, p. 44). While all leadership approaches require specific skills, coaching draws very heavily on personal and soft skills (PMI, 2017a, p. 363), and the benefits, therefore, vary with leader-ability.
Coaching depends on followers working well with their leader; personality compatibility and follower engagement level can reduce its impact (Northouse, 2016, pp. 138,139). Disengaged followers receive less time, information, confidence, and consideration from leaders; engaged followers are more communitive, receiving additional responsibilities as leaders respond positively, giving them additional time/support (Northouse, 2016, pp. 138-144). Unethical leaders distribute time/support unfairly (Northouse, 2016, p. 145), damaging relationships. Leaders must reinforce values, taking responsibility for demonstrating ethical leadership by showing respect, serving others, being just and honest, and building a community feeling (PMI, 2019, p. 2; Northouse, 2016, pp. 337,341).
With the experience of unethical leadership as a follower, despite my high levels of engagement, as a leader, I choose to be ethical, and I prefer using an Agile approach. Using Agile provides benefits to PMs, promoting coaching as one leadership approach; it also values servant-leadership (PMI, 2017b, pp. 150-154,38). While coaching provides several benefits, I firmly believe "one size does not fit all"; PMs must be equipped for, and capable of, using a multitude of leadership approaches, coaching among them, to deliver success. Throughout this, PMs must always demonstrate ethical leadership to their followers, building relationships and empowering those around them.
Ahrend, G., Diamond, F. & Webber, P. G., 2010. Virtual coaching: using technology to boost performance. Chief Learning Officer, 9(7), pp. 44-47.
Bianchi, C. & Steele, M., 2014. Coaching for innovation: tools and techniques for encouraging new ideas in the workplace. 1st ed. Palgrave Macmillan USA: Basingstoke.
Cook, S., 2009. Coaching for High Performance: How to develop exceptional results through coaching. 1st ed. Cambridge: IT Governance Publishing.
Farok, G. & Garcia, J. A., 2015. Developing group leadership and communication skills for monitoring EVM in project management. Journal of Mechanical Engineering, 45(1), pp. 53-60.
Northouse, P., 2016. Leadership: theory and practice. 7th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
PMI, 2017a. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. 6th ed. Pennsylvania: Project Management Institute, Inc.
PMI, 2017b. Agile Practice Guide. 1st ed. Pennsylvania: Project Management Institute, Inc.
PMI, 2019. Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct, US: Project Management Institute, Inc.