How Being a Coach Makes a Strong Project Manager and Leader

HaqBy Mohammed Haq, P.E.

I’ve played team sports since I was a kid, and started coaching youth basketball and soccer and a men’s basketball team a few years ago. Not only is playing and coaching a lot of fun for me, but I find a lot of similarities with my role as a project manager at Wood Harbinger. Project design and construction is very much a “team sport” and requires the skills and cooperation of many different “players”.

Similarities Between Coaching and Project Management

Being an effective project manager or team leader is very similar to being a coach.

The attributes that define a good coach and good project manager are the same. You need to have strong communication skills and be able to deliver a consistent message and direction at any given point. It takes an ability to understand how to communicate with people of many different personalities, and be able to adapt to individual traits to make everyone successful. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses in your players and then tapping into the strengths and navigating around weaknesses is important to make sure the team can achieve balanced success. You must have an “All In” commitment, a rolling up the sleeves and digging in deep attitude, to accomplish the common goal, and be able to generate the same engagement from the team. Creativity is critical in order achieve these things, and also to stand out from the rest at the outset and show that you’re ready for the responsibilities of leadership.

The Importance of Mentoring

Perhaps above all, you must be able to share your wisdom and knowledge with the team members by way of mentoring the younger and less experienced players and providing opportunities for advancement. Mentoring may well be the most important key to being a successful leader. It was through mentorship from my coaches when I was a young player, and from my project managers when I was a junior engineer, that I gained the insight and experience that set me on my current path to develop these attributes. The skills I’ve learned coaching my sports teams and the experiences I’ve had with them have allowed me to further hone them, and I really feel have made me a better project manager and team leader at my firm.

The Art of Adaptation

The common lesson that I have learned is the art of adapting yourself to the team makeup and attitude. The ongoing challenges will require patience and flexibility, but going in with the ability to sway your mindset to bring out the best in a team is very powerful. I look to both my coaching and my project management experiences to help me motivate and lift the spirits of my colleagues/team members and interact more effectively and efficiently to ensure that my projects and my teams achieve fulfillment and success.

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