Stephen Curry is an American basketball player who plays point guard for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. He is world-renowned for his skills, and in his first five years with the league, shattered numerous NBA records. He went on to shatter his own records after that. One thing he is known for is his ability to shoot 3-pointers. You can watch a video of him shooting 105 3-pointers for five minutes straight without missing a shot!
Curry, like so many other athletes, practices constantly. He prepares for the next season by drilling, developing endurance, watching post-game videos, playing, and listening to the advice of coaches. Can you imagine Curry or any other star athlete saying, “I think I’m going to just phone it in next season, try and do just a smidge better than this year, and just eke by”? Of course not!
Are You Only Shooting 3s?
Is your goal as a Project Manager to just make it through another year of mediocrity, routine, and staying off the radar? Are you content with only shooting 3s on your performance review (3=average), a 3% raise (6.1% less than inflation in the US in 2022), and a 3-week vacation? Getting stuck in the quagmire of mediocrity is easy if you’ve been a Project Manager for 10+ years.
Or, are you looking for next year’s Project Management season to be the best one yet?! Are you looking to develop new skills, embrace and implement new ideas, and bring a contagious positive energy to the team? If so, then consider working with a project management coach or mentor.
Here’s why this is important. If you only work with yourself, you will only do what you already know how to do. Sure, you collaborate with project teams and stakeholders, but you don’t have anybody from the outside filling you up with new ideas or teaching new skills. Plugging yourself into an expert’s energy will light you up for months and years to come!
What’s a Coach and What’s a Mentor?
A coach is a private tutor, or one who instructs or trains. It’s the gymnastics coach working on the sidelines at the Olympics, or a singing coach instructing a student how to hit that perfect note, or even a business coach training how to achieve a desired financial outcome.
A mentor, on the other hand, is a trusted counselor or guide. The term mentor comes from the Odyssey. Mentor was a friend of Odysseus, who, when he left for the Trojan War, placed Mentor in charge of his son Telemachus as well as his palace. The term has morphed over the years to mean someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less-experienced colleague.
What’s the Difference Between a Coach and Mentor?
The following table provides some of the fundamental differences between a coach and a mentor.
The above are generalizations and can be adjusted to fit each person’s unique situation.
What’s Right for Me?
Let’s look at a couple of scenarios to see when a coach would work and when a mentor would do the trick.
- Recently Promoted to a New Position - Congratulations! You just received a new position and a nice bump in salary. You’ve been promoted from Sr. Project Manager to head of the PMO. This is both an exciting and a scary time because you are confident that you can make a difference in your new position, but managing direct reports is new to you. How do you provide feedback, conduct performance reviews, and set the expectations of your new direct reports? You’re used to working in a matrixed organization where you didn’t have to worry about any of these things.
This is a great coaching opportunity. Someone could work with you for a few months with a specific goal of what needs to be accomplished. It is a very prescriptive relationship that will show you what needs to be done and how to do it, so that you start off on the right foot with your new responsibilities.
- Looking for an Executive Position - Today you may be a Project Manager, but tomorrow (as in 15 years from now), you would like to be CIO. The road is long, with many unknown and unexpected twists and turns along the way. How great would it be to connect with a former CIO who held the position you are looking to fill?
A mentor could check in on an as-needed basis throughout the years, and share what they would do in a situation. Maybe you have a choice to move on to a different company or need help navigating the political waters of your current position. They will be able to provide advice and guidance because they have already traveled this road ahead of you.
Whatever you decide to do, here’s the thing to remember. By doing the same thing year after year, you will achieve the same results. If you’re okay with a 3 on your performance review, a 3% raise and a 3-week vacation, then keep doing what you’ve done. If you really want to make a difference, connect with a coach or a mentor and make your next Project Management season your best one yet!