Making Coaching and Mentorship Work to Individual Team Members’ Needs (2023)
Today, let’s talk about a common challenge that software engineering managers and co-workers often face: providing coaching and mentoring to team members.
I’ve observed that many employees struggle with mentorship at times. It can be especially difficult for newer managers who are still learning the people skills side of their job, but even seasoned team members can encounter obstacles.
So what are some of the problems that employees face regarding coaching and mentoring colleagues? Let’s take a closer look.
Coaching and Mentorship Problems
One common challenge is finding the time and resources to provide effective coaching and mentoring. Software engineering can be a fast-paced, high-pressure environment, and team members may be stretched thin with their own responsibilities. It can be difficult to carve out time to provide meaningful feedback and guidance to others.
Customizing the Message
Another challenge is figuring out how to tailor coaching and mentoring to individual team members’ needs. Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles, so what works for one person may not work for another. It can be challenging to provide guidance that is both specific and relevant to each individual and tailor it so that the person accepts it willfully and understands it correctly.
Which leads me to the next challenge.
Additionally, some team members may be resistant to receiving coaching and mentoring. They may feel that they already know what they’re doing, or they may be skeptical of the benefits of receiving feedback from others. It can be tough to navigate these attitudes and find ways to make coaching and mentoring feel valuable and worthwhile.
Coaching and Mentorship Solutions
So how can software engineering employees best solve these problems? Here are a few steps that can help.
Make Mentoring a Priority
First and foremost, it’s important to make coaching and mentoring a priority. This means setting aside dedicated time for these activities and making sure that they are factored into team members’ schedules and goals.
I’ve seen firsthand how implementing Agile methodologies is particularly effective for this. By incorporating coaching and mentoring into our sprint planning process, we ensure that it is given the same level of importance as other development tasks.
It’s also important to be strategic about how coaching and mentoring are delivered. Rather than trying to provide guidance to everyone at once, it can be helpful to focus on individual team members and develop tailored plans that address their specific needs. One way to do this is to hold regular one-on-one meetings with each team member to discuss their progress, identify areas for improvement, and set goals for the future.
Make it Collaborative
Another effective strategy is to make coaching and mentoring a collaborative process. By involving team members in their own development plans, we can help them feel more invested in the process and more receptive to feedback. This can be achieved by asking team members to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and then working with them to create specific action plans that address areas where improvement is needed.
Certain issues may have already been discussed in a retrospective meeting, so they may be out in the open already. Teams play a large role in the Agile methodology so utilizing this option should be well received by everyone.
Don’t Forget to Acknowledge the Positive
Finally, it’s important to make coaching and mentoring feel like a positive experience. Rather than focusing solely on areas where team members need to improve, it’s important to also acknowledge their successes and celebrate their achievements. By providing regular positive feedback and recognition, we can help team members feel more motivated and engaged in their work.
I also find it beneficial to help the person understand why a change can be better. Such as, “if we alter the process slightly like this, it should allow the Q/A group to test the enhancement 8 hours sooner, which will give us more breathing room.”
At the end of the day, coaching and mentoring are critical components of a successful software engineering department. By making it a priority, being strategic about how it is delivered, and making it a collaborative and positive experience, we can help our team members grow and thrive.
If you’re facing challenges with coaching and mentoring in your software engineering department, I encourage you to reach out to me. As someone who has been through these challenges myself, I’m always happy to chat and share my own experiences and insights. Together, we can help ensure that your team members receive the guidance and support they need to succeed.