Do you consider yourself a coach? And I don’t just mean if you have direct reports. I mean if you are a human being with others around you, do you think of yourself as a coach to others? Because you potentially are or can be. It’s all in your mindset, and then it’s in your skillset. Let’s talk about both.
The mindset of a coach can be viewed in the context of an effective definition of a coach. There are probably billions out there. And you have one in your head as well.
When you think of someone who’s been a coach for you, who do you think of? What did they do that was inspiring or impactful? How did they make you feel? How did they change you for the better? Or did they? It’s interesting to note that a coach can change behavior through positive constructive actions or the opposite. You could have had a coach who was ineffective in their approach or technique, and yet you still may have learned from them (Bobby Knights tenure at Indiana “was marked by instances of extremely temperamental behavior” as an example—highly successful outcomes and sometimes questionable techniques!).
As we consider coaching, use your own lens as a window into your own approach. Consider, who thinks of you as their coach, and what impact you’re having on them. Because I bet someone does think of you in this way, and what a great opportunity to explore the affect you are having on them during this episode.
Back to the definition of coaching. I will share one that I’ve used for years because to me it speaks to both the mindset and the perspective of an effective and impactful coach. This comes from the Global Executive Summary, Blessing White:
Coaching is a focused and intentional effort to help another person figure out the best way to achieve his or her goals, build skill sets or expertise, and produce the results the organization needs.
There are certain elements I like to expand on, that are of particular importance:
- Focused and intentional: Meaning coaching is a deliberate action, as coaches we know the individual and/or the organizational goals. We should know our purpose and intentions prior to coaching, and we should also tell the individual what our intentions are. This type of transparency establishes trust and builds a common purpose.
For example, if I have an employee, I could tell them I want them to be successful and credible. If it is a peer, I want them to be a stronger project leader to do able to do more in less time. If it’s my boss, I want them to be a champion for our team and our needs.
- Help the other person: This is essential in coaching, one of our biggest tools as an effective coach is asking questions. Through thoughtful and focused questions, we create awareness, perspective, and give context to why change is needed. We are also in the position to know the consequences of inaction. Meaning if the individual doesn’t change or grow, what is the impact to them? For example, you’re coaching a team leader to engage their team more in project planning (versus doing it themselves and then sharing with the team—ta da! Here’s the plan!). It’s important to articulate the need to change in the context of their effectiveness, the impact on the team and the success of the project. This insight “helps” the other person realize why change is needed. It creates motivation.
- Goals, skill set, expertise: In coaching, there is something to be gained for the individual that would help them to more effectively achieve their goals or aspirations. This means change, growth, development. This could mean a change in behavior or mindset or both (mindset precedes behavior change, so if you are uncertain explore the thinking and mindset first). For example, if I am a first-time manager—I need to change my mindset from an individual contributor, a doer (and very commonly a subject matter expert)—to that of a leader, getting results through others’ efforts. My subject knowledge, while still important, often takes a backseat to the engagement and motivation of my team. This is a big mindset shift, and an important one to understand before changes to behaviors are likely to occur.
- Organizational results: We coach in the context of organizational needs. As a coach, one advantage we have is to see the bigger picture. The view of the world, customer/client, team, and/or organization in a way that provides an opportunity for growth or alignment.
With that definition as a backdrop, there are 3 common pitfalls that I see in working with thousands of coaches:
- No clear purpose/perspective focused on the individual and/or organization. Sometimes we want others to act, work, problem solve, decide and well, just be like us. We have a bias for those like us. When others aren’t, we sometimes believe they are less effective. So, we coach them to be more like us. Which is problematic as an intention or goal. And is contrary to the definition above. Which is about them, their goals and their growth. Darn.
- Telling versus asking. This is HUGE because when we’re a coach, we rely on our experience and knowledge, we believe that we know the right path, and/or can determine the best outcome for others to follow. The mistaken belief that we must solve everyone’s’ problems or to direct them is common and avoidable. And this one is tricky because sometimes we do this in the guise of being supportive, helpful coaches. But ironically we are helping ourselves with this approach (i.e., it saves time, makes us feel good/competent/capable, much easier to execute) rather than our goal to develop others.
- Not sharing the “why.” Providing encouragement, direction, a new challenge, or focused feedback requires context. A good coach provides the why behind the desired change. Understanding the why is essential, however doesn’t always result in action. And that too is the challenge of being a coach. The choice to change is not ours.
Of course you are a coach. Who are you a coach to? Join me next episode and I’ll share the 4 steps to a successful coaching discussion.
Make it a goal to be a good coach, a great one. A legendary one. Be intentional. And consider the immortal words of Bobby Knight, “I don’t have to wait until the next morning to regret something that I did that was kinda dumb.” I feel ya Bobby!
Want more coaching confidence? https://www.intentionaleaderscourses.com/confident-leader