With the onslaught of constant media, information, and online stimulation, I tend to see trends in written communication that catch my attention – reticular activating system, anyone? One of these trends that seems to be covered on every platform lately is “coaching”.
If you google the word, you will notice that there are 397 million results from which to choose. That’s a lot of thoughts on this topic and certainly too many to dive into. As I scrolled through my view-from-30,000-feet search, it became evident that there were other words that were used to describe the duties of a coach: mentor, advisor, counselor, guide, etc. And while none of these synonyms are incorrect, the truth of the matter is that we each have our own definition of what they mean to us.
Having had the amazing opportunity to practice coaching for the last 15 years of my career, I thought I’d take some time to share what being a coach means to me.
In my experience, a coach is someone that has a vested interest in the person they are coaching, always keeping their best interest as the focus. They provide feedback, thoughts, and ideas related to the topic at hand and provide potential options for moving forward.
Read that last sentence again. Notice I said provide options – not tell them what to do.
Having the coachee make the final decision allows them to build muscle memory and begin to develop the habit of crafting future options on their own. Therefore, one of the outcomes where any coach should gauge their impact is in the ability for their coachee to learn and grow to be a better leader.
Other areas where great coaches can – and should – witness success is working through real-life situations with their coachees. I have been fortunate enough to work with dozens of men and women and clock hundreds of hours of one-on-one discussions, and in that time, one area that seems to be a consistent focus of improvement – I’m talking across the board – is communication, especially as it relates to delegation.
When discussing communication with my coachee, we talk about the manner of speaking to what the person needs to hear, not what they want to say. By placing themselves across the table, the communication is much more informational rather than directive.
I have plenty of examples on the positive aspect of coaching and could go on for days. I, however, would like to leave you with an illustration on what coaching can provide.
A few years ago, my family planned a vacation with close family friends of ours. The plan was to make the road trip together – a drive from Kansas City to Fort Lauderdale; a daunting task with children. At the last minute, the other family decided to fly. My family stuck to the original plan and drove.
When we finally met up in Florida, my family reminisced about our road trip and everything we were able to experience along the way. We stopped at museums, ate at cool restaurants, played car games, and most importantly, talked to each other. Our friends simply got on and off a plane.
This story illustrates the impact of investing in a coach for your high-potential talent. A coach is in the car with you. Riding shotgun. Singing along to the radio and discussing everything from last night’s game to the unpredictable weather forecast. Without a coach, you will eventually arrive at your final destination, but miss impactful moments along the way. Moments that will be with you forever.