Good Coaching … Not For Sissies

When I saw this title I was intrigued. As many of you know I frequently write about coaching being the No. 1 management activity that drives sales performance. Gwen Teatro discusses what a good coach looks. Find out whether you are a good coach. Feel free to share your thoughts on this article.

Coaching is one of those words that tends to lace everyday language at work but I wonder how many people who are supposed to be doing it actually know what it means or what it takes to be a good coach?

I don’t know about you, but there was a time when, on hearing the word coach, my mind automatically dredged up visions of cheerleaders and marching bands and all those sports analogies that we all love to hate but for which we have yet to find decent replacements.

And yet I have come to know coaching as a very powerful tool.  That makes it worth talking about and worth doing.

There is no magic formula for becoming a good coach.  Like most things worthwhile, it takes work. Period.

But, in the interests of starting somewhere, here’s what a good coach looks like to me:

  •  A good coach will be genuinely interested in knowing me

This does not mean that I expect you to be my best friend.  What it does mean is that you will make an effort to understand my capabilities, my ambitions, and my development needs.  If you don’t take the time to know these things, you will be hard-pressed to know if you are getting my best performance

  • A good coach will look past my excuses and challenge me to do my best

Sometimes, I won’t be able to see myself as you see me. Sometimes I will not want to stretch myself for fear that I might fail.  As my coach, you will challenge me to go beyond the unspoken boundaries I have set for myself.  You will not accept my excuses.  You will show your faith in my abilities and my potential to do more by demanding more.  And, should I fail, you will help me to extract the learning from it and move on.

  • A good coach will hold me accountable for the commitments I make

When a new idea captures my imagination, it is easy for me to envision bringing it into reality.   And yet, while I will understand the importance of it, there will be times when I need your help to stay the course.  Starting is usually easy.  Finishing is harder.  As my coach, I will rely on you to remind me of the importance of completing what I set out to do.  And, if I shift my focus, you will help me ensure that my reasons are valid.

  • A good coach will encourage me, support my efforts and celebrate with me when the time is right

There will be times when I question my own abilities; when I need guidance and resources to help me do my work and: when I need acknowledgment for the work I have already done.  As my coach, I will count on you to deliver these things at the times when they are most appropriate.  That will require you to talk with me regularly. Our talks do not have to be long but they must be truthful.  The success of our relationship will depend on it.

So, that’s what a good coach looks like to me.  But, what must a person have in his or her own “kit bag” of characteristics before s/he can hope to successfully fill the role of “good coach”?  Well, I expect there are many but the four that come quickly to my mind are these:

  • Self Assurance – If you are to be successful in your coaching efforts, you will often have to suspend your own desire for acknowledgment and work in service of helping someone else shine.  This can be hard on the ego and as such, a healthy sense of self, both in terms of assurance and awareness, will be important.
  • Self Discipline – As much as it is important for those you coach to follow through on their commitments, it is as, if not more, important for you, as a coach to hold yourself accountable for the commitments you make to them.
  • Courage Coaching often requires difficult conversations.  Courage is a cornerstone of good coaching and of good leadership.  For a good coach or leader, there is usually no place to hide.
  • A sense of humor – Most good coaches know the value of humor, particularly the self-deprecating kind.  It is an essential tool at work and in life. Enough said.

If this is all sounding just a tad onerous, you may be wondering what’s in it for you to be a good coach.  Where’s the payoff?  This is where I think it is:

  • When those whom you coach do well, you do well
  • When you coach others to do their best work, you get optimal results
  • Good coaches are often recognized as having valuable leadership capability.  And that opens doors for you.

If you have an appetite for more coaching observations, you must go to Mary Jo Asmus’ excellent blog post here.  You won’t be sorry.

So, what does good coaching mean to you?  What would you add?  What challenges do you face as a coach?

Gwyn Teatro is a Certified Professional Coach with a Masters of Science degree in Management and 15 years experience as a Human Resources Consultant to Executive and Senior Management in the Financial Services Industry.