Have you ever played a sport and been coached? Have you ever been coached at work or possibly in a hobby? Have you ever coached someone else? Have you ever watched coaches on TV, in a movie, or even in person and been moved by how good or maybe even at how bad they were? Have you ever wondered what the coaches who consistently inspire, lead, and support great teams do differently than the other coaches? These same questions equally apply to leaders.
For my entire life, I feel like I have always been either being coached, studying coaches, or coaching someone else. In many of these instances, I was probably not even aware of who was delivering the coaching and who was being coached. In other words, I have learned just as much from delivering coaching as I have from receiving coaching. I also realized that the coaching and leading were incredibly similar and often synonymous.
One huge difference between the best and the worst coaches/leaders was the direction they coached. The best coaches are always coaching forward. No matter what happens, they turn it into a teachable moment, they quickly turn the experience into a learnable and easily digestible lesson, and they somehow direct, focus, and inspire their student/player/worker to apply this lesson into the next thing they do. The worst coaches coach backwards. They overreact to a mistake, they personalize that error and demonize the person who made it, and they throw it back into the student’s face as if they have magically seen something that the student was unaware of. In between these two approaches is a continuum of mediocre coaches who struggle to win or improve consistently, who struggle to build trust and belief in their players and teams, and leave some form of a wake of chaos behind them.
Coaching forward is so important because it achieves several critical things. First, it maintains and even builds the student’s self image which increases their belief in themselves. Second, it makes it clear that there is no perfection and winning/success is not about being perfect, it’s about being the best learner who can quickly correct their course. Third, it builds trust, connection, and belief in the coach/leader which creates a habit of listening, wanting to improve, and winning. When you coach backwards it destroys all of these and places such a focus on mistakes that it paralyzes the student.
In my experience, great coaches/leaders have an amazing eye and timing for catching their players doing something right. They don’t ignore mistakes but they understand that most students are naturally harder on themselves for their mistake and want to self-correct. They apply grace, compassion, and even humor to gently point the light forward to provide clarity and a vision of what success looks like.
In order to do this consistently, and when the pressure is high, it requires an amazing amount of self-control, awareness, and skill. It requires that you have the Sustainable High Performance to be your best and to be clear of what type of coach/leader you want to be. The best part is that when you get it right, the results will come and you will be rewarded with an amazing impact.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
By Scott Peltin
Founder/Chief Performance Officer