Welcome back to our series of articles in which we are exploring the worlds of sport and business and how they can both learn from each other when it comes to developing people and improving performance.
As we discussed in the first article, we believe there is one factor, without exception, that drives success and effectiveness and that is Communication. We firmly believe that Communication is the key to absolutely everything we do, so it goes without saying that this should be a fundamental cornerstone of any strategy for developing and improving people. And not just for those who want or need to develop and improve themselves either, but also those who are facilitating the development and improvement of others.
Communication however is a very broad and huge subject area, and for some, maybe quite simplistic. We have therefore broken communication down into 5 key areas that we believe are all crucially woven together and make the most difference in terms of developing people and improving performance. They are: Leadership; Coaching; Mindset; People and Team.
In this the third article, we will be exploring the second of these and discussing the impact and role that we believe Coaching has in developing people and improving performance in Business, Sport, in fact anywhere.
So, What Actually Is Coaching?
Let’s start by defining what Coaching actually is. Now, this is important, because in our experience at Living Your Learning, this is where things often start to go awry. Put very simply, many people, teams, businesses and organisations simply don’t understand coaching well enough, if at all, and as a result simply get it wrong, resulting in the experience being at best poor and ineffective and at worst completely negative and damaging. Sadly, this is also the case for some so called, self-proclaimed Coaches too. And this quite frankly is dangerous, because of the huge potential to actually do so much more harm than good! That is the Power of Coaching.
So before we get into the mechanics of Coaching, it is first crucial to understand a few, what we call ground rules. Firstly, Coaching is a very specific practice that should not in any way be confused with others of a similar ilk. For example, it is very different to training, it is not the same as mentoring and should never, ever be confused with or even mixed with other practices such as counselling or therapy, which we have unfortunately seen.
Secondly and in our opinion, having a bit of experience, knowledge or expertise in a given area does not in any way qualify an individual to be a Coach of any kind. Just like other specialist areas of expertise that impacts the welfare of people, it is vital that the Coaching practitioner undergoes training, has extensive knowledge of Coaching practice and is able to demonstrate not only the right skills, but also the right behaviours. In addition to this, it is also essential that without exception, stringent standards and ethics are not only upheld, but also taken extremely seriously.
Now we have the ground rules sorted, let’s get back to what Coaching actually is.
Fundamentally, Coaching is about unlocking an individual’s or team’s potential in order that they can maximise and improve for themselves, THEIR OWN performance. And notice the emphasis on OWN performance. Coaching is not about teaching or providing instruction. It is not about telling people what to do. Real coaching actually assumes a level of knowledge, skill and expertise is already in place, which means that the skill of the Coach is in getting those they are coaching to take ownership and responsibility for their own improvement through enabling them to firstly identify their own current levels of performance; secondly define for themselves their aims, intentions, and course of action; and thirdly and most crucially, following up on and reviewing that action and if necessary going back through the process several times until the desired level of improvement and performance is achieved.
You are a Coach? Then Behave like a Coach!
Coaching is so much more than just following a process or a model though, and there are plenty of them out there, many of which are fantastic frameworks for holding great coaching conversations.
For us, Coaching is also a behaviour and a way of being, which can not only make or break the success of the coaching interaction, but also the success of the person or the team being coached. First and foremost, Coaching is not about the Coach in any way. A great coach will remove all ego, will not push their own agendas or preconceived ideas and will focus solely on the development and improvement of the person or people in front of them. That means those being coached should be treated as individuals and not used as pawns in the Coaches own game of success. A Coaches sole purpose in life is serving other people so that they can improve and perform to the best of their ability. That is all they should care about, yet far too often we see the complete opposite.
Now, in order to do this, a Coach needs to have phenomenal Emotional Intelligence. So what’s Emotional Intelligence? Well, we discussed this briefly in the last article and it’s no coincidence that just as its a vital tool for a Leader, it absolutely is for a Coach too, because both are fundamental in developing people and improving performance under this umbrella of communication. So, Emotional Intelligence is the ability recognise, understand and manage our own emotions, whilst also recognising, understanding and influencing the emotions of others and contains five key areas which are:
- Self Awareness
- Self Regulation
- Social Skills
At Living Your Learning, we like to articulate it slightly differently, particularly when using it in the context of developing people and improving performance. Ours are:
- Complete Awareness of our thoughts, feelings, strengths, development areas and the world around us.
- Thoughtful Reaction to our thoughts and feelings, other people and the world around us.
- Amazing Purpose that results in the positive contribution to and impact on other people and the world around us.
- Mindful Empathy and truly understanding other people’s perspectives, thoughts and feelings.
- Conscious Communication that inspires, informs, educates and adds value to those we interact with.
However you articulate Emotional Intelligence, without doubt and without exception, in our opinion, a Coach must demonstrate these and the other behaviours we have discussed. These are non-negotiable for us and are just as vital as coaching skill and ability. A Coach simply can’t coach and therefore develop people and improve performance without these, therefore if you are Coach, seriously consider if you demonstrate these and demonstrate them well. If you don’t, simply stop Coaching. And likewise, if you are being coached, think carefully about whether your Coach demonstrates the behaviours being discussed here. If they don’t, please get a new Coach.
Now, assuming that the Coach has the right skills, ability, technical expertise, attitudes and behaviours, the benefits of coaching are simply phenomenal and for me, potentially life changing. We know this because we have been coached and also coach others. Living Your Learning simply wouldn’t exist and be the thriving business it is today without it. The people and businesses we work with wouldn’t achieve what they do without it. We wouldn’t be able to develop people, teams, businesses and organisations in the way we do without it. And all the successful sports men and women, teams and clubs, both professional and amateur throughout the world simply wouldn’t have their success with it. And the young American Footballer in this video wouldn’t be able to do what he does without it.
That is the Power of Coaching.