In a previous post, I offered some suggestions on how to coach yourself and others toward higher levels of productivity and success. Reaction to that post has proved to be very positive, and I’ve received numerous requests for more on the same topic.
After a little more thinking, it turns out I can offer some additional suggestions on coaching that you may also find of value.
Here they are:
Set A Target
In coaching, as in so much else about your work and your life, it’s extremely helpful to know what the person you’re coaching wants to achieve. Setting a clear, objective target is important in determining the skills, talents, and knowledge that need to be deployed, as well as the interim tasks and projects that need to be completed.
Setting the target also creates a solid framework in which to conceive, vet, and polish a viable strategy for achieving what you want.
Itemize What’s Working
Most of the success attributable to coaching comes from the performance improvement that it produces. Obviously, you can focus more narrowly on what needs to be improved when you have first identified the areas where performance is already good.
And there’s another reason to itemize what’s already working well: taking the time for this kind of positive review prevents the coaching process from dwelling too much on the negative.
Necessarily, a good coach has to work on eliminating problems and replacing them with improved approaches, techniques, methods, and even motivation. Spending time on positive elements helps to balance the necessary emphasis on criticism and fault-finding. It actually makes the whole coaching experience feel more upbeat and palatable.
Evaluate Pathways Forward
Effective coaching is not just exhortations to somehow “do better.” It’s a calculated process designed to meticulously analyze the discrepancies between current and desired performance, and to plot a series of new behaviors that will minimize those discrepancies.
That’s why it’s valuable not just to launch into strength-building or repetitive practice, but to survey the entire situation in an effort to determine and prioritize the easiest, most fruitful places to work on improving performance.
This often involves looking for:
- Weaknesses that can be strengthened,
- Constraints that can be loosened or removed,
- Obstacles that can sidestepped or leapfrogged, and
- Mistakes or wasted efforts that can be eliminated.
A good coach may also be able to come up with personal insights into approaches, techniques, methods, and motivation that can trigger a marked increase in a particular person’s performance.
There are many different approaches to coaching, and the ones that work best tend to leverage the personality of the coach as well as the person being coached.
One pattern that runs through nearly all effective coaching, however, is the discipline to understand and appreciate incremental improvements in performance.
In other words, while the goal remains to reach the agreed-upon performance target in full, the coaching process works better when people recognize even small improvements as cause for appropriate rewards and celebrations.
This goes hand-in-hand with a positive frame of mind. Rather than solely pointing out to the person you’re coaching all the deficiencies in their performance, it’s far better to also spend time appreciating what’s working – and particularly what’s working better because of coaching-related improvements.
As I wrote in my earlier post on this topic, “Notice that none of this coaching actually requires another person. Look back at this discussion and you’ll see that you can just as effectively apply these same ideas and techniques to improving your own results.”
Fundamentally, coaching is the art of providing analysis, information, ideas, and discipline aimed at improving performance. Obviously, you can do all this just as easily for yourself as for anyone else.
In fact, you not only can, you should.
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