A key method for improving productivity and success is working better with others. In this context, “better” includes: 1) getting along with others more smoothly and 2) receiving more help from the people with whom you work.
In this discussion, we’ll focus on #2.
You probably already recognize that you can’t adequately accomplish certain goals within your work (and your life) entirely on your own. To get where you want to go, you must cooperate and coordinate with others. What’s more, in these areas your results depend to some extent on theirs.
Realizing this, your next thought is inescapable: helping others improve their productivity and success naturally comes back around to help improve your own.
This is why you can’t maximize your productivity and success without increasing your skills as a coach.
The Role of Coach
These days, an enormous number of people describe themselves as a coach. But that doesn’t mean they’re good at it.
A good coach is someone who understands what others are trying to accomplish and finds effective ways to get them to improve their performance. This explains why someone good at coaching is adept at recognizing and appreciating the knowledge, skills, and abilities that contribute to top performance in the other person’s field of effort.
The good coach can also communicate with other people to help them perceive their working environments more completely, analyze their own performance, recognize their opportunities, improve their choices, upgrade their abilities, and solve their problems.
How to Coach
Many people think that coaching is nothing more than identifying another person’s shortcoming and telling them about it. That’s about as useful as pointing out someone’s personality flaw and expecting them to immediately change. Not gonna happen!
Sure, it’s important for a coach to identify a person’s shortcoming. But the techniques of coaching are all about moving the other person to an emotional and cognitive place where they can see that shortcoming – and the importance of eliminating it – for themselves.
For this reason, effective coaching involves the following:
Building A Relationship
Hardly anyone takes advice to heart from a stranger or an enemy. If you want to coach effectively, you must get close enough to the other person that s/he trusts you, respects you, and believes what you say.
Knowing the Person You’re Coaching
Good coaching requires good communication, and you generally can’t communicate well to a person you don’t accurately see, hear, and know. While you’re getting them to trust and believe what you will say, you must learn who they are and what makes them tick. With a good understanding of who you’re dealing with, when you deliver your coaching advice they are more likely to hear and accept it.
Assessing the Current Situation
Since good coaching is designed to improve performance, it’s helpful for a coach to be clear about a person’s current level of performance.
- What’s under the person’s control and what’s not?
- What is s/he doing well? What is s/he doing poorly?
- Where can s/he most fruitfully improve?
Expecting Better Results
People tend to live up (or down) to the expectations of the important people in their work and life. As a good coach, you have the opportunity to help the other person set the bar higher than it has tended to be. Resetting the bar entails looking for options and exploring possibilities that can potentially remove constraints on performance and/or lead to improved results.
But be careful: setting the bar too high leads mostly to frustration. Setting it too low allows some of a person’s potentially achievable performance to remain unrealized.
Establishing Criteria for Evaluation
It’s almost impossible for anyone to feel good about coaching and being coached without a clear idea of how to recognize the desired improvement. That’s why it’s important you focus on objective criteria, such as “How many widgets have we produced?” rather than subjective criteria, like “Are we choosing better colors for our widgets?”
Emphasizing the Positive
As a good coach, your charge is to help the other person improve their results, not to instill them with impossible standards or unrealistic expectations. This entails coaching the other person to immediately apply their strengths to the tasks at hand. Over a period of days, weeks, months, and perhaps even years, you can coach them to upgrade their abilities and improve on their weaknesses.
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.
In fact, it’s perfectly possible – and usually a good idea – to coach yourself before you try coaching anyone else. Doing so has two important benefits:
- Self-coaching helps you directly improve your own productivity and results.
- Self-coaching ensures you’ll be far more proficient as a coach when you finally turn your coaching efforts in the direction of another person.
Coach Someone Else
The primary difference between coaching yourself and coaching someone else is the communication angle: it’s more difficult to win agreement from another person on the goals, the shortcomings, and the plans for improving results than it is to get yourself fully aligned on these same parameters.
That’s why a good coach works very hard to communicate with others, educating rather than preaching, asking questions instead of setting forth answers, and suggesting possibilities rather than barking out orders.
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