Coaching requires discernment. You must know your client and the context of their circumstances to be able to listen effectively and provide advice appropriately. Being a coach is a journey that is filled with incredible moments when your client achieves success as well as valley moments when he or she encounters a storm. I love serving in this role as a coach to elite athletes, business leaders, and entrepreneurs, but it is not for everyone. Some people love the highs of success but can’t handle the dips in performance. Someone once advised me, “If you’re gonna be there for the gain, you gotta be there for the pain!”
My main role is to help my clients mentally prepare to perform at their best. I am still growing as a peak performance coach, and I hope I always will. Based upon my experience in working with high potentials and high performers in sports, business, and life, here are some key things I have learned so far about being an effective coach:
- Build a Strong Foundation of Understanding – You have to get to know the person you are coaching – what makes them tick – in order to provide any kind of relevant input and advice that will be heard, received, understood, and incorporated into their life. If the other person doesn’t feel like you “get them,” they will not receive your message. A strong foundation of understanding your client will go a long way in building an effective relationship that is mutually beneficial.
- Know When to Encourage – In my coaching relationships, I work hard to encourage my clients and help them see what they are doing well. We work together to build on what they are doing right so that they can build consistency in their performance. It is so easy to be critical, and we are hardest on ourselves. It is my job as a coach to encourage, literally “give courage,” to my clients. The key part of this is knowing how and when to encourage them. The high potentials and high performers I work with know if it is fake or undeserved and will see right through it.
- Know When to Challenge – In addition to encouragement, I also have to know when to challenge them, which focuses on accountability. If I know they could have done better, I will tell them. If I think they are “hedging” in their performance, I will challenge them to go farther. The key aspect of this again is knowing how and when to do this. Timing is everything. If you are always exhorting and challenging the people you lead and coach, they will never be able to celebrate and build on the things they are doing well.
- Be Specific and Give Analogies – With any feedback I give, I have learned that I must be specific. I can’t just say, “You’re great!” I must tell them how they are performing well and give specific examples. I have also found that the right analogy can be a powerful anchor for them to remember key concepts and principles that I want them to recall and use in their performances.
- Exhibit Discernment – Most of all, I have learned that an effective coach exhibits discernment in their approach. Discernment goes way beyond just knowledge and experience. In addition, the best coaches utilize intuition, perceptiveness, and wisdom to offer the right advice at the right time. They understand their clients so well that they know what they need before the other person utters a word. It has been my experience that these coaching relationships are the best kind. As Lord Byron said, “Her great merit is finding out mine – there is nothing so amiable as discernment.”
I accept and embrace my role as a peak performance coach with humility and a sense of responsibility and service. To paraphrase one of my professional baseball player’s adages: I want to be on the line trying to unlock and unleash the potential of others!
Whatever you role is (parent, spouse, business leader, mentor, teammate, etc.), I hope you can learn from the list that I have provided. Remember, it is noble work to make a positive impact in the life of another person. As Jackie Robinson said, “A life isn’t significant except for its impact on other lives.”
What are your thoughts on the keys to effective coaching? What have the best coaches in your life done to help you reach your potential?