Coaching – some personal reflections

I managed to go to Trent Bridge over the weekend to watch Nottinghamshire Outlaws play Somerset Sabres in a 40 over cricket competition.  I saw Marcus Trescothick, the Somerset captain, running all over the field, having a quiet word with his players between deliveries and between overs.  As I was sitting there, I started to compare this to the pitchside “coaching” that is given during the weekend’s football matches.  I know that the two sports are different, but the players in both sports are all human beings.

What would it be like if a football coach came to coach your team at work?

I’m guessing that it wouldn’t be acceptable for the coach at work to shout across the office directing their frustration and anger at your team.  I can only imagine one outcome of “coaching” in that style having one impact: low morale, high staff turnover.

Outside of work, I am lucky enough to coach youth rugby and cricket, and have been trained by both the RFU and ECB in how to coach.  I’ve also participated in work-related coaching education, and both types focus on the same thing; observation.  I was never coached to shout from the touchline or boundary!

I do see this behaviour from the touchline, and it never seems to have a positive impact!

The good coach watches and listens!

In the work-related coaching sessions, I’ve been shown several different frameworks for coaching, some goal-based, some based on changing behaviours.  Whatever the case, there’s always one common theme around listening.  Listening with your ears and with your eyes.  I won’t repeat some attempted statistical assessment of the impact of body-language, vs the words that you hear, just suffice to say that, as a coach, you need to look as well as listening.  As an aside, it is just as important to take note of paralinguistic cues, as well as the words that are used.

As a sports coach, my training takes on more of the observational angle.  Watch the players carefully, to make sure that the technical parts of their game are right.  As a cricket coach, I remember being coached to be a coach.  Rather than classroom style teaching, we were encouraged to explore what our role should be in a very interactive setting.  We had all of the technical information on video and in books, and we could learn that ourselves, but what really mattered was how we coached!

Coaching at work

So, if the coach at work can’t behave like a Premier League manager on the touchline on a Saturday afternoon, what should they do?

In general, if you’re coaching someone to achieve something that they want to do, you should not try to solve their problem for them:

  • Help them to understand where they want to get to – Ask questions about their target
  • Help them to understand how close to their target they are right now – It is good to understand whether the target is realistic, or whether setting themselves milestones is a good strategy
  • Help them to explore the possible routes to their target – there’s more than one way to “skin a cat”!
  • Help them to commit themselves on a path to reach their target – how are they going to keep on track?

What you’ll note in all of these steps, is that the coach is there to help, not to do!

The coach is there to listen, to reflect and to ask the questions that might help you to understand yourself better; you will have to commit to your goal, and then you have to do the work too!