There’s more to coaching than sharing your expertise. The way you communicate that expertise is just as important as the knowledge itself.
Years ago I bought a new set of golf clubs and went golfing with my friend. I was, and still am to this day, a “casual” golfer. I reviewed the rules, and even read a golfing book. However, I was still lacking the one thing you must have to succeed at the game of golf – confidence!
I sliced my first drive, embarrassed as the ball bounced into the tall grass and disappeared. Unfazed, my friend Brett said. “You have a great swing, Kevin. You’re a natural. You’ll get the hang of this in no time.” Rather than dwelling on my failed attempt, Brett’s assurance immediately turned my mind to the next shot. I couldn’t wait to take another swing. After a few more shots, I was within striking distance of the green. As I approached the ball and began to setup for the shot, my friend gently interrupted me. “For these kinds of shots, this is what you need to remember, then just take a nice, full swing – like this.” I nodded and then mimicked his stance, took a slow, steady swing, and put the ball right on the green, about eight feet from the cup. “Beautiful, Kevin. I told you you were a natural.”
Over the next few years, I played golf with my friend, Brett numerous times. I always played my best when I was with him at my side. His kind, reassuring voice gave me the one thing books, expensive clubs, and even lessons couldn’t: confidence!
On the other hand, I occasionally played golf with another friend. I’ll call him John (not his real name). He was older than I, however a great golfer – even better than Brett. But the two were complete opposites when it came to coaching. I still remember the last time I played with John. On hole number three, I sliced a drive into the deep rough. Certain it was unplayable, I dropped my club to the ground, and sighed. “Shoot, I did it again” I exclaimed. “Well, that was a lousy shot,” John grumbled. “You didn’t finish your swing – you just gave upon it.” He then frowned, chuckled, and walked away.
With that, he stepped up to the tee box, pinned his tee and ball to the ground, and without so much as a practice swing, he drove his ball straight down the middle of the fairway. It was picture perfect. Just like on TV. Speaking to no one in particular, he announced, “Now that’s how it’s done!” He stood tall. I felt small. Unfortunately, this scenario was typical. John was often quick to point out my faults on the golf course. If I happened to hit the ball well, he would say something like, “Well, you got lucky on that one, didn’t ya, Kev?”
As you can imagine, I always played my worst golf when I played with John. He chipped away at my confidence, and my performance unraveled as the game progressed. He made me want to quit. Rarely encouraging. Rarely wanting to help me improve or get better. Speaking words of failure NOT success. Needless to say, I stopped playing golf with John.
However, it was just the opposite with my other friend, Brett. He was always seeking and looking to find the positive. He took time to invest in me. He was patient. He focused on what I could do. He saw what I could become. He saw some potential. He prioritized encouragement. He spoke words of success NOT failure.
In reflecting on these two different “coaching styles” and “leadership styles” We have a choice in how we coach and lead. We can either focus on what our players, staff, or team members are doing right and increase their confidence, or we can focus on what they are doing wrong and increase their self-doubt. Both styles will have an impact on their performance. And both will have an impact and influence on our effectiveness as a coach and leader.
I encourage you to be the coach and leader that others want to be around. They choose you to come to for help, advise, coaching, and encouragement. If you do, you will impact and influence your players, staff, team members, and organization for a life time. Try it, and watch what will happen.
The choice is yours – so, choose wisely!
Question: What style do you use in coaching those you lead?