“[The best coaches] pay great attention to providing real-time feedback on their players’ performance . . . Without immediate and precise feedback, the learning process ends and mediocrity is sure to emerge” (James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner).
IF WE’RE SERIOUSLY INTERESTED IN IMPROVEMENT, COACHING IS ONE OF THE MOST VALUABLE THINGS WE CAN OBTAIN. Whatever the activity may be in which we’re trying to improve, none of us sees enough to see our own doings objectively. Even if I were to watch a videotape of my own golf swing, for example, I could not see all the flaws in that swing that a skilled coach could see. I would need the eyes of a coach to help me see the things I need to do differently. In a word, I need the feedback that only a coach can provide.
Feedback is uncomfortable to receive, of course, and so many of us avoid being coached. We struggle along, trying to improve without any outside help. And that’s unfortunate because there are almost always people available to us whose feedback would be quite valuable.
Do you aspire to be a person who can coach others? If you do, that’s a noble aspiration. But be advised that coaching is one of the hardest things in the world to do well. To start with, you’ll never be a good coach if you don’t have the humility to be coached yourself. But beyond that, you’ll need knowledge, wisdom, good judgment, common sense, compassion, fairness, gentleness, firmness, respect, trust, and many other hard-to-acquire qualities. Perhaps no job in the world requires more different, and more demanding, skills than coaching.
In the end, coaching comes down to teaching, and there’s far more to teaching than simply imparting information. Anyone can impart information, and anyone can tell other people what they should do. But not everyone can teach, and not everyone can coach. Both of these, by means of accurate feedback, help others to see what it’s so hard to see with our own eyes: how we can perform to the best of our ability in ways that best serve the goals of the team.
“I believe effective leaders are, first and foremost, good teachers. We are in the education business. Whether in class or on the court, my job was the same: to effectively teach those under my supervision how they could perform to the best of their ability in ways that best served the goals of our team. I believe the same is true for productive leaders in any organization” (Coach John Wooden).