Think about the best person to whom you have ever reported. If you are like most, two things just happened:
- An image (or two) almost immediately came to mind.
- A smile found its way to your face almost just as fast.
And, if we asked you to tell us the thing(s) that distinguished this individual from everybody else for whom you have ever worked, you would likely produce a list of boring, predictable, unassuming “you kind of had to be there” responses like:
- “… she really took the time to understand my perspective”
- “… he was just really easy to talk to; you never felt like anything you said off the top of your head was going to come back and haunt you somehow”
- “… she had the ability to make me feel appreciated; actually, more than that, she had the ability to connect me (and my work) to something ‘bigger’ and far more important”
By digging deeper, you would probably categorize, recognize or describe this individual as “a fantastic coach.” Why? Because they challenged you! They invigorated you! They made you feel special! They figured out a way to get the very best you out of you! In all probability, you might retroactively admit that you didn’t fully appreciate the true impact this person had on your performance and/or your development until they (or you) moved on!
There are very few skill sets that are in greater demand than the skills associated with coaching. Why? Because good coaches:
- Consistently figure out a way to deliver desired results. They understand “the scoreboard” and are in no way intimidated by it. They recognize (in many cases fully embrace) that the most tangible way to measure their value in the short term is by their documented ability to orchestrate “organizational wins.”
- Drive engagement; positively influence retention; shape culture. They have a “personal scoreboard” that includes much more than the organizational bottom line. They deliver the what but they truly excel at the how. Their identity, their legacy and their legend are functions of the impact they have on the people they work through to deliver targeted results.
So, how do you build or enhance these skills? It is, without doubt, an iterative process that demands a focused effort in three highly interdependent phases:
- Reflect before you react – Effective coaching is the product of thoughtful consideration. It isn’t something you “wing” or “get out of the way.” Great coaches always seem to know what to say or how to respond primarily because they have proactively considered a variety of different variables before they engage. Examples of the questions good coaches consider before they “dive in” are:
- In specific terms, what is the task/activity?
- What happened the last time I spoke with this individual about this task?
- What are behaviors I have observed? Heard about?
- How does this person prefer to communicate? (i.e., DiSC® style or MBTI profile)
- What would it look like if this discussion goes well?
- Where (and how) might this discussion get “off track?”
- Execute before you procrastinate – Good coaches gather relevant data but also act on instinct. Can you “over-prepare” to coach? Absolutely! We have always thought Colin Powell’s “70 – 40 Rule” has been a good guideline for coaches:
- Be hesitant to initiate if you have less than 40% of the available information
- If you have accumulated more than 70% of the information available, you have probably lost your best window of opportunity
- Follow up before you forget – As is the case with almost any realm of attempted influence, what you say is one thing. What you do is something altogether different (and far more important!). Good coaches recognize what was said during a coaching discussion wasn’t necessarily what was understood. They seek clarity on what was established and align expectations around who is going to be doing what and by when!
So, the “good news – challenging news” associated with becoming someone someday that others will identify as “the best person to whom they have ever reported” is that good coaches do simple things, but they do them so well, so consistently and with such frequency over time that those simple things very quickly become remarkable!
- Make a list of the behaviors that distinguished the best person to whom you have ever reported.
- Pick one or two and commit to implementing those with each person you lead/coach/influence.