First things first. Never ever consider having only ONE coach. Simply never! Why? I truly believe anyone surrounding you could be an excellent coach and trusting only one person is simply a lost opportunity. It’s okay to consider only a few of them an actual COACH, whereas others are your peers, friends or family members. Don’t forget however that each and everyone of them has the potential to offer some life altering advice. It’s up to you what you take out from each.
I have been lucky enough to have had many different coaches at different stages in my life. A phenomenal chess master who taught me how to play the game, an experienced Lithuanian business wolf from the Rotary Academy, a British consultant whom I initially couldn’t stand when I first met him and above all my mum, who taught me how to be street smart in a multitude of life situations. It doesn’t matter where they are from geographically, or which educational background, race, gender or belief they have. All excellent coaches have one thing in common though.
What makes a great coach?
A great coach empowers you. They never tell you what to do since, as most likely you already know these answers by yourself. They are masters in asking smart, provoking and often uncomfortable questions, which forces you to think about certain things from a different perspective.
I remember working on improving my empathetic communication skills with the aforementioned British coach, named Mark Buchanan. Many people told me that I needed to show more empathy. I struggled and I didn’t even fully understand what it meant. The sentence that kept going through my mind was; “I deliver strong results each time, what more is needed?!”
During one of our sessions he asked me a simple question. “Why is it so important for you to be the best?” I wandered back to my childhood era, remembering how I grew up. Agne, you need to always go for that 10 (A+ for my American readers) at school. You need to be the best to have an easier life than your parents. This simple question and my own answer, gave me so many new insights, many of which I never thought of before. Not everyone needs a 10!
“Why is it so important for you to be the best?”A question from one of my coaches that resonated intensely
Great coaches are great listeners. Sometimes it’s surprising how little they talk, but that’s the key. They listen, not just to understand your words, they want to understand your feelings, emotions and hidden messages behind what you are saying. Afterwards they follow up with a spot on question or paraphrase based on something you said, confirming they hear you. If you ever had a coach that talks more than you do, find a new one.
A great coach is never greedy. They love sharing their experience, expertise and helping you grow. They are self-esteemed and confident, so they won’t see you as a competitor, even if he or she is your (direct) peer. I remember getting many ad-hoc coaching from my colleagues whilst working at Philips. They were all so experienced and truly wanted me to grow and learn from their mistakes. None of this is considered official coaching, but I have learnt so much from it.
Feedback is a gift, so is coaching
Sometimes we get unsolicited coaching advice. I was a tough teenager, even though I scored good grades at school and never struggled academically. My mum had a special look when she was about to hand me a one on one coaching session. Once I saw that look, I knew right from the get go what was coming. It often occurred after me breaking some rules, like coming back home late from a party or throwing a house party when my parents were away. I don’t know how, but she always figured it out. Anyway, I hated those talks, mostly because she never just told me that I was a bad girl and how I should behave in the future. No. She asked QUESTIONS and made me realise my mistakes, followed by her asking me to develop my own corrective actions. Oh, those were the talks.
Now, in hindsight as twenty something grown-up, I’m positive that if my mum didn’t deliver those coaching talks in the way she did, I wouldn’t be the go-getter that I am today. She never punished or shouted on me, she simply asked questions and talked in a soft mum-like voice. And that was challenging enough for me as a teenager.
I would advise you to always listen to feedback, be grateful of it. See it as a gift. It’s up to you whether you want to act on it or not. Please, kindly appreciate when received, unwrap it and then decide what to do with it. Not all gifts are equally sweet, but most of the time they are delivered with the best intentions.