Who is your coach?

While watching the Olympics, this week I have enjoyed watching and learning about those who coach the athletes.  I feel the coach/athlete coachrelationship is unique.  Michael Phelps’ coach was telling a story of how he prepared Michael for unexpected events by doing things like purposefully messing with his goggles, or making him late to a starting line.  His thinking was that if Michael was well prepared to handle the unexpected, then when things went wrong for him, his performance would not be adversely impacted.

Makes me wonder.  Should we all have a coach?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a designated person to help you be the very best you?  Someone who sees your strengths and works to develop your weaknesses?  Just think how great it would be! You don’t have to be an athlete either.  Some might want a “life coach” or a “career coach” or maybe a “weight loss coach” or a “health coach”.

I found the following check-list that outlines how to select a coach.  I feel it applies well to any coaching situation you might be interested in pursuing.


A good coach has to be able to do the following for clients:

1) RAPPORT – Your coach must be able to perceive and appreciate the strengths, talents and unique gifts you bring. Only when appreciation and trust exists will you be able to accept coaching. Otherwise you will naturally respond defensively.

2) OBSERVATION- An effective coach is a keen observer. Keen as in HAWK EYED. The coach observes every gesture, tone, hesitation, choice of words, body language, motion, innuendo, tactic, decision. A coaching session is not a casual “Let’s get together and talk.” It is closer to getting an MRI in which you are being observed from every angle. You should be somewhat startled by how much your coach learns about you in a very short time.

3) FEEDBACK – Change requires mechanisms for accurately perceiving the existing state of affairs so you know what needs to be changed . A strong coach will tell you clearly and precisely what he or she perceives about your behaviors and their effects on others. The coach will choose one or two high-payback behaviors to focus on and not overwhelm you with a stream of observations undifferentiated in importance.

4) CHOICE – A skillful coach will articulate the consequences of your current behaviors – the price you are paying for these and the price you are likely to pay in the future. He or she will encourage you to weigh the costs and benefits of your current behaviors and decide if you want to change these. The coach will respect you making a conscious choice to live with the behaviors or work to change them, but will not allow you to simply use the old behaviors by reason of habit.

5) OPTIONS – An effective coach will help you generate options for different behaviors that would be more productive. The coach will pay attention to which option interests you and encourage you to try that option first as, whether or not it is his or her first choice, you are more likely to stick with it over the long run.

6) PRACTICE – A hands-on coach will have you practice new behaviors or difficult conversations before you engage in them. Action plans, strategies, role plays, all have their place in preparing you to do your best in each situation.

7) DEBRIEF – Learning from doing is significantly enhanced by “After Action Reviews” or debriefs. A results-oriented coach will examine with you what went well, what did not, and what are the take away lessons for the future.

8) REINFORCEMENT – A supportive coach will stay alert for instances in which you are using the new behaviors well and will validate these. Perfection is not a realistic goal, but continuous improvement is. Shining a spotlight on an instance of improved behavior helps you use it as a model for future behavior.

9) PROBLEM SOLVING – As knowledge of you and your business grows, a trusted coach becomes a thinking partner. Effective coaches are adept at posing the right questions to help you examine issues from new and often deeper perspectives. Dialogue about problems often leads to detection of the unseen pitfalls or unrecognized potential in situations. As useful as these discussion are, rather than letting them become a substitute for appropriate group collaboration, the coach helps you forge the culture and processes that utilize the wisdom of teams and maximize their commitment.

10) TRANSFORMATION – At the highest level, once the issues that precipitated the need or desire for coaching have been addressed, coach-client relations may evolve into forums for transformation. Coaching sessions become a conversation to help you explore your deeper values and find and express your unique voice on which great leadership is built.

If you already have a coach and can add to the list, we would love to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “Who is your coach?

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  1. Great post. I’m going to include it in a post I’m writing right now about a coaching session I had this morning. Thanks. OH wow, I like this WP plug in allowing me to log in and post from my twitter account. I’m going to look to add that to my site. Double Thanks.

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