It’s safe to say that the objective of all coaching is to improve performance which results in quantifiable, positive outcomes. Coaching requires evaluating, benchmarking, and focusing on specific areas that will impact results in the most dramatic ways. Unfortunately, many leaders misdiagnose where coaching needs to be focused and proceed to coach using strategies and techniques that have very little or, in many cases, no impact on results.
It’s easy to see how this works when applied to sales coaching. If a salesperson is not making enough sales calls, it would be natural to focus coaching on metrics such as call counts, talk time, etc. You could also create an improvement plan with incremental increases in sales calls over time. Countless sales managers have attempted this method. While this approach does work sometimes, in general, the results are minimal or temporary. Often, in this example, activity-centered, metric-based coaching creates push-back and morale issues that lead to a decrease in overall productivity. Taking an aspirin for your persistent headaches will provide temporary relief, but it’s more effective in the long run to identify and eliminate the cause of the headaches altogether. In the case of performance coaching, you need to look at the origin of all behaviors: the heart and mind. Focus on the cause and the effect will follow.
One of the most revered sports coaches in the history of modern sports, John Wooden, understood this truth. His winning records included: 10 national championships, 88 consecutive wins, a Hall of Fame induction (as a player and coach), and being named National Coach of the Year seven times. Regardless of whether you are a sports fan or not, it is clear that John Wooden had mastered the art of performance coaching based simply on his results.
John Wooden’s secrets were simple but counterintuitive. First, he understood that performance was a direct outcome of mindset and attitude. He knew that if he could reach out and connect with his players on the deeper level, the success of his team would be inevitable. John Wooden spent very little time discussing basketball. The vast majority of his time was invested in talking about character, self-respect, and principles that would carry a student through life, not just through the ups and downs of a college basketball season.
The second and equally important ingredient of his other-worldly records was his redefinition of the word “success”. Wooden believed it was unfair to compare one player to another or to overly examine the score at the end of each game. He believed that each player needed only look inward and evaluate themselves using a single criterion: “Did I do the best that I could?” In other words, by focusing on and developing their “inner” potential, Wooden developed players who were capable of coaching themselves to become the best version of themselves. With this new definition of success, Wooden gave his players opportunities both in the world of basketball and the game of life.
Performance improvements and results are universal desired outcomes in the field of coaching. However, it’s easy to become misdirected and defined by these standards. To be as successful as John Wooden in our coaching efforts, we need to direct our attention on the cause, not the effect. We need to care for, see, and coach the individual, not the metric. Enlightened Coaching requires an investment in ourselves and requires putting our own agenda and motives to achieve instant improvement on hold. To become a master coach like John Wooden, we must become comfortable with the idea of redefining success. Wooden became a legend because he coached the entire person, not just the aspects of them needed for a specific activity. The question is, “Do you want to become a legend?”
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