[5 min read]
Many coaches are experts in certain disciplines or subject areas. However, when it comes to coaching effectively and getting results for your clients / athletes, thinking like an expert is not the most effective approach. In this blog we explore why that is, and give you insights that will help you become a more effective coach.
There are many different definitions for coaching:
The Business Dictionary define it as "Extending traditional training methods to include focus on: 1) an individual's needs and accomplishments, 2) close observation, and 3) impartial and non-judgmental feedback on performance".
In his book, Coaching for Performance, former racing driver, author and executive coach John Whitmore offers a simpler, more concise definition "Unlocking a person's potential to maximize their own performance".
"Unlocking a person's potential to maximise their own performance."
- John Whitmore
Regardless of the definition you choose, there is a common theme - coaching is client-focused, with the main objective of helping the client / athlete achieve their desired outcome.
Coaches must be prepared to be relentlessly client-focused. To put the client / athlete in the spotlight, to help them uncover what truly drives them, and then to help them put a suitable strategy in place to achieve their goals, and remove any barriers that get in the way.
Experts tend to be problem-focused by nature. They look for problems with the current process and aim to use their own expertise to find and implement a solution. When these behaviours are implemented in a coaching context, the client / athlete slips out of the spotlight and more often than not, the coach will fail to get the best out of them.
"... coaching is client-focused, with the main objective of helping the client / athlete achieve their desired outcome"
Many studies have showed that extensive domain knowledge is a primary component of elite coaches. However, domain expertise can be wasted if the coach cannot coach effectively and get the best results for their clients / athletes.
Adopting certain behaviours can improve your coaching effectiveness and help you motivate your clients / athletes to find a way to achieve their goals and reach their potential. However, it's an area that many highly experienced and qualified coaches struggle with.
The following 4 simple behaviours will help you overcome this and improve your effectiveness as a coach:
1 / Ask... don't tell
The first step for your clients / athletes is goal setting. This is a hugely important exercise because it sets the tone and has a huge part to play in terms of motivating the client / athlete over the course of the process. Therefore, it's critical that you get uncover what really drives them. The only way to do this is to ask questions and dig deep to understand why they're doing what they're doing.
If you put on your expert hat on the other hand and try to tell your client / athlete what they should be striving for, you remove their own passion from the equation and they no longer feel a sense of ownership over their own goals. As a result, their motivation and drive to succeed will suffer.
So make sure you ask enough of the right questions to understand what your clients / athletes really care about.
2 / Listen carefully
Throughout the process, not just during goal-setting, the ability to listen to what your clients / athletes are saying is critical. Not only will it help you build a connection and trust with them, it will help show them that you care about them and their success, which will push them further.
In addition to these motivational benefits, the ability to listen will help you individualize your client's / athlete's programs, identify when things aren't working, and pick-up on external factors affecting their performance. This will help you optimize your program further for the individual, and offer them the support and guidance they need to succeed.
An expert might get too wrapped up in the solution to listen to their client's / athlete's needs, or feel too proud to accept when things are not going to plan. Unfortunately, this rigid one-size-fits-all approach doesn't always yield the desired results.
So make sure you listen closely to what your clients / athletes have to say.
3 / Facilitate action
Coaches are facilitators. They collaborate with clients / athletes and use their expertise to put a suitable strategy in place for them to achieve their goals. The client / athlete themselves is responsible for the action and results.
“The client / athlete themselves is responsible for the action and results”
There are a number of things coaches can do to facilitate and drive that action like providing a clear program, ensuring the client / athlete has everything they need to succeed, supporting them throughout the process, challenging them, monitoring adherence, progress and performance, and providing them with feedback. However, trying to force them into action will only yield limited results.
So make sure you remove all the barriers between your clients / athletes and success.
4 / Celebrate behaviours, not just outcomes
It's important that you are very specific when defining what a positive outcome looks like so success can be measured. However, you also need to be mindful that common goals like winning a competition, or losing weight can be long-term. They don't happen over night they can have their ups and downs along the way.
Therefore, it's important to not be purely outcome-focused and realise that it is consistent positive behaviours that lead to long-term success. So these behaviours should also be celebrated in order to keep your clients / athletes upbeat and motivated along the way.
“... it is consistent positive behaviours that lead to long-term success.”
So make sure you celebrate all the positive efforts made by your clients / athletes.
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