Coaches - From Good to Great

Blog provided for the Female Coaching Network

As a coach what different roles do you fulfil? Teacher. Motivator. Communicator. Counsellor. Organiser and planner. Role model. Supporter.  The list goes on.

Do you know which roles you excel in? Which roles suit your strengths? Which ones you have to work harder at to become accomplished? Do you understand the need to modify the way you operate, depending on whom you are working with? And do you have the tools to do so?

My belief, and my experience, shows that these factors can really help push you onto the next level and maximise your potential as a coach, and so help maximise the potential of those you work with. 

Here are some thoughts and explanations around this, and I would love to hear the thoughts and views of coaches from around the world. I’m also going to note some thoughts around female only training and development sessions, and again would love to hear insights, experiences and views.

UNDERSTAND | FOCUS | EXCEL

We start from a simple premise. By understanding yourself, you can focus your energies accordingly, and then excel.  So how do I best get across what I am trying to teach my athletes? What is my preferred style? How am I as a motivator? Does organising and planning come easily to me, or is this something that I need help with? We use a straightforward behavioural assessment that can throw light on all of these issues – what we call preferred behaviours at work – to enable you to understand your working strengths, what motivates you, preferred communication methods etc. 

IMPACT

What impact does this understanding have? Well it’s twofold: (1) the impact on your own training and development; and (2) the impact on maximising your interactions with others. 

Personal training and development

Understanding your strengths, and preferred behaviours, can ensure that follow on training is insight-driven and targeted.  If you are not a natural ‘listener’, training can focus on teaching you some basic listening tools and techniques.  If you are not naturally assertive, training can focus on building your skills in this area. Conversely, I believe that whilst it’s important to work on and ‘bolster’ our weaknesses, there is often greater return on investment when training focuses on developing your strengths.  If you are naturally a great motivator, why not invest time and resource in developing these skills even further?  If you love planning and organisation, why not build on those skills to make you really stand out as a coach in this area?

Getting the best out of others

“It’s so important to understand those you work with, so you know how to adapt your behaviour accordingly to get the best out of them.”  Louise Bradley, Equestrian Coach

Understanding how you are, and the way you work, is only part of the process.  Having an understanding of how others ‘operate’, what other types of behaviour suggest, can have a huge impact on getting the best out of others.  If I’m coaching tennis to someone whose main approach to things is to be methodical, thorough and a good listener, I will behave in a different way to them than if I am coaching someone whose key traits are to be assertive, direct and forceful.  If I know that they process information quickly, and can take on board my instructions/demonstrations straight away, that helps in my planning and delivery. The same goes for where I know they may need a little more time.

It boils down to ‘knowing the person before the player.’ (Petra Kvitova).

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

But what about lifting the bonnet up and looking in a bit more detail?  Emotional intelligence gets defined in many ways, but I like to think of it as the springboard to fulfil your potential, or stopping strong feelings from preventing the ability to think.  Emotions drive thoughts, thoughts drive behaviour, and behaviour drives performance.  How good are your empathy levels? What about your ability to perceive emotions in others? How about your levels of impulse control? And stress management?  How good are you at building relationships?

Understanding these, and working on your ‘behavioural agility’, where you learn how to dial up and dial down as necessary, can help you become more effective as a coach.  For example, there are situations where showing high levels of empathy can be a positive thing, and others where putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and losing objectivity, can be less helpful. Again, it comes down to helping ensure that the outcomes from your sessions are as good as they can be. 

Female–only training and development sessions

As promised, some thoughts on this area. 

From what I have observed, and read, female-only sessions, in any context, tend to throw up adjectives such as ‘supportive’, ‘open’, ‘relaxed.’ I am fascinated by research and findings into this area, and whilst focusing primarily at the adult level, I am interested in the ‘diamond model’ used by some schools, and the thinking behind it. This is where children are taught in mixed classrooms from ages of 4-11, single sex from 11-16, and then mixed again from 16-18. Obviously hormones and adolescence have a lot to do with this, but the concept behind this, and the thinking about what suits best at what times, is relevant. 

My current thinking is that sessions which are more personal in nature, which relate more to you as an individual, are preferable as women-only. However, exclusively women-only training can’t be sensible all the time, and certainly for more generic sessions, having a mixed group can enhance the outcomes of the training. 

I really hope that readers have found this of interest, and would love to hear any comments, views or thoughts.