Coaching Session 3

Listen to the audio if you’d prefer not to read. It’s 14:51 minutes long.

the past

Yesterday is over. What will we do today, and tomorrow?

Coaching focuses on future possibilities, not past mistakes.

It’s about performance. Past or current performance is important in the process so we can correct things. Quite often coaches point out behaviors the client isn’t aware of. I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking coaching and whenever I record clients on audio or video they’re always amazed at their own verbal crutches. Crutches they never knew they were using. “Um” – “ah, ah, ah” – “you know” – and a host of others. They’ll often say, “I had NO IDEA I did that. How annoying!”

The key word of the headline is “focuses.” Even when helping people with public speaking, we don’t concentrate on the verbal distractions. We want to be aware of them so we can eliminate them. Shining a light on them for awareness is critical to the correction. Most speakers make drastic improvements once they hear themselves. And the more they hear themselves, the better they tend to get.

Present and past mistakes, or challenges, are important. We all have to recognize areas where we can do better.

Timothy Gallwey was the Harvard brainiac who was a tennis coaching expert. He wrote the famous book, The Inner Game of Tennis. He also wrote, The Inner Game of Golf and Inner Skiing. Gallwey was brilliant and insightful enough to realize that the key to profitable athletic coaching was to help the player successfully face the opponent within his own head. That’s the opponent Gallwey knew had to be defeated before the player ever entered competition.

Such ideas seem commonplace today, but it wasn’t that way when these books first appeared. The hard-nosed, barking coaches of the day didn’t much cotton to Gallwey’s work. It threatened how they did things. But he really had distilled the true nature of coaching.

Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It’s helping them learn rather than teaching them.”

Okay, it wasn’t so new really. Socrates had done it thousands of years earlier.

This isn’t sports. It’s business. But it’s still very much an inner game that is first played in your head.

We use coaching in many places, at many times, during the course of our work. We’re coaching when we’re…

  • Delegating
  • Problem solving
  • Motivating staff
  • Working out relationship issues
  • Team building

You can keep adding to that list and probably never get to the end. Some of the coaching you do is structured. For instance, you may sit down with your staff members one-on-one every year and give them a formal review. Much of your coaching is likely informal, like when a staffer hands you something that is missing a critical piece. You instruct them to fill in the missing piece. Coaching can take an hour or it can last 20 seconds.

The key part of today’s session headline is the importance to see ourselves (and others) in terms of our (their) future potential and not merely by our (their) past performance. However, potential doesn’t get the job done. Nobody except the teams that draft in professional sports pay for potential. You and me…unfortunately, we’re not potential professional athletes. We have to produce or we’ll be replaced. And the past is far less important than the present.

My career began in sales. One of the first maxims I heard as a teenager was that proverbial sales manager adage…

What have you done for me today?

Yesterday’s sales were over. Tomorrow’s sales weren’t yet realized. Sales managers universally know that today is all we have. And we’ve got numbers to hit. Work to be completed. It must be done now.

Back in the early 90’s I ran across some research that amazed me. It was a 3 question survey and these were the responses. I honestly don’t know if the stats have changed, but I think you’ll find this intriguing like I did.

What percentage of people’s potential manifests itself in the workplace (on average)?

40% is the most common answer. The people surveyed felt that, on average, most groups in the workplace are working at a 40% efficiency – they’re reaching only 40% of their potential.

What evidence do you have to support your number?

Here were the three most consistent answers:

  1. The things that people do so well outside the workplace
  2. How well people respond in a crisis
  3. I just know I could be much more productive

What external and internal blocks obstruct the manifestation of the rest of the potential?

Here are the external ones most often cited:

  1. The restrictive structures and practices of my organization
  2. The lack of encouragement and opportunity
  3. The prevailing management style of the organization (and my boss)

The single universal internal block cited is most often described as a fear of failure, lack of confidence, self-doubt and lack of self-belief.

Belief is monumental.

Tom Asacker, author of the book, The Business Of Belief, said this about belief, “It’s a working assumption about something or someone driven by what we wish it to be.”

People’s beliefs drive their actions. We wrongly assume that people’s actions are motivated by information, by knowledge. But that’s simply not true.”

Tom is right and we all know he’s right. Well, at some level in our head we know he’s right. That’s why I began these sessions telling you that this is about exploration. I can’t (and don’t want to) control your beliefs, but I do want to provoke you to challenge some beliefs that might be holding you back. We’ve all got them. Limiting beliefs.

People’s perceptions drive their feelings, and those feelings, in turn, drive their thoughts and decisions. Read that again and ponder it. It applies to you and it also applies to your staff.

Here’s the bottom line. Our thoughts and desires – yours, your staff, mine and everybody – drive our actions and behaviors. It’s performance that matters, but first we’ve got to come to terms with feelings. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating…this is heart stuff, not head stuff.

We build self-belief when we make decisions, perform successfully, take successful action and recognize that we’re responsible for all of it.