Monday, October 31, 2011

Manifesto for Effective Coaching

This should be considered Part 2 of my series on what real coaching is or should be – whether on-line or in person.  We need to think more thoroughly about the role of Big “C” coach in the on-line fitness industry. (see my book, The Abel Approach) What passes as “coaching” right now – is in fact, a travesty. And I will keep repeating this until I see any signs that it is getting better.
We need to outline the parameters by which a real coach is supposed to add value to a client’s experience – and then we need to ensure that as coaches, we fulfill our side of the bargain in satisfying that responsibility. There are too many weak, unskilled and talentless people out there “appointing” themselves as coaches without nary any due consideration of the true requirements of the role. You think because you won a physique contest or have a few certifications that this is somehow “qualification” for coaching others. It’s not even close.  A real “Big C” coach must live and be that role. It is not because his ego wants to dictate to people, but because his spirit is called to serve people. And there is a fundamental difference between these two perspectives. Below are some the main essential ingredients and pre-requisites of the craft of coaching. Let’s look at some of them. The real Coach must be able to -
  • Act and live by the principles that you advocate
  • “Be” a role model, don’t “act” like one
  • Be of noticeable integrity, don’t just talk about it in others
  •  Impose principled values
  • Be part of someone else’s solution, not detached and separated, like some kind of “boss”
  • Help someone establish reasonable and achievable performance goals, not absolute ones
  • Be truly concerned with long-term client-progress and growth, not just short term profits for yourself
  • Provide useful and constructive feedback within the triangle of awareness (physical, mental, emotional)
  • Emphasize cooperation and interaction, not a one-way dictatorship
  • Keep the client engaged, and focusing on what they need to do and know, not on what you as coach, do and know
  • Be encouraging in sincere and individual terms
  • When being encouraging or critical, be fair and understood in both
  • Don’t use negative emotional “tactics” ever to try to coach someone – e.g. don’t try to scare potential clients about how demanding you are as a coach. Treat others professionally in the ways and means you would expect to be treated if roles were reversed – in other words, as an adult!
  •  Realize that often what you are seeking from the client as a coach is insight, not just constant evaluation
  • Keep interaction real – personal methods of obtaining client-feedback will always yield deeper and more meaningful insights than some questionnaire-type approach. There is no substitute for real interaction. 

But along with the above - are the character traits required of good coaches as well. And I will get into that in another article.  And you cannot “learn” these as you go. A real coach has to be honourable, genuine, noble, have high standards for himself not just others, be of high integrity, be sincere, have it known what he stands for without having to announce it all the time. He must be enthusiastic for clients in a mature way, not because it looks good to be so. And the coach must have domain knowledge mastery beyond “certification levels.” He must have good instincts for knowledge, information, and diplomacy in interaction.
The unfortunate thing about the character trait requirements of a real Big “C” coach – is that these elements are easy to fake on-line, and easy to manipulate people of lesser skills and intelligence to believe. There is no way around it that the consumer needs to also become more educated about what real coaching is or is not. I know complete morons with a pro card and a bucket full of pharmaceutical enhancements that makes them think they are somehow equipped to “help and service” others. Does that even remotely make sense?
Real coaching is about developed and enhanced interpersonal, psychological, emotional, sociological and evaluative, communication skills. You don’t acquire these things in a weekend certification but in a life-long career experience devoted to the cause - not of your own self-interest - but for helping someone else. You also don’t receive these skills all of a sudden, because you won a high-level physique contest at some time. Neither of these things translates into coaching skills or prowess. But until consumers understand this, the lowest common denominator will prevail. And coaching will continue to be little more than a joke – its current state.
 But more to the point – the real Big “C” coach who does possess these skills and has honed them over years of practice should indeed warrant a premium price for it. There is a reason motivational speakers make hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars speaking to corporate heads each year. And that is because they produce intangible value. And real Big “C” coaching works the exact same way.
Real coaching requires a complex mix of social, interpersonal, psychological emotional and relational skills, ON TOP OF higher intelligence and the domain knowledge and technical skills within any field or practice. Only all of these things together will create Big “C” coaching value that rises to the top of the hierarchy of what coaching is supposed to be.
The most effective coaching mandate boils down to this – passion, people, principles, and professionalism.
Real coaching should never encourage room for coaches who want to play Boss-Cop or use the role of coach to enhance some personal sense of status of glory. Real coaching is service-oriented not ego-driven. The job is to help other people achieve, succeed, or otherwise enhance their life-experience in a positive way. A real coach does not pat himself on the back for that. That just illustrates selfish motivations. And these websites need to stop “glorifying” coaches who seek that very thing!
As a coach, if you are going to hold people accountable for their behaviour and performance then you must surrender yourself to that same level of accountability – and not because you feel you have to – but because this is just how you live your life. I have no respect for so-called coaches whose lives are a mess – and yet they have no tolerance for clients who are having troubles with application and process.
In real Big “C” coaching - understanding people – one by one – and one on one – and how they react and respond to you as an individual – is not an optional skill – it is an essential requirement.
I think this is enough to absorb for one article. And let’s call this The Manifesto for Effective Coaching
As usual, some of you will get it – some of you will not.
For those of you who sincerely want to become better “Big C” real coaches, I suggest you also read and do all the homework assignments in my book, “The Coach Whisperer.”
And I think we also need to look at the consumer side of this equation as well in future articles.