Coaching...it's personal!

written by Erica Quam

Have you ever had an athlete who really tested you? Someone who seemed to know just the right buttons to push to upset, distract, or really irritate you?

What about a difficult supervisor or administrator? Have you ever had a boss you just didn't click with? No matter how hard you tried to communicate effectively with them, they never ever seemed to get what you were trying to say or fully understand your challenge.

The key thing to remember in any relationship is you can't change the other person. You can only change yourself.

Coaching is relationship-centric

One of the biggest challenges coaches face is the myriad of relationships they must foster to actually be effective. Coaches need to communicate across a range of personalities - on their teams, within their staff, and with administrators, recruits, parents, and sometimes donors.

Coaches have to manage their own thoughts and emotions - no matter what's going on with the other person.

If you don't have the self awareness, things can get tricky - fast! 

Let's look at six ways to improve a relationship.

1. Take a step back

If you're struggling in a relationship or you know you have a hard time communicating with someone, one of the best things to do is take a step back. Give yourself some space. Then examine things a little closer. 

2. Make it a game

My theory is that we're presented with lots of different people in our lives - specifically so we can learn, grow, and improve. If we reframe the difficult people in our lives as learning opportunities, it can become more of a game and less of a struggle.

Now, I know coaches are competitive. So, if you can view a challenging relationship as a game to play or a mystery to solve, you may have a little more fun.

3. Avoid avoiding

It's easy to write off a difficult relationship...and just complain about it, blame the other person, or avoid dealing with it entirely. This isn't a great strategy. 

Here comes the other part of my other theory: If you don't learn how to deal certain people, life will keep throwing them your way....until you can learn the lesson. You might as well learn it sooner than later. Save yourself some time, effort, and energy. You've got plenty of other things to deal with!

4. Always be learning

Today, people are looking for the quick fix and the magic pill. We don't want to read the book - we just want the answers. We want things done fast. We want them done yesterday! Coaches go to coaching conference and are fire-hosed with information. They see all the latest training gadgets and listen to the newest fads to try with their teams. There's usually not much emphasis on personal development. And if that's what's being emphasized at coaching conventions, then that's what most coaches believe is important.

There's a big difference between professional development and personal development. Personal development deals with "soft skills." I believe the "soft skills" are the real key to get you the "hard results" that you're looking for as a coach. Learning these skills is a life-long process to invest in - not a quick fix.

5. Get to know YOU

The key to all of this is to commit to learn more about yourself. If you get to know YOU really well, you'll have a much easier time working with others. 

It sounds simple enough. But I think it can be hard concept for some coaches. Coaches put their focus on others. Focusing on yourself instead of your team may sound selfish! And where do you even start? 

6. Begin with your blind spots

Self awareness is an important leadership skill. So, the most important area for you to learn more about are your blind spots. These are the things that everyone around you know about you....you're just not yet aware of them yourself! 

To learn about your blind spots...ask, be open, and get curious. Ask people around you for feedback - how did that come across, am I being clear, are we on the same page? Invest in tools like the DiSC. You can learn more about your behavior, how it impacts others, and how to adapt it for more successful outcomes. Finally, be open to doing some work with a coach. A coach can help you create a strategic plan to get a different perspective, gain new insights, and discover how to tap into your real strengths as a leader.

As always, leave a comment or ask a question about what you just read below. Let's get this conversation about personal development started!