Courage, Do You Have It?
March 24, 2015
I was caught off guard this week when someone asked; "Which one quality do you see missing from inexperienced coaches?"
My mind instantly started acting like one of those old fashioned rolodexes, quickly flicking through all the possibilities. Mentally I was scrolling at pace through the endless mistakes and failings we all make when starting out. I am sure I am not close to mastering many of them, even now. Then my mind came stretching to a halt. I had my answer… courage.
Coaches are called upon to help nurture, develop and grow performance, working with individuals to unlock their fullest - and often unrecognized - potential. Coaches with courage are confident in their approach and are willing to discuss the un-discussable with talent.
It can be easy to lack the confidence needed to have the difficult conversations that need to be had. What if they get angry with me? What if they disagree? What if they refuse to change? What if this feedback damages our relationship? What if I am wrong? What if there is a better way? These endless 'What If's…" create self-doubt, stress and tension. Many coaches find themselves left paralyzed by their own fear. In the end it's easier for them to avoid their fear and side step the difficult conversation.
The inability to have the conversations that matter hold most coaches back from getting results. Experienced coaches know they have to face their fears head on; after all fear has a debilitating impact on performance. It is only through deliberate and focused 'courageous coaching conversations' that a coach can create an environment for growth and action.
The best description of a courageous coaching conversation I have heard is: "Conversations where we find the courage to speak authentically and honestly with each other about issues that may be difficult to discuss." These coaching conversations are focused around challenging the norm, improving behavior and current practices, offering honest performance feedback or taking an unconventional approach. They are conversations that may be difficult for someone to hear or agree with. Conversations that ultimately push individuals outside of their comfort zones.
Why are courageous coaching conversations beneficial to the coachee?
- They gain a bigger perspective. Getting input, wisdom, advice or a different viewpoint from others broadens our mindset and influences our own way of thinking.
- They gain understanding. When we are exposed to another person's viewpoint we can better understand why they act the way they do, and the honesty it takes for them to share a piece of themselves establishes more trust in the relationship.
- They gain knowledge. Once you have a bigger perspective and a deeper understanding you have increased knowledge to take your next step forward.
Experienced coaches know that, despite any initial fear or self-doubt, there are long term positive benefits to be gained from having the bravery to tackle these types of coaching conversations.
Here are some tips that you may find useful when preparing for your next courageous coaching conversation:
- Be clear about why you are having the conversation. What are you hoping to achieve? How does that fit into the bigger picture? Start by having the conversation with yourself so you can clarify why the conversation is important.
- Identify why this conversation will be beneficial for the coachee. You need to be clear on what they stand to get out of the conversation, even if they won't see that in the moment! Make it clear to them how the feedback will help them in the pursuit of their goal.
- You have to mean what you say. You have to be honest and candid in your feedback. Don't be afraid to say what you feel needs to be said. Never sugar coat it.
- Control the emotions. Consider the emotion you are likely to be met with as you address the topic of concern. Ask yourself how will you handle that type of reaction? What tone and emotion will you use to convey your thoughts?
- Lead with facts. At the start of the conversation you need to clearly offer the facts as you see them. Opinions are dangerous. Only offer the facts that you have observed first hand.
- Listen. Make sure that once you have outlined the topic you want to discuss that you give the person a chance to share their view and thoughts. After all, you need dialogue to have a conversation.
- Think about your language. The way we word things can make a big difference to how the message is received by the other person.
- Be clear in your requests. Before entering into the conversation be clear about the desired outcomes you'd like to see. What actions will the other person need to take?
- Always be future-focused. You can't change the past What happened has been and gone. Your goal is to help people improve. You need to stay focused on what behaviors can be changed to make their performance better.
- Repeat if necessary. Not all conversations will go the way you anticipate. In these instances simply bring the conversation to a conclusion. Mutually agree to give the topic some more thought and then set a time to pick the conversation up again. Taking some time to gain a little more perspective and self-reflection can be a powerful thing for everyone involved.
Conversations are powerful. The best coaches fight their fears and address the hard topics with those they work with. They have the courage needed to challenge and guide another individual to better performance. Do you have that courage?