A man walks in the hospital room and approaches another on the bed, who is battling bone cancer. He inquires after him and then tells him that he wants him in the training camp – on the field. Some months later, that is exactly what panned out. The man who walked in the hospital was Don Shula (former professional American football coach and player, best known as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins), and the man on the bed was Mike Westoff, special teams’ coach for the Dolphins. Mike understood his Coach’s doing, “He treated me the way I could be, not the way I was, and that made all the difference in the speed of my recovery.”
The anecdotal evidence above brings to light the impact of coaching and what a splendid coach can bring to the table. In this blog we have unveiled the seven traits that make a good coach.
The ability to place one’s self in another’s shoes and seeing their point of view is the embodiment of a good coach. Without this, no coach can come very close to being effective. The presence of empathy in one’s character goes a long way. After all, it is a much desired ability in coaches, leaders, and all-round holistic individuals.
For a coach, empathy is the basis of building a rapport and understanding the coachee’s situation, roadblocks and what is preventing him/her from growing and going forward. Empathy is the key to make a meaningful relationship.
‘Patience is a virtue’ is a saying that we often hear. The practice of patience is, unfortunately, not as common. As a coach, being patient with the coachee and giving him/her time – to accept a situation, to form realizations, identify problems, and actively move towards a resolution is imperative. This is also the most challenging test of becoming a good coach.
- Being a good listener
You may wonder – ‘how does listening help in coaching?’ In reality, this is the most important behaviour of a good coach. Being a coach is not about resolving an individual’s problems. A good coach understands that there are strong walls or obstacles preventing individuals from being the best versions of themselves. These obstacles are usually a result of mental or emotional circumstances. An empathic coach understands that the key to progress is in first dealing with the mental and emotional strains and barriers. Often, this means allowing a coachee to parrot the same concerns repeatedly. For a coach, the ability to listen patiently is key, because a good coach understands that individuals want to feel heard. Therefore, a good coach must be able to both understand and utilize appropriate verbal and non-verbal cues to help individuals manage and overcome their obstacles. Being a good listener is also incredibly important because many times, individuals aren’t able to communicate what they mean. Being a good listener allows coaches to read between the line, infer meaning, and assist their coachees appropriately.
Mastering empathy, patience and being a good listener will only take a coach so far if consistency in behaviour is not maintained. A good coach needs to be consistent in his time, interest, behaviour, opinions, feedback, and suggestions, ensuring that their own worries, tensions, deadlines and obstacles do not interfere with the coaching process. Making an effort every day, day after day so that the coachee reaches his/her potential and achieve the goals that you both had set out at the beginning of the practice is the basis of coaching consistency.
- Active involvement
Coaching requires the coach to have a hands-on, minds-on involvement with the coachee. This doesn’t mean that a coach needs to be with the coachee every second of every day. Active involvement implies being attuned to or updated with the coachee’s situation and progress. Only then can a coach become aware of the changing needs of the individuals they are helping. Active involvement could imply activities such as – daily phone calls or emails, participating in the coachee’s life at regular intervals, weekly conversations, record and discuss signs of progress and obstacles to progress, etc. are some of the ways in which coaches can be actively involved.
A good coach always remembers that the coaching process is a collaborative effort, with equal efforts put in by both sides to achieve the predetermined targets. A coach is not a trainer or assessor who dictates what, where, when, how and why individuals must do to achieve their goals. A good coach understands and makes the coachee aware of their strengths, areas of improvements, expectations, potential and motivation. In turn, coachees cannot be passive parties to the coaching process. Coachees are expected to act on the mutually agreed-upon activities, flag of challenges and report progress. Collectively, both parties then decide the next course of action till the goal is met.
Coaches are also facilitators, the very definition of the role being that of a helper. Understanding their role of facilitators, good coaches always ensure that their coachees are at the centre of the coaching process, and they are merely the catalysts to change. While all the traits require coaches to be active and participative, this particular trait highlights the need for coaches to also be able to take a step back and watch their coachees achieve their goals, while pitching in when needed.
Coaching is an important skill today, with individuals increasingly seeking coaches, in various capacities, to help guide them to be the best versions of themselves. It is important to remember not to get discouraged by the term “trait”. While a trait is an innate characteristic of an individual, usually a result of their genetic predisposition, the wonder of the above-mentioned traits is that with conscious practice and care, any individual can embody these traits.