Connect, Challenge and Commit
Rafa Nadal is one of the best tennis players in the world and together with Tony Nadal (his uncle) as his coach they had the winning formula. However, for a while Rafa lost his mojo. He then recruited Carlos Moya as an additional coach and wow what a turn around. He is now playing even better tennis. His core skills haven’t changed, but he needed someone else to better leverage his capability and belief.
Whilst you probably don’t have access to someone like Carlos Moya you can quickly switch up the way you work with your team and I’m pretty damn sure that a lot of people reading this need to. I’ve spent the last 30 years being coached by the good, bad and the ugly and for 10 years have been coaching business leaders professionally and I’ve learnt that these three things are fundamental.
The most important foundation of coaching is building a relationship good enough to earn the right to get someone to open up to you. Without this coaching is simply a waste of time. I spend most of my time in early sessions really getting to know someone by taking a genuine interest in them, often outside of work. I want to know what makes them tick. A CEO I recently coached told me how lonely the role is and how just having someone take an unbiased interest was all that was needed to progress.
Coaching without challenge is a vacuous experience that’s as frustrating for the coachee as it is for the coach. Maybe it’s because I’m a former business leader but when I first started to coach I noticed that I was in a hurry to come up with solutions. I wanted to add value and show clever I was. Sound familiar? The job of coach is to have the courage to ask the question that no one else will ask and then shut up while the person processes. However, just like good comedy, challenge questions are all about timing and to this day I still find myself biting my lip until the moment is just right.
Some people confuse coaching with some sort of love in where we spend so much time building a relationship, asking questions and getting people to come up with the answers that we don’t hold people accountable for their actions. The goal of coaching must be to sustainably and independently improve performance. This can only be achieved by making people genuinely accountable for their commitments.