Some people bring out the best in us
You might be thinking I’m talking about the coach here, because that’s the coach’s job. But it takes two to tango, and coaching is a dance for two (or more).
I was coaching Steve today, and our interaction made me reflect that Steve is a rockstar coaching client. Steve (his real name, but not his real photo) is by no means the only brilliant coaching client I’ve ever had, but he reminds me of what I want to be like when I’m being coached.
What are the qualities that make me want to be more like Steve?
Openness to feedback
It can be tough to get feedback. In his job as an engineer, Steve expressed that could easily be lured into the mindset of ‘this has always worked for me in the past.’ I’ll have to ask him what drives him to be so open, but I know two things from being coached, and being a coach that make me aware of why being open to feedback helps.
As a singer and dancer, feedback is part of the gig, and it can be tough. I know that when I’ve defended or explained why I was doing something the way I was, I lost the opportunity to learn more. When I started out with being coached, I felt that all feedback was personal. And some of the feedback was personal- and that tended to be the place I learned the most! The longer I was coached, the more I realised I could get out of my coaches if I let myself be guided. I still find it challenging, and nerve wracking, and frustrating to be coached. I also know that the discomfort I feel is part of the evidence that I’m being stretched, and these ‘growing pains’ will result in some new learning.
As a coach:
I learned through post-graduate studies in education, that many people given feedback try to: justify, argue, defend, explain (JADE, educators love an acronym, here’s a related article). And it helped me understand my own behaviour as a student. It also made sense that when my students showed openness, and enthusiasm, that it was so much easier to give them more of the learning I had to offer. Their passion and commitment made me stretch to find other interesting things to engage them even more.
Willingness to fail
Steve sees mistakes as learning experiences. He’s not afraid to lose face by doing something wrong. That means we get to put all of our energy into the next step of creating something even greater than our first draft.
Enthusiasm for the process
Enthusiasm is infectious, and positive emotions allow us to be more open to a creative process. With this positive approach, it’s easy to go into what researcher, Barbera Friederickson, calls ‘broaden and build’. Where we are open to new possibilities- our world is larger (including our visual as well as perceptual field). This broaden and build theory shows that in this state, we are more resilient, and better at academic performance.
This also helps us see larger connections, which is evident in coaching Steve when he comments on how something he just learned builds on, and connects with all the other things we have worked on together.
I love coaching someone like Steve, because it inspires me to greater creativity as a coach. Don’t get me wrong, some of my proudest coaching moments have come when someone who appeared very resistant to the entire process told me later that it had changed their life.
But Steve teaches me how I want to be when I’m being coached.