Labor Day weekend has come and gone. The summer season is in the final weeks. Pretty soon, the temperature will drop and the holidays will be here. What did you do this summer?
This summer, I got back into golf. I used to play a lot and loved it. Life got in the way, and I put my clubs down a few years ago. I missed it, and this summer I picked my clubs back up.
My summer of golf taught me a lot about coaching.
It’s supposed to be fun. Yes, it’s exercise, but the best way to stay motivated has nothing to do with how you score or the fitness gains you made. How much fun did you have? Golf was about the most fun I had this summer. I can’t wait to get back out there! That same excitement should inspire your coaching practice. Yes, it’s supposed to help clients change. Also, yes, it’s supposed to be a productive use of time. Energy gets produced when the coaching process satisfies something deep inside of us. Coaching must be something to which you look forward. That’s a lasting source of motivation.
Mastery breeds mastery. My mentor coach taught me this. Achievers achieve. Gaining skill in one area teaches you something that you can apply in other areas of life. Golf teaches strategy and execution. Those translate to coaching. I also play the bass guitar, which informs me about tone and how to listen to the other musicians. Intonation and listening pay dividends in coaching. Mastery breeds mastery. Where are you pursuing higher level skills? What do you expect to gain in your coaching as a result?
Tempo matters. The golf swing hinges on timing and doing things in the right order with the proper emphasis. Swinging too fast makes timing more difficult. Swinging too slowly emphasizes the wrong areas. Best of all, tempo is a choice. Self-awareness and conscious attention help me get it right. In my coaching, good pace helps me discern the timing my client needs and to put the ideal emphasis on the opportunity. What’s your coaching tempo?
Your game has natural strengths and weaknesses. I hit the ball a long way. I don’t putt very well. Tailoring my game to those strengths changes my score. However, you can only shoot scores that are average at best if you keep losing shots near the green. The old saying goes “Drive for show, but putt for dough.” What are the keys to coaching your clients toward their dreams? How do your skills measure up to those outcomes? If you have a gap in those difference makers, work to develop your capacity! What are your coaching strengths? What about your weaknesses?
The right club makes all the difference, on each shot and overall. The key to golf is to get the ball closer to the hole on every swing. Each club is designed to hit the ball a certain distance while using the same motion. Having the right club in your hand fast tracks the ball’s path to the hole. Plus, golfers come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. So clubs have to match the player. A 4′ 11″ golfer won’t use the same clubs as one who’s 6′ 4″. Your tools have to fit you. In coaching, your language has to match the situation the client faces (using the client’s wording is always a good idea!). You can help the client get closer to the goal by making solid decisions.
Similarly, in a coaching conversation, don’t change the way you talk away from your natural speech patterns. An early mentor of mine used to love questions like “How can we increase the learning in this situation?” I would NEVER say that. My coaching style phrases this kind of question like this “What else can we learn here?” See the difference? Your equipment has to work both for you and for the situation.
The other people either add or subtract from the experience. Having a regular foursome makes golf more enjoyable. You’ve got to want to be out there with your playing partners. Great relationships get built when participants want to be there. Check in with yourself after coaching conversations. Do you want to be there? Remember it’s supposed to be fun! Who do you look forward to coaching? What does this say about the clients you’re pursuing?
Are you a golfer? What does it teach you about coaching? What other things do you do to pursue mastery outside of coaching? What are you learning? I’d love to hear about what you’re learning and how you get back in the swing for Fall!
Also published on Medium.