You’re a coach? That’s like a football coach, right?

By Karen Amos

‘You’re a coach?  What, like a football coach?’  This is a regular response when people find out what I do for a living – and to be honest, it’s not a million miles off the mark.

So here’s my latest attempt to de-mystify coaching…

Like a football coach? – Erm, yes, in that a football coach is there to maximise the performance of the players to build a successful team and win matches.  A good coach will help players maximise their strengths and recognise and overcome their weak areas.

So not like a football coach? – Well no – in that I don’t shout at people from the edge of a field in the cold and rain!  I also rarely wear a tracksuit for my work – Oh, and my knowledge of football is limited to knowing who Kevin Keegan is and that Gary Lineker likes crisps!

Actually the main distinction is that good coaching is all about supporting people to work it out for themselves.  This moves us from TELL – to – ASK.

Why not just give people the answer if they don’t know what to do?

Imagine you’re stuck – there’s a problem at work, maybe with a member of your team, or your work-life balance is going down the drain.  You meet up with your friend after work and they ask how you are.  ‘Terrible,’ you say, ‘The team aren’t meeting their goals and my boss is breathing down my neck and I’m shattered, but nowhere near getting to the bottom of my to-do list.’

‘Ah, you know what you need to do,’ says your friend in their best Harry Enfield impersonation, ‘You need to leave.  Give them your notice tomorrow and tell them you’re not putting up with it any more.’

I’m guessing most of us have been on the receiving end of that kind of conversation at some time.  Now think about what you feel like receiving this kind of ‘advice’.  Listened to and understood?  I doubt it.  Likely to follow the advice?  Usually not – I tend to find myself thinking, ‘what do you know about it?’ or variations on that theme and pull down my mental shutters ready to revel in a bit more self-imposed misery.

So let’s look at the coaching alternative.  We don’t tell, we ask.  Coaches dig down to what’s really going on – finding the root cause of the issue.  Let’s face it, without getting that right, everything else is a sticking plaster solution.  We then find out what the person actually does want.  When we’re experiencing a painful situation, we’re all really clear on what we don’t want, but often less clear on what we do want.  With a clear goal, the person is then able to set out clear actions to achieve that goal.

So in essence, a coach brings a safe space, where people can be heard, in confidence and without judgement, and be supported to find their own way out of any difficulties and build up their own skills and personal resources.

Coaches work with individuals and teams to identify the blocks that are preventing them from moving forward and set out new, positive goals and a vision for the future. They then give support to set out actions to make this a reality.

I’ll post some more soon on techniques I use as a coach and problems coaching can help resolve.  In the meantime, next time you’re tempted to just tell someone what to do – why not pause for a moment, listen to them and ask them what they’d like to do instead?

Karen Amos is an Executive Coach and owner of BrightBird Coaching and Training.

If you’d like to find out more about how coaching can help you and your team, get in touch for a no-obligation chat.  (Tel: 07714 855757/ Email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk)