What Makes A Great Coach?

Written by on June 12, 2014

Often times, the best players aren’t the best coaches.  Think about the golfer that has a natural swing or the baseball/softball player that gets a great jump on the ball. Or maybe even the tennis player that has a 130 mile an hour serve. How do they become great at their sport?   How did they achieve greatness?  Is it nature or nurture? In reality, it’s both.  Great players have some ability and talent but then they worked their tails off to hone their skills.

How about you?  How did you get promoted? Were you a top producer at your company? Was your promotion based on performance? Were you promoted because of your ability to cultivate and nurture the ability of those around you?

Let’s take a closer look at the high producer and what happens when you put them in a leadership role.  The hardest part of coaching for a great player is relating to the “inability” of their people.  In other words, a great player hasn’t had to truly think about the basic mechanics of their sport once they have become proficient.

Do you remember the Four Stages of Learning from your psych classes?  It’s a great blueprint for learning new subjects.

Any attempt to learn something new goes through these stages: 

Stage 1– Unconscious Incompetence.  You don’t know what you don’t know.  It’s actually a great state to be in.  Oblivion.  No awareness.

Stage 2– Conscious Incompetence.  This is the worst stage of all.   You now know, that you don’t know. You are fully aware that you are not good at something.  Ouch.

Stage 3– Conscious Competence.  You know it, and you can do it, but you really have to think about it. It’s a 2 step process.

Stage 4– Unconscious Competence.  You know it and you can do it without even thinking.  It’s second nature. You are on auto-pilot at this point.

Great players walk around in Stage 4 of their chosen sport.  Now, take that same player and have them coach people that are in Stages 1, 2, or 3 and there will often be a disconnect.  It’s difficult to truly remember the details of stage 2 once you have passed it.  The great coach not only remembers it, but is able to relate to the experience of the people that are in the lower stages.  They have the ability to teach them from “where they are” in the process of learning, instead of expecting them to be in stage 4.  They have “relatability” along with the “ability” to provide step-by-step instructions to get the stage 4.

So, what does this mean for leadership?  The leader that can stay connected to the mind and experience of the employee/learner will be a successful coach and leader.  The person that just keeps expecting people to “be better” or “do better” will burn through people and will not successfully be able to cultivate the potential of those they serve.   You must be able to create a process by which your people can succeed.  This is one of the fundamental downfalls of very talented people that are promoted.  The inability to communicate and coach people through each of the 4 stages.  If you are unconsciously competent and not able to connect to the conscious incompetence of your people, you will not be an effective leader.

By the way, we are not just talking about athletes and executives.  We are talking about teachers of all kinds.  Next week, we will walk through the 4 things your people need from you to navigate the 4 stages of learning.

  1. Rosemary   On   June 12, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    So true… One thing you can not teach is a burning desire to succeed. This is key as well!!

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