Paying it Forward through Coaching

Ryan McGrath
Jul 22, 2020
min read
Paying it Forward through Coaching

It doesn’t take long in the business world to recognize that success isn’t a destination that’s reached alone –– or overnight.

As I’ve strived to achieve my own version of success, I’ve found that along the way, knowing yourself well becomes invaluable. Of course, having a high-level of self-awareness is a skill. And like so many of the skills that success demands of us, it’s one that takes time and often outside perspectives to develop in a meaningful way.

I’m continually looking to outside sources to gain a better understanding of myself, always hoping to discover a hidden weakness I can overcome or an unrefined strength that I can polish and add to my arsenal. On a number of occasions, I’ve taken Gallup’s Strengthsfinder 2.0 poll, which is meant to help you uncover, through a series of questions, “what makes you uniquely powerful.”

Every time I’ve taken the test it results in the Maximizer personality marker. The poll points out that excellence, not average, is my measure, going on to remind me of something that I believe to be true: “Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and in your opinion is not very rewarding. Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling.”

Reflecting on my relentless drive to maximize strengths, it’s clear to me that coaching is much more than something that lands on my to-do list –– it’s an every day, always-evolving passion. As I’ve earned the honor of coaching others, I’ve learned a lot about what I believe can set coaches, and more importantly, their coachees up for success. Here are the fundamental principles I follow:

  1. It’s not about you

Coaching isn’t about pushing your own agenda –– it’s about progressing your coachee’s potential. As you guide people, it’s imperative to step outside your own goals and vision to consider the wants and needs of those you are coaching. At the end of the day what matters most to them and how can you steer them closer to that?

“It is not what the coach knows; it is what his players have learned.” – Anonymous

2.     Confidentiality

Like all relationships, a coaching relationship is built on trust. Questions, concerns, and weaknesses need to be able to be discussed without worry.  If you do not create a safe environment as a coach, your potential for making progress becomes greatly limited.

“Confidentiality is a virtue of the loyal, as loyalty is the virtue of faithfulness.” – Edwin Louis Cole

3.     Listen

If you’re constantly talking at the people you’re intending to coach, it’s easy to leave the conversation with just a surface-level understanding of where they need improvement. The more you put yourself in the position to listen, the better your chance of discerning their thought process on a deeper level –– and pinpointing where it needs tweaking. So, instead of making statements, ask questions. Listen. And listen some more. Then, use your reply as a chance to coach and redirect where needed.

“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” – John Madden

4.     Go beyond the surface

Most people are willing to share the 90% in their life.  What they are reluctant to share is the 10%: their top 5% of greatest successes for fear it will sound too arrogant and their bottom 5% of failure because it’s too embarrassing. That 10% is where a coach should spend the majority of their time -– it’s there where you’ll often find the specific weaknesses holding someone back or the opportunities for success that with just a little bit of focus, could result in a huge return on investment.

“The interesting thing about coaching is that you have to trouble the comfortable, and comfort the troubled.” – Ric Charlesworth, Hockey

5.     Don’t give out the answers

It’s an age-old proverb packed with truth: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Coaches aren’t there to play the game for their players –– they’re there to observe and provide counsel from the sidelines. If you’re handing out answers, how will your coachees handle the game without you? It’s much more valuable to teach them how to find the solution on their own. To Jordan, it never mattered if Phil Jackson could dunk. It mattered that he helped him clear his own path to nothing but net.

“All coaching is, is taking a player where he can’t take himself.” – Bill McCartney, Football

6.     Humble yourself

A coach is very different from a boss. Your purpose isn’t to tell someone what to do –– it’s to relate what you’ve already done to what they’re doing now. Instead of giving out advice in the form of statements, share your personal experiences. Tell them what you did when you were in their shoes, and be gracious enough to let them know what you would have done differently if you had it to do over again. Translate your past mistakes and successes into future coaching success.

“A great man is always willing to be little.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A note for coaches: Remember the end goal, and why you’re taking the time to coach in the first place. There’s nothing more rewarding on this planet than helping someone else achieve their full potential. Coaching requires great preparation, skill-set building, time, effort, and more -– but the results can be more satisfying than achieving success for yourself. Just ask any mother or father that has celebrated one of their children’s early successes.

I would not be where I am today without the coaches that continue to help me along the way – I will be forever indebted to them.  My goal now is to pay it forward.

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