Many people believe that coaching and management are two sides of the same skill, or that one is acquired in conjunction with the other, but that’s not always the case. Some managerial skills run counter to the behaviors and attributes that make for an effective coach.
According to Harvard Business Review, a naturally-inclined coach will display the following qualities:
That’s not to say that a good coach can’t be a little of both—collaborative and directive, aiding and giving, an equal and an expert. Sir John Whitemore, the co-founder of Performance Consultants International, says that the most effective leaders have usually mastered both. Therefore, they can “artfully” employ some combination of the two. The trouble is, leaders tend to rank coaching as their least-favorite style of leadership, citing a lack of time for the slow progression of helping others grow.
But even those managers who undervalue coaching think that, if necessary, they would excel at the task. In one study, nearly 4,000 executives assessed their coaching abilities. Later, the results were compared with assessments from their coworkers. 24% of leaders had seriously overestimated their coaching skills, rating themselves as “above average” when the consensus from their colleagues placed them in the bottom third. While there are certainly many implications, you have to consider the possibility that this overestimation of one’s abilities might simply stem from a lack of credible coaching experience.
Anyone who has worked with Cosmitto has likely overheard our Creative Director, Nikki Staley, describe or reminisce about her experience as the coach of several sports teams. In her early 20s, she led both middle school and high school-aged kids in volleyball and basketball, and she considers it one of the most rewarding opportunities of her life.
Early on in her coaching career, she learned that she couldn’t speak to everyone on the team in the same way. Essentially, she needed to create a language to communicate with specific individuals, and then build out an entirely separate language in which to address the entire team. This was a lesson on communication more than anything else—the core of what she expressed may not have wavered, but the delivery had to.
At Cosmitto, team members recognize a similar occurrence—that they have their interpersonal language or communication style with Nikki based on personality, skills, background, and personal preferences. Language and connection are nuanced, and a good coach takes advantage of their many interlocking facets.
Coaching also comes down to a careful combination of leading from within and leading from without, so to speak. Nikki says, “When I hear ‘management,’ I hear top-down directing, but when I hear ‘coaching,’ I hear development and facilitation. My style of leadership combines the two, but is largely inspired by my time as a coach.”
She adds that multiple qualities make for a good coach:
1) Quick decision-making
2) Communicating with your team as a whole and on an individual basis
3) Finding synergy between certain players
4) Learning how to spot weaknesses and spotlight strengths
5) Creating a whole that is stronger than the sum of its parts.
Traditionally, most people think of sports when they hear the word coaching, but someone can be a coach in many capacities — business, consulting, education, mentorship, and so on. For Nikki, a love of sports taught her to “never make excuses,” and in her words: “Coaching sports gave [her] the grace to win or lose well.” Ultimately, this combination of humility and strength make her a more formidable leader.
Following Nikki’s lead, the team at Cosmitto values and nurtures its ability to coach. When there is an opportunity to share skills, mentor interns or new employees, and onboard clients, we take a mindful approach that, as mentioned above, is based in collaboration and direction, aiding and giving, equal-footing and expertise.