At its core, coaching is a form of individual and team development in which the coach helps to bring out the potential of the learner. The coach does this in a manner which supports, encourages, and most importantly, places responsibility for development with the learner (Dembkowski, 2006). There are four core qualities that make up every effective coach, no matter the style by which they lead.
1. Building Rapport and Relationships
Rapport is the presence of a close and trusting relationship in which the learner and the coach understand each other’s ideas and communicate well. Rapport building involves getting to know one another, understanding where each other come from and what their background is, and most importantly spending time with one another.
2. Asking Questions and Listening
Where are you now, and where do you want to go? Helping learners gain insight through self-evaluation is a key part to coaching. Good coaches listen carefully, are open to learners’ perspectives, and allow learners to vent thoughts and emotions without judgement.
3. Providing Effective Feedback
Coaches that provide effective feedback focus on facts and observed actions, rather than personal reflections of what they think about the learner or team (Dembkowski, 2006). Feedback should be honest, but not judgmental. Good coaches recognize that an important part of their role is to challenge the learner, and giving feedback is a good way to deliver this.
4. Setting Goals and Delivering Results
Effective coaching is about achieving goals. The coach helps the learner set meaningful targets and identify specific behaviors for meeting them. The coach helps to clarify milestones or measures of success and holds the learner accountable for them (Forbes, 2010). Goals are much more likely to be accomplished if they are specific, and clearly defined (Dembkowski, 2006).
A Tale of Two Coaches
Bobby Knight, nicknamed “The General”, was the head men’s basketball coach for the Indiana Hoosiers from 1971-2000, and for Texas Tech from 2001-2008. While at Indiana, Knight let his teams to three NCAA championships and 11 Big Ten Conference championships. He also coached the 1984 USA men’s Olympic team to a gold medal, and has the third most wins in NCAA coaching history. Though we was highly successful, innovative coach, Knight is probably best known for his short temper, angry outbursts, and for throwing a chair across the floor during one of his more famous tirades.
Phil Jackson, nicknamed the “The Zen Master”, was the head basketball coach for the Chicago Bulls from 1987-1998, and for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999-2004 (and again from 2005-2011). Phil Jackson coached his teams to eleven (11!) NBA championships, an NBA record. Jackson studied human psychology, native American philosophy, and Zen meditation to help him inform coaching strategies. He taught players mindfulness, selflessness, and would lead breathing exercises while burning sage in the locker room.
Technology and Coaching
The importance of coaching is evident, regardless of the style of coaching. However, finding a coach is not exactly an easy task. Until recently, the idea of going to the store and buying a coach for an activity that you are trying to improve on or become an expert in, would have seemed ridiculous. Technology has changed this. There is an endless number of apps on Google Play and Apple’s App Store that boast unique automated coaching experiences. Some of these apps can provide this unique coaching experience through artificial intelligence (AI), which is allowing for a more individualized coaching experience without human intervention. But, how can technology accomplish the four core qualities discussed earlier? Is it possible for AI to achieve features such as rapport building, and asking questions and listening? Even more complex, how does it account for different styles of coaching, that get results in different situations? How does it account for the General vs. Zen Master problem. A big part of this challenge is analyzing behavior based on understanding the learner and the performance environment. In my next installment, I will talk about how technology, and specifically AI, is beginning to overcome this challenge. What are your thoughts?
Dembkowski, S. (2006). The seven steps of effective coaching. Thorogood Publishing.
Frankovelgia, C. (2013, June 19). The key to effective coaching. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/2010/04/28/coaching-talent-development-leadership-managing-ccl.html
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