When it comes to the workplace, coaching with sports analogies doesn't suffice.Why is it that managers (particularly the guys) connect coaching with sports analogies?

Whether it’s the kindly, grandfatherly type (John Wooden is the patron saint here), or the “fire and brimstone” inspirational kind (any coach who gives speeches stolen from the movies), we think of sports coaching as the model. He (usually a “he” in these examples, although occasionally there’s a Pat Summit involved) tells people what they want and tries to motivate them to achieve greatness.

Not so fast…

While all sports coaches are coaches…. Not all coaches coach sports.

The role of a successful coach is to do more than simply point people in a certain direction and get them to go there. Coaching in the workplace actually has a number of important components that get lost when we think of these famous (admittedly mostly male-focused) examples.

Here are some traits of an effective coach:

  • He/she takes the time to understand where the other person is now. What does the coachee understand the situation to be? What are their current skills and knowledge?
  • He/she ACTIVELY LISTENS at least as much as they speak. (You don’t see that on Friday Night Lights, do you?)
  • He/she supports and recognizes the positives. as well as the areas that need to be encouraged.
  • He/she understands that “equal” treatment is not the same as “the same.” People need to be coached based on their individual skills, habits and needs.
  • He/she realizes that motivation comes from within the individual. All the fiery speeches and homey platitudes don’t mean much if the person being coached doesn’t want to change their behavior.

When it comes to remote teams, coaching feels more difficult because we aren’t face-to-face with our people. It’s easier to slip into “motivation mode.”

Dashing off emails full of trite quotes is easier than getting on a webcam to have real conversations. Phone calls are kept short “to make the best use of our time”, and so we don’t take the time to ask as many questions or learn as much as we should.

If we stop and think about the role of coaching, there are ways to overcome distance. No, it doesn’t feel as comfortable or familiar as a locker room, but it can be done if we’re mindful of our role, and the constraints under which we’re working.

When was the last time you looked at your coaching? What are you going to do about it?

Let me know your thoughts on coaching in the comment section below! I’d love your feedback!

P.S. If you’re interested in learning effective techniques and tools that allow you to coach successfully from a distance, we have a great training course that can be accessed on demand or delivered on site. Just click HERE for more details!


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.

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