Becoming a Better Coach – Making It About Them

Written By Randy Hall  |  Coaching, Leadership 


This article is part one of a five part series on becoming a better coach. Each article explores a different element of what it takes to help others accomplish more than they thought they could and become the kind of coach that can consistently build high performing teams and an unstoppable organization.

The word “coach” originated from the name of a Hungarian village where early vehicles of transport were built. The village was called Kocs (pronounced kotch) and eventually these horse drawn wagons become known as coaches, as in stagecoach, and later, motor coach. The word was built around the concept of getting a person from one place to another.

Even though we have adapted the word to represent helping others make a journey in their abilities instead of a physical relocation, much of what a good coach does is still connected to that original definition. One of the keys of great coaching is never losing sight of the fact that you are there to help them go where they want to and need to if they are to achieve their own goals. The operative words here are “their own goals”.

Too often coaching has become something we do to someone to get the results we want. When we operate that way, we aren’t coaching, we are only telling or manipulating. If we look, we can usually find a significant amount of overlap between the goals others have for themselves and the things that the organization needs them to excel in. Working in this area helps everyone win, but make no mistake if we are trying to reach our own goals, or even the organization’s goals, but not the individual’s goals, we are not coaching that person.

I often ask leaders that I work with to tell me what the goals are of the individuals on their team. It’s rare that they can accurately answer the question. It stands to reason that if you don’t know what someone’s goals are, then you can’t coach them effectively. What we usually do if we haven’t taken the time to learn their goals is just assume we know, or worse, substitute our own.

When you approach the coaching conversations with a desire to help others achieve more of what they want, you build a relationship that gives you permission to coach others. You develop the one thing that any world-class coach needs to be successful in a coaching relationship – trust.

I’m amazed at the lengths people will go to develop themselves under a coach they trust. Once others know that you are there to help them accomplish more of what they want, they willingly enter the coaching process with the intent to work harder, listen and learn.

Steve Jamison, who has co-authored five books with legendary coach John Wooden, arguably the best coach ever, demonstrated that point in an interview he did about working with Wooden

“One of Coach’s first players, from his first high school team in 1932, contacted him while we working on a book. He hadn’t much longer to live, and wanted to talk to Coach. After they had spoken, I asked the player quickly, “How’d it go?” He replied, “Coach Wooden really cared about us boys on the team, and made us practice extra because of it.”

Wooden used this approach to win a record 10 national titles as the coach of UCLA’s basketball team. Any time I have looked closely at leaders who are achieving consistent, outstanding results and building high performing teams, I find they are using this approach as well.

Others will go the extra mile for us, and for themselves, when they know we are genuinely interested in helping them achieve more. Investing in the success of others is a key ingredient to building an unstoppable team, business or organization. Without it, we can never become a coach that can take people where they want to go. And, after all, that’s what the word actually means.

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