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A Three Course Coaching Buffet

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in Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

Today I have three morsels for you as a coach. These come from different places and all of them are valuable. While you could consider this a coaching buffet, allowing you to pick what you like from the list, I’d rather you consider it a three course meal — where you sample and benefit from each of the items.

Bon appétit.

Coaching the newbie. If you are a leader and coach for very long you will have newbies. About a year ago, I added a new full time member to our team. She was excited to join the team, and we were excited for her to be part of the team. She had significant experience in the areas she would be working in, but she had still just started here. There are opportunities for us as coaches when we are coaching new people. We have a responsibility to help them get off on the right start, and like a first impression, you only get one chance. These situations remind me that I must do the coaching then — and it can’t wait. And I must do it without ignoring the rest of my team (or having them perceive that I am). Both of these things require my time and attention. When you have a new person, are you investing in them in the most effective ways right from the start?

The Adjacent Possible. I’d never heard of this phrase until I read it in the book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. (Here is my recommendation for the book.) Theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman says that technology expands into the “adjacent possible.” Think of it this way: before the wheel was invented, it would have been impossible to consider, let alone invent, the cart, the carriage, the wheel barrow, the roller skate, the automobile and much more. Once, however, the wheel was discovered, the pathways to all of these other things opened up.   

I believe this is a valuable way to think about developing others. Some things that we might see for others they can’t see because they can’t make the mental jump from where they are to the end goal. As a coach, part of our role is to help them move to a new place, a new level of performance, and develop and use a new skill, in part to open up the pathways to even more opportunities. How can you help those you coach see more “possibles” by helping them expand their current reality, skills and experiences?

The Segway Factor. On a trip to San Francisco, my wife Lori and our daughter Kelsey and I signed up for a Segway tour. Imagine this: People pay money for a tour on these machines and in less than an hour these same people are unleashed onto the streets of San Francisco! Do you think there are coaching and skill-building lessons here? Yes, at the end of the training you could opt out of the trip if you weren’t comfortable (or I suppose if the trainers didn’t think you were worthy), but for a variety of reasons no one wants that outcome. So young (over 12), old (no limit I assume), big, small, coordinated or not, confident or not, excited or not, they all show up (several times a day). And the trainers take these people, in an alley, and give them exposure, experience, and enough confidence to ride the streets safely.

Yes, the machines become somewhat intuitive, but not from the first moment. To coach this wide group of people who applied only with their checkbooks (as opposed to the people you work with who applied for the job and passed some criteria) to success, tells me that we can do it too. Do you have people who you aren’t sure are ever going to “get it?” Stop thinking that way and start thinking about how you can help them get it — because they can if they want to — and you believe in them.

There is your three course meal on coaching for the week. I hope you digest and apply these lessons in your work as a leader and coach.

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