What constitutes corporate, business, or executive coaching is
fuzzily defined. Certainly, there is a move afoot to standardize
and regulate this industry. It will be interesting to see how this
changes the complexion of what people call corporatecoaching. Meanwhile, it may be helpful to get back to the
basics of what most us remember coaching to be all about. My
definition, from what I remember from my days growing up in
athletics, is simply: instructingor training a
performer (or wingman), or a team of performers, to perform well
Myriad assessments, personality inventories, and recipes for
effective coaching exist in the marketplace. Those notwithstanding,
here is a practical guide for how an on-wing (or coach)
may achieve the above definition.
Trust and Understanding
In athletics, the coach needs to know what to expect from an
athlete and the athlete must trust the coach to guide him or her in
the best manner. There is no substitute for the coach getting to
know the wingman and for the wingman to trust and have confidence
in the coach. Sharing non-business, non-coaching experiences (that
may not directly apply to the coach's needs or plans) may help both
parties know, understand, and trust each other.
Objectives should be a mixture of what the team, the organization,
and the wingman needs while also considering what can be
realistically expected in the time given. At the beginning of any
sports season, a good coach may poll and work with the athletes to
find healthy and realistic objectives. Once identified, it is
important to make all expectations clear. A close parallel process
should be implemented for the wingman, or corporate athlete. The
following questions can help the wingman crystallize the
- When the dust settles from this on-wing relationship, where do
I want to be?
- In what areas will I have progressed?
- How will I be able to tell?
Before any plan can be put into place for taking the corporate
athlete to the next level, you must establish the current project
status. A sports coach can understand the starting point by seeing
an athlete in tryouts. In business coaching, the leader usually
does not have the luxury of a week of daily exposure to the
wingman. A tailored assessment may do the trick. Using the
previously determined objectives to provide the foundation for
questions, the leader can easily design and administer an
assessment tool to build the benchmark for the wingman. This
interview or evaluation should be employed in a 360-degree
assessment fashion. This will establish the starting point for
coaching. Generally no more than five interviews are required to
build a good portrait of the wingman (self, supervisor, two or
three colleagues, and one direct report or customer).
Design the Program
The development of an athlete or a team is the by-product of a
personal vision and the coach's ability to draw a blueprint for
achieving goals. Successful teams and athletes generally partner
with the coach to design a training plan that achieves their
objectives. A corporate wingman should work with the on-wing to
design and develop a plan to achieve the agreed-upon objectives.
The more involved the wingman is, the more personal and important
achieving victory will be to him or her.
Perhaps the most profound and difficult job for the coach is
keeping the athlete motivated and focused. The best coaches use a
variety of tactics. People react differently, so alterations in
style and delivery ensure player motivation while holding that
player accountable for effort, progress, and performance. While a
pat on the back may encourage one player, clear direction or even
discipline might motivate another. That is why the coach must know
and understand his or her players. An effective leader should know
his or her wingman as well. He or she should understand what makes
the wingman tick and what makes him or her respond; he or she
should be able to help the wingman pinpoint when he or she
was successful and what behaviors helped him or her
achieve that success.
Whenever I doubt what the business of coaching is all about, I
remember my days as a high school and college athlete. I look back
and recall what impact my coaches had on me. I look one layer
deeper to see how they achieved their goals. Without fail, I come
up with the steps listed above: build trust, identify objectives,
benchmark, design the program, and motivate the wingman throughout.