Five years ago, I wrote a blog entry called “The Batting Coach” that it’s now time to revisit. So, first a republication of the original post, followed by new material on the incredible power of coaching.
The Batting Coach (first published in 2005)
As a Little Leaguer, I was not much of a ball-player. A fact that bothered me, but also bothered my dad. My father was an uber-athlete, a champion in his youth, and a coach, referee and umpire in his middle-age. Sport was everything to him. And four out of his five sons followed suit.
The fifth son, yours truly, was the exception. More of an egghead than the others, I was best at academic performance, and a shambles on the ball field. I had no skills and little discernible aptitude.
My dad was encouraging but he tended to invest his energies in the other better players. One evening at baseball practice, an assistant coach named Ed approached me. I was pretty amazed that he was even speaking to me since I was a third-string splinter-collector.
Ed said, “Let’s see your swing, Terry.”
I got up, grabbed a bat, and showed him my style. Appraising me carefully, Ed began to coach me, saying “Hmmm. Let’s try this. I want to change a few things, OK? First, I’d like you to get the bat off your shoulder. Yeah that’s it. Raise it up. Now spread your feet further apart. More. OK good. Bend your knees more. Yeah good.”
I went along with his specific suggestions, modifying my batting stance and swing. Why not, I said to myself. It couldn’t hurt.
After a few minutes of pantomime practice, Ed said, “OK. Let’s hit.” He indicated that I should step up to the plate.
At this point, I felt a mix of feelings. I was not much a hitter, but I wondered if Ed’s approach would work.
He said, “OK Terry, try what we just practiced.” Then he gestured to the pitcher to throw.
I reshaped myself into the stance Ed had suggested: bat in the air, legs apart, knees bent.
Ed called to me: “Terry, get closer to the plate.” I did as he said.
The pitcher wound up and threw the ball. I put my eye on the ball and swung the bat.
To my utter surprise, I connected, solidly, and heard the thwock that I always wanted to hear, and saw the ball floating in the air over the shortstop.
“Way to go, Terry!” Ed cried from the sideline.
I was euphoric. I was a changed person. I can hit! I know how to hit!
In the next game, the coaches took a chance on me and put me in to hit. I did not disappoint. I whacked the ball, got all the way to third base, and drove in two runners.
As the years have rolled by, I have often reflected upon this incident. I marvel at the effect this coaching has had on my life. I became a teacher; then an industrial trainer; and now a coach myself, working with supervisors, managers and executives on ways that they can be more effective.
A good coach can have a direct and meaningful impact on performance, output, morale, and engagement.
Revisiting The Incredible Power of Coaching
The late great management educator George Odiorne once said that “Coaching is not an addition to a leader’s job. Rather it is an integral part of it.” In other words, coaching is at the very heart of leadership.
Even tough CEO Jack Welch understood this when he said: “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”
Welch and other leaders have understood this vital truth, that your organization is only as good as its people. And that if you build your people, they will build your business.
So what does it take to be a coaching leader? If we use assistant coach Ed from my story above as a model, five steps materialize clearly:
C = Caring Intent – The motive to coach is the desire to help the other to improve, to become what they are capable of being. In other words, coaching comes from love.
O = Observing Performance – Coach Ed took a good look at me before intervening. Careful direct observation provides the coach with data for the next step.
A = Assessing Leverage Points – With solid observational data, the coach can now identify and pinpoint the specific changes that have the highest value, i.e. the leverage points. In my baseball story, the changes in my swing that would put me in a much better position to connect with the ball.
C = Communicating Feedback – Now the coach intervenes, approaching the other with the offer of input, intended to enhance performance.
H = Helping the Other to Change – The effectiveness of coaching ultimately depends upon the player’s desire to improve. If that desire is there, the coach knows that change is seldom instantaneous. There is likely to be a learning curve. And the coach is ready to help the other through the process.
Coaching Leaders not only improve your batting average. They also can change your self-image. They can help you see that there was more to You than you thought possible.
Legendary Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian once said: “A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.”
For more ideas on coaching and unleashing the potential of others, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your managers.