You Need to be OK to Coach
Updated: Aug 22, 2019
When Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate sang ‘It Started with a Kiss’ back in 1982, he wasn’t being entirely truthful. Let me explain.
Whilst the kiss might have been the first his girlfriend knew about it, the whole ‘lurve thang’ actually started before that: with a thought and a feeling.
Our behaviour is the result of what we think and how we feel, which means that changing our behaviour is best achieved by modifying our thoughts and feelings.
This is highly relevant in any situation when we need to coach. In particular, it matters deeply what we think about ourselves and what we think about the client.
There’s a simple model to help explain this. I tend to refer to it as the OK Corral, and it describes four positions we can adopt that have a profound affect on the way we manage our interactions with others.
First but not Worst position
If we regard ourselves very highly and believe we are superior to the person we are coaching, we are likely to exhibit condescending and patronising behaviours. This is the position that states, I’m OK, but you’re not! It’s a Win/Lose mindset and is, therefore, no use for coaching!
Second Position Playing second Fiddle!
Alternatively, we might have a fairly low opinion of our self whilst being in awe of the person we are aiming to coach. In essence, we are saying, You’re OK but I’m not; I’m not worthy, particularly in your presence. When adopting this position it’s unlikely that the coaching conversation will be stretching. You’re more likely to let the coaching client off the hook, assuming that you have no right to push or question them. After all, in your eyes, they’re brilliant and you are beneath them so what right do you have in this lowly position to give them a nudge?
Third Position – on the Floor
Or you might adopt the position of believing that neither of you are OK. You personally feel ill-equipped and useless and you believe that the person you are trying to coach is a hopeless case. Your behaviour whilst locked in this thought process is likely to emphasise futility and possibly despair. You might end up commiserating with each other, making you both feel even more miserable than when you started! In this position, there’s no point in coaching because there’s no hope that anything will improve.
Fourth Position – Standing Tall
There’s really only one position that serves you well in a coaching situation. But this position is not restricted it coaching. It positively impacts every aspect of our life and the interactions we have with others.
This position adopts the profound belief that both you and I are fundamentally OK. We both have a right to be here, we are both resourceful, we are both motivated, we are both intelligent human beings, we both have equal value and we both have more potential.
Adult to adult conversations can only exist from a position of mutual regard, both of ourselves and each other. That’s why, this Belief is so important to coaching. When conversations on founded on such respect (for self and others), it’s possible to get into deep discussion. It’s also possible to push, probe and provoke without causing offence.
Your behaviour starts with what’s in your head and your heart. So before you enter your next coaching conversation, make sure you’re in the right position. OK?