What It Takes to be a Great Coach: Lessons from My One-Year-Old Son
I have come to understand that in order for me to best serve as a coach, I need to be open to and even seek out every learning opportunity. I never imagined, however, that my greatest teacher would come in the form of my young son. Although the youngest (and smallest) teacher I have ever had, the lessons he has shared in his first 12 months have impacted every aspect of my life; four of which have had a powerful impact on my coaching practice.
The Power of Reframing
For as long as I can remember, I have had a negative emotional reaction to those windy fall days that mark the start of winter. That automatic response stopped when I saw my son giggle at the leaves that danced in the wind on their way to the ground. As he watched in awe, the snow began to fall, and I found myself looking at the world through his eyes—with no preconceived notion or judgment. Just wonder. The artificial boundaries I created fell away, opening up a new world. The experience deepened my appreciation for the power and speed of this shift. I hope to create these “shift” moments for my clients to enable them to widen their focus and explore all the possibilities open to them.
Reaching Too Far Outside Your Comfort Zone is Not Productive
Watching my son learn fascinates me. Since learning happens at such a high rate with children, I watch my son a lot. One afternoon, he reached for his ball. He then stretched, reassessed and reached from a different angle. The ball, however, was just out of his reach. He began to cry and then moved on to the next thing that captured his attention. I realized our reaction to learning may not change a considerable amount as we age. An amazing amount of growth happens when we reach outside our comfort zone. However, when pushed too far outside our comfort zone, our focus shifts from learning to discomfort, leading us to act out, shut down or move quickly to another topic. I’m now more attuned to when my clients are moving from a space of growth to one of heightened discomfort, which allows me to pause and check in with my clients’ needs in real time.
A Milestone is a Milestone
Milestones for babies seem to happen daily (and even hourly). These include the first time my son smiled, rolled over, crawled and spoke his first word. Each milestone brought a celebration of some sort—a smile, a clap, a high five, loud cheers. Each celebration seemed to encourage him, fostering new learning and more milestones. I began to wonder: At what age do we stop celebrating the small steps and only focus on the big milestones—a new job, a new project? When did we forget that a milestone denotes development, whatever its size? What if we celebrated the small milestones too? How would that encouragement impact our growth? Frankly, who couldn’t use more moments of encouragement and celebration? I share these questions with my clients and remind them that a step forward, whatever its size, is still forward with my clients.
Two Things, While Opposites, can be True at the Same Time
There were countless moments in my son’s first year that I found myself in the land of polarity thinking, vacillating from one thought to its opposite in mere seconds. The days are long, and time goes quickly. Treasuring his time as a baby and wishing he were old enough to tell me why he was crying. Wishing for him to stay small, at the same time looking forward to him being old enough to provide feedback. It’s become clear that more than one idea can be true at the same time. Many leaders I work with faced similar polarities, such as identifying as a strong leader while feeling weak and feeling competent and insecure at the same time. I pointed this out during a conversation, and I saw my client exhale. Giving him permission to feel comfortable in the polarity allowed him the space to focus on a potential solution.
I know lessons will continue and hope that I have the courage to approach each of them as a curious student and share these lessons with those I coach.