Coaching, like fly fishing is relatively easy to do, but difficult to do well. I’ve been a fly fisherman for years. When I began, it was simply a matter of buying a fly rod, reel and a few flies that were associated with fishing in the area where I wanted to go fishing. To really top it off and look like I knew what I was doing, you get the vest, sunglasses (polarized of course), waders, boots, hat, etc. Dressed the part and having asked where I might find fishing to be good, I would head out to the river, wade in and begin to cast like I had seen others do. After a few lost flies in the trees, tangled lines, and dunks in the river, I began to kind of get the hang of it – well at least I could fairly consistently launch the fly without any of the previous pitfalls occurring, but catching something was still pretty elusive.
A progression of the sport required reading about habitat, feeding habits, etc., hiring a guide to improve assessment of conditions, selection and delivery of flies along with practice and feedback. As I progressed, occasionally I would land a brookie or small cutthroat, but still get skunked as often as not. It wasn’t until years later, hours and days of intentional practice and feedback, that I was able to gain the “touch”, patience and skill necessary to identify high potential areas, place the fly consistently, eliminate drag and mend the line in a manner that would make the fly believable and desirable to the trout. Then to ultimately sense and know when to set the hook resulting in consistent catches and a level of satisfaction and excitement that all fisherman seek.
Coaching, I find, has been a similar journey. I thought I had the chops to coach well – after all, I had built and run a successful business, coached employees to higher performance and knew the “GROW” model of coaching. After getting tangled in trees a for a while I embarked on coach training at UTD which was similar to my fly-fishing guide training journey. I gained great knowledge, practice and feedback that allowed me to stay out of the trees and tangles by improving my assessment and delivery. After credentialing, with suit, bio, website, etc., I was dressed the part and looked like I know what I was doing – being an old guy helped (assumed wisdom 😊) As I continued to work with clients, their results and satisfaction increased, yet it all felt very transactional i.e. contract, goal, mechanics, practice, assess, finalize, close. Additionally, my engagement with them all too often sought that ah haa moment resulting in questions that were overly complicated. In a nutshell, I was doing most of the “right” things, but hadn’t developed the “touch” or insight to elevate my results and theirs.
It has taken years of training, practice, feedback and reflection to improve my coaching effectiveness. What I once viewed as an objective to complete i.e. get training, credentialed, clients and build a practice has evolved into an understanding that, like fly fishing and faith, once you think you’ve got it pretty well mastered or understood, you find that there is so much more depth and mystery that one can only pursue mastery – achieving it will always be just beyond our reach.
For those wishing to deepen their coaching effectiveness there are innumerable training opportunities, each with its own focus and value proposition. My belief is that coaching effectiveness can be significantly heightened with improved presence and powerful questioning. This by no means minimizes all of the other competencies that contribute to effective coaching, but seem to underpin the “touch” and client experience to a greater degree. Development of these competencies is encouraged through the practice of mindfulness and an understanding and application of Socratic questioning skills. The final and perhaps most important contributor is you - your patience, intentional practice and feedback to gain incremental depth and understanding on your journey to coaching mastery.
Stay the course, the fish are biting!