By Chad T. Ahern
Do you ever see a word and get thinking about different meanings?
On Monday, a fellow coach, Kelly Merbler, posted a wonderful small LinkedIn piece around the word #rally and the importance of coming together; to which I heartily agree.
For me the word inspired a new perspective on an old passion -- off-road rally racing -- or simply RALLY. It might seem like an odd choice for a professional coach but it is a near perfect metaphor for my work right now in the world today.
By Chad T. Ahern
It's natural to look for the quick fix; the "one-shot special" that will help you reach your goal in an instant. Thus, many people come to coaching thinking it's a one-and-done kind of experience.
If you've played a sport, performed in band, or acted in a play then you know that the coach, conductor, or director doesn't just show up once at the first practice and then leave you to your own devices.
How many people do you manage?
How many people do you lead?
How many people do you coach?
It’s always interesting to me when my athletic interests, a place commonly associated with coaching, intersect with my professional coaching.
Recently, as part of earning my US Soccer Grassroots Coaching Certification, I was reminded of how best to think about how the game of soccer.
It’s a game of four distinct but fluid phases – attacking, team transitioning to defense when you lose the ball, defending, and regaining the ball to begin the attack.
What I find intriguing is that our lives and our work often follow a similar, fluid pattern. Sometimes we have it all together and are actively “attacking” life or work projects. Other times, we are playing “defense” and trying to start again.
Just like on the soccer field, coaching can help; regardless of which phase you’re in.
Transitioning to Defense / Losing the Ball
We each encounter setbacks in life.
On a personal level, it could be getting fired from a job you love(d), a break-up. losing a leader you admired, or a family loss. It could also be a simple as running out of energy and making a conscious choice to move to something different. In our work teams, it could be losing an important account, or seeing team members leave or forced out of the company,
Any of these can throw us for a loop. These moment can lead to us to question our abilities to handle any number of situations. We’ve lost the ball and we need it back.
Strengths coaching in these situations can help you and/or your team identify and celebrate what talents you already have and how you can use them to slow the onslaught.
Once the setbacks start it can often feel like they just keep coming. In soccer, a quick counter attack by an opposing team might leave you feeling like your in a game of 1 vs 10. At work, all of a sudden you find your project list growing by the minute.
Playing defense in soccer is an intricate balance of individual patience and team fortitude. Sometimes you know you’re out-matched (1 vs. 2 or 1 vs. 3) and all you can do is delay the attack to give your teammates time to recover and help. Once you’ve achieved the delay, then it’s about the team’s collective effort to deny the other team further opportunity. It takes a deep, shared understanding of your fellow players’ talents and abilities to coordinate an effective defense.
Strengths coaching for teams that are on their heels can provide the opportunity re-evaluate how a team’s workload is distributed; matching team member’s personal talents with the work that needs to get done. It’s also a time to determine if certain partnerships could be more effective in addressing certain projects. By coming together like a condensing defensive corps you increase the chances to reverse course and take the ball back.
Transitioning to Offense / Gaining the Ball
You’ve staved off the attack and you’re back in control. In soccer, this is the moment most coaches encourage the fastest counter attack possible. For your workplace, this is an optimal time to accelerate progress. The strengths partnerships and work distribution you identified while playing defense can now paying big dividends.
Strengths coaching for teams experiencing this acceleration might seem unnecessary, but nothing could be further from reality. Just as soccer midfielders might receive the ball from full backs to advance it to the strikers; similar partnerships and handoffs need to happen on your team. A strengths coach can help you to further refine roles and identify new advantageous partnerships.
Now that you’re in control and determining the pace of play, what’s next?
Complacent teams often quickly find themselves without the ball again. The best soccer teams continue to explore new ways to move the ball down the field and put it in the goal. Do you set up a crossing pass, or just drive it down the center?
In the same way a great soccer coach prepares their players to quickly think through options on-the-fly, a great strengths coach can prepare you or your work team to think about how to apply your talents to situations you haven’t encountered yet.
So…where are you on the field we call life?
By Chad T. Ahern
Earlier this month, I had the chance to conduct my first coaching session utilizing Gallup's strengths coaching model. Even though I've helped, "coached", and counseled individuals before, this experience was unique enough that I wanted to share a bit about the experience and some personal lessons.
My client for the call was a new Director of HR who was looking to expand his own strengths initiative within company of 50. He, like me, is a relatively new strengths coach looking for an external perspective. His background was in marketing, but has an intense passion for developing people. His top 5 talent themes are: Responsibility, Connectedness, Belief, Positivity, and Individualization.
During our call, I discovered his amazing passion for developing others. In talking about it, he made the realization this was a perfect reflection of his top 5, all of which have an "others" focus. He isn't happy if others aren't being served. I also came to learn that he relies a lot on his 6 talent theme of Relator to develop close relationships with all his colleagues.
The learning and ideas that came from our conversation helped him realize that he didn't need to "sell" the strengths initiative to the entire company all at once. Instead, he could use his marketing background, coupled with his Relator and Individualization talent themes, to devise personalized sales pitches for each of the seven team managers based on what ROI they might achieve by implementing a strengths approach.
I share this experience to help highlight three ideas that might be helpful to future clients (or to people considering becoming a strengths coach).
With the Pittsburgh Penguins winning the Stanley Cup, the NBA Finals underway, and the Summer Olympics in Rio on the horizon I've been thinking a lot about the role coaches play in achieving success at all levels.
We are used to seeing coaches impact youth as children learn and grasp new sports. We see coaches develop high school and college athletes into top performers and (ideally) into better, all-around good people. And we see coaches continue to perfect the performance of elite athletes.
Yet, when it comes to the working world, we seem to have an aversion to those who can help us become better. The most common excuses I've come across can be loosely grouped into one of the following:
Here's the thing. Coaches don't have to be expensive. They also don't have to be lifelong investments. It is all about the level of investment you want to make in yourself. It's also about the approach you want to take with a coach.
How can a coach help you? I'm glad you asked. Adam Hickman recently posted this great piece on what a coach can do for you. Here are my three takeaways from his post:
Want to find out more about working with a local Strengths-based coach?
Contact me to discuss how we can structure some coaching that fits your goals and your budget.
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