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Let's Talk About Coaching

Feedback, performance reviews, improvement plans, and 360 reviews, just reading those words make our hearts shrivel…. our bodies begin to tense. Whether an employee or a manager, we avoid these things because they are not easy.

But what if that did not have to be the case?

Living in a college town (a National Championship Collegetown, I might add!) has some challenges (gameday traffic, one too many bars downtown). Still, there are many more benefits, especially when raising children involved in sports.

Watching our college football team grow and evolve, I noticed a pattern in sports rarely practiced in business.

Our Head coach, Kirby Smart has said, "Every kid I've been around as a football player, they want their coaches to make them better as men and as players."

I think this is true on the football field, but even more true in business.

But how do we make them better? It is rare to have a culture of feedback that is comfortable. As a football fan, I have noticed a pattern that can be carried into any business: coaching.

You see, when you sign up for a sports team, you are not surprised when your coach coaches. Have you ever seen football coaches during practice? They are on the field - moving and pushing the players, stepping in to offer advice, changing plays, and talking directly to each player about their performance. Not a single player is surprised when they are coached.

And then, the game day comes - where are the coaches then? They are on the sidelines watching the team in action, putting all the coaching into practice on the field to win the game. Even then, when a player comes to the sidelines, you see a coach and player face to face, coaching and receiving. Why? Because they both want the same thing: to win. And to do so, the coach needs to coach, and the player needs to receive feedback and implement it.

Here at esp, we have started being unapologetic in our approach to being a Coaching Organization. Whether you are a veteran professional or it is your first year on the job, we believe that every employee desires coaching. We have a desire for every employee to leave better than when they started at esp. It is not just about making them great employees; it's about self-awareness and making them better humans.

Has it always been that way? “But it has not always been that way.

I used to dance around giving feedback, waiting for the one-on-ones or performance reviews. It was not until I realized how much I, 20 years into my career, longed for coaching that I was able to lean into our organization, taking a rhythm of coaching, giving our employees what they truly wanted.

“So what if an employee does not want to be coached?”

First, I believe deep down, we all want to be better. Sometimes, employees do not respond well to coaching (defensiveness, deaf ears to the feedback), but it is because they have not used the muscle of receiving feedback. Be honest with them: "I know you may not have had the opportunity to be coached," or "I have realized I have not practiced coaching you. I am so sorry." Then proceed to share that this is part of your job as a manager, and the heart of coaching is ALWAYS to make the person the best version of themselves.

“I have tried that, and they still do not want to receive coaching.”

We have all watched great players get transferred. If you value coaching in your organization and the employee does not want to be coached, it is time for them to find a team that aligns with what they value and for you to find an employee that aligns with what you value.

“How do I create a coaching organization?”

Value alignment within an organization is critical. This should be a value stated in what the company believes in. I have found that I have to remind our leaders over and over again, so it weaves into the fabric of how we lead.

“How do I start?”

Here is what I would say, "Here at ESP, we are a coaching organization. Can I coach you on something?" The power of asking that question is everything. It allows the employee the opportunity to give you permission to be coached. If they say no, try again later. When you try again, if the answer is no, see above. They may not be suitable for your organization.

So, there you go—businesses' greatest pain point: feedback. Think about how you can add the value of coaching to your business. The culture will be contagious and will empower those under you to regularly have coaching conversations that continue to allow people, thus your business, to win.


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