I’ve been an Executive Coach for 20+ years. There is no situation, in any industry that can surprise me anymore. Been there, done that. But, as a father of a 7 year old girl and a 5 year old boy, that is not the case. And as a coach of youth sports, that is also true. I am constantly learning how to be better and more effective.
As a father and a coach, I am constantly faced with situations that leave me…well flummoxed. Situations, that when I reflect upon them, really inform how I now coach in my professional life. Here are some of my lessons from coaching children, mine as well as others:
People Generally Want to do the Right Thing
Most kids, like most people, try to do what they are told. If you find a child not doing what they are told at home or at practice, it’s usually one of three reasons: 1) They don’t understand, 2) They don’t think they can do it, or 3) They want your attention and they will settle for negative attention, if that’s all they can get. Rather than scolding them, give them your attention and assume they want to do the right thing.
TIP: So when you catch someone doing something they are not supposed to, don’t ask them “why;” ask them if they “need your help." This may uncover a simple way to redirect them down the right path.
People Want to Please Whoever is in Charge
Never underestimate the power of formal authority. Kids want to please their coaches, and sometimes even their parents. Adults are the same with their bosses, and other people perceived as leaders. Show them attention, give them guidance and most people will do what they understand that you want them to do. In the era of flattening organizations, this fact is often overlooked and under-utilized.
TIP: Leaders have inherent influence, so remember: The more time you invest in your people, the more they will seek to achieve the goals you set for them.
One Criticism Cancels Five Praises
My daughter reminds me of this lesson daily. I can praise her and watch her swell with pride. I do it again and she grows even more. But one raised voice, harsh look, or rough word, can extinguish all the momentum she has gained. More often than not, the harsh words don’t even help her grow or develop. Instead, they often only serve to STOP her from doing whatever she is doing. Negative feedback is necessary at times, but it is usually used to often.
TIP: Criticize only to stop a bad behavior, praise to help grow and develop.
Everyone is Different: Coach them Differently
I can’t believe my son and daughter come from the same DNA and household. They literally couldn’t be more different. She never lies, he will be licking Sour Patch powder off his lips and simultaneously using those lips to tell me he didn’t eat any. I send her to her room and she feels bad for letting daddy down. He is like “good, I wanted to play with my train anyway.” It’s crazy! Adults are the same, so remember that and always consider who you are coaching.
TIP: Don’t stick to a one-size-fits-all approach. Adapt to the individual needs and styles of every person you coach.
Parenting is the most powerful learning tool that I currently have as a coach. As a professional coach, it allows me to continue to grow in my practice after 20 years. Everyone can learn how to coach better, by learning lessons from their time with their children and noticing what works, and what doesn’t.
What have you learned from coaching children? Share in the comments below!