The Coach’s Mind

What does it mean for someone to be whole? How does the way a leader thinks about their subordinates impact their actions and leadership style?

The Co-Active Coaching Model describes wholeness as an essential characteristic of people and therefore a state of being that must be cultivated in order to achieve the greatest success. In order for coaches or leaders to view the people around them as whole, they must acknowledge that people are not inherently lazy or needing to be fixed.  A perspective that values people and views them as meaningful and intrinsically good is the first step towards an appropriate leadership dynamic. Along with this, the leader must believe that support and guidance are central to employee growth and development.

Surprisingly, the people in leadership positions are not always excellent coaches — and sometimes are extremely out of practice! In fact, in the popular book, Primal Leadership, the authors comment that of the six main styles of leadership, the coaching style is the one least commonly adopted.

Coaching is a topic so frequently discussed that it is widely assumed that everyone is on the same page as to what it actually means. The image of a former high school sports coach or an infomercial of a fast-talking life coach might flash before your eyes, but there really is much more to coaching than this. It is extremely important for a leader to understand the ultimate intention of coaching. Functionally, coaching can be a tool to improve performance but at its core coaching is much more interested in professional development than results. Coaching allows for employees to grow and develop which in turn will prepare the employees to become higher performers. Ultimately, a group of higher performing employees will likely produce better results. However, coaching is directly about development and professional growth and increased production is a second or third order side effect. 

Everyone can benefit from professional development, regardless of their status within an organization. Therefore, coaching should not be reserved for underperforming employees, but should be offered to any and all. A high performing employee might appear to have everything under control but they may have just as great of a need for coaching as anyone else. Again, because coaching should not be a response to performance, it should be distributed to all employees, especially those who have the most opportunity to develop. 

Thinking about people and coaching in this way might not be the most natural exercise. How can you cultivate this mindset? Well, for one thing, practice! I challenge you to intentionally practice thinking about the wholeness of the people you work with at least twice this week.

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About Amy Lafko

As a Physical Therapist, Amy spent years in school learning best practices for patient care and how to put the patient first. Like so many technically skilled clinicians, she advanced to a leadership role. Spending 20+ years in operational leadership, she had an epiphany: Putting the customer first isn’t the path to success or fulfillment. Rather, the most successful organizations and practices put their people first – and exceptional customer care, profitability, and effectiveness naturally followed.