Be a Two-Timing Coach

The phrase “two-timer” certainly has a well deserved negative connotation to it. It is most often used to define a person who is cheating in a relationship with another person.

In coaching however being a “two-timer” can be a very good thing.

Too many coaches, managers and even leaders think of coaching solely in terms of correcting a mistake of some kind. You could call those coaches, managers, and leaders a “one-time” coach. The only time they think to coach is when they see something wrong.

But truly great coaches and leaders know that another effective time to coach is when things go well. Coaching at these times is positive re-enforcement that tends to cement the “right” behavior that is being coached.

A key responsibility of an effective leader is to build and help their people become successful. That requires consistent, thoughtful and meaningful coaching, when things go wrong AND when things go right.

Leaders who coach increase the performance of their people, increase the satisfaction of their people and increase the value of their people to the team. They also reduce what is known as the “reality gap.” This is the gap that exists between what the leader sees the team member doing and what the team member believes they are doing. In the healthiest organizations there is very little gap.

The best leaders coach when the gap is becoming larger or smaller.

To coach effectively you’ll need these skills and characteristics:

Set a good example. If your words don’t match your actions then you simply cannot coach. Your people will do what you do light years before they will do what you say. As a leader you are the “model” for successful behavior. Or not.

See the big picture. As a coach and a leader you need to see a bigger picture than your followers. While it’s acceptable for your followers to merely see the consequences of their actions you must be see the consequences of the consequences. That comes with experience; successful coaches and leaders share their experience with others.

Be a good listener. Great coaches and Authentic Servant Leaders use more than just their ears to listen. They use their heart, their eyes, their experience, and their intuition. They do not prejudge what is being said and they focus on the person speaking. They pay full attention to what is being said and they do not interrupt the speaker. Great listeners know this simple truth; if you’re talking you’re not listening. The fact is, if you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next you’re not listen then either.

Desire to see other people grow. Leadership, true leadership at least, is not about the leader. It is about the people they lead. If you do not have a genuine, sincere desire to see other people grow you will never risk the caring, compassionate confrontation that comes with good coaching. When you’re committed to seeing other people grow you will coach, it’s just about that simple.

There really is little difference in the skills required to close the reality gap through coaching whether the gap is getting bigger or smaller. The one major difference is that when the gap is getting larger and you’re likely coaching for corrective action, the coaching must be done in private. Public embarrassment is not coaching.

When the gap is getting smaller however the coaching can indeed be public. It can be used to highlight the “right” behavior being coached. Celebrating the good stuff in the presence of the entire team tends to make the “right” behavior a bit contagious.

If you’re a “one-time” kind of coach then your people may think of you as “the boss” but they probably don’t think of you as a leader.

Coach early, coach often. Coach in bad times AND good, one is certainly less stressful than the other but both are the purview of Authentic Servant Leadership.


7 thoughts on “Be a Two-Timing Coach

  1. You really hit the most important points in effective coaching Steve. Good job!

    The 1st is foundational…Set the example. Be a good model. And the truth is, many people don’t practice what they preach. This goes for parenting as well as leadership. If/when I haven’t practiced what I preach, my children pay more attention to the ‘gap’ between the words and actions. Most definitely! That’s also a good way for me to ‘spot check’ every one in awhile…am I modeling what I expect to them? It’s the same for any leadership role. We don’t gain respect if we aren’t modeling what we preach and teach. Words alone mean very little in the grand scheme of things. Action trumps words.

    The 2nd is also very important. Being able to see the consequences of the consequences. We live in a world where many don’t even consider consequences of actions in the 1st place let alone the possible implications and long term impact of actions and events.

    To be a good coach of any kind, (parent/leader etc) you really have to care about the person. That’s a vital piece of criteria. If we don’t care about the person, we will be less likely to have the others best interests in mind and only our own.

    I did want to look more closely at what you shared about private vs public correction. You said:

    ‘The one major difference is that when the gap is getting larger and you’re likely coaching for corrective action, the coaching must be done in private. Public embarrassment is not coaching.’

    The 1st part I totally agree with! The 2nd part I question. NOT because we ‘should’ have a desire to publicly embarrass anyone but because I’ve had to deal with too many stone wallers in life. That is a term used for people who refuse to address issues one on one and intentionally give the silent treatment so there is absolutely no possibility for resolution. If there is an intentional and official coaching relationship between people, hopefully things will always be able to be addressed one on one in private. That’s the best way in most cases where there hasn’t been a crime of some sort. (so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things)

    Personally, I’ve tried to follow the guidance offered in Matthew 18: 15,16:

    ‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

    I don’t bring this up in order to be legalistic about following the ‘letter of the law’ to a tee here. Mainly because this seems to still be the best example I’ve come across in terms of advice.

    The 1st part clearly is in alignment with an attempt to resolve issues privately. Yet in this day in age, avoidance and silence treatment (stonewalling) are very common methods of making it impossible to address things privately. This is where part 2 comes in. You deter the stone wallers by then taking matters public. ‘Church’ can imply ‘court’ it could mean ‘board of directors’, police…whatever ‘body’ that is appropriate to deal with the issue.

    Your thoughts on this?

    Thanks for sharing Steve.

    • Well I agree, kind of 🙂 I most certainly agree with the Scripture in Matthew but I’m not sure ” taking one or two others along” means going public. It more likely means a couple of more people in the private meeting. That seems to me to be very different than public embarrassment.

      On another of your points…. I’m pretty sure we would all be better leaders if our people had the same courage as our kids to call us out when our actions don’t match our words 🙂

      • You are right. Taking 2+ others along is step 2 in the reconciliation process if they wouldn’t hear us or listen. The 3rd step is ‘tell it to the church’ which is basically, going public. Yet I didn’t mean going public is intentionally for the purpose of embarrassment, although that may often be the ‘feeling’. I tend to see the public aspect as multi-faceted yet the only way ‘denial’ can be addressed in a person if they won’t budge with one on one methods, or with the next step of a small set of witnesses (counsel).

        It may not be a church situation. It could be in our friendships, our marriage or in business. I still consider it to be some good counsel. Far too many people sidestep the one on one issue and stonewall. Nothing gets resolved and people live on in denial.

        I sincerely believe if people implemented steps 2 and 3 more often (in ANY context), we’d have a lot less passive aggressive behaviors and avoidance going on. More genuine conflict resolution taking place. Or maybe I’m still dreaming. : )

      • Nope. You’re not dreaming – it goes back to an earlier post on dealing with conflict – the more open we are, about almost everything, the better off we are. But it’s good to dream too 🙂

  2. Forgot to include v. 17! (most important part of my point!)

    If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    • Ah yes, you’re correct, a most important verse. In the case of a church, as a board member I’d likely let them do, ask them to leave or whatever. I’d make it clear to the congregation that there was a problem but I still don’t know how specific I would be.

      In the case of a business, I’d just say goodbye 🙂

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