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Why I cheerlead for those I coach

Leaders can effectively coach their team by cheering them on, but also having deep, challenging conversations, writes John Baldoni.

3 min read



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A favorite word of mine in coaching is Brava! (Or Bravo for men.)

For many, being coached is not fun. Discussing your performance and aspirations, including your plans for positive change, with a stranger takes gumption. While the coach is a willing listener, their role is to challenge your thinking so that you question your assumptions and come to new understandings of yourself. Whew!

That takes work, so when someone I am coaching achieves a milestone or comes to a new moment of awareness, I applaud them. I pride myself on being a cheerleader for those I coach.

Time and again, those I coach tell me how much they appreciate the fact that not only is someone listening but that someone is also reassuring them that they are on the right path. In this way, I am channeling the lessons of my later father, a family practice physician. He used to say that what he offered most was reassurance. That reassurance was founded on believing that my doctor understands my condition and will help me improve.

C for cheering

Cheering does not preclude the other “C” words — conversing, challenging and coaching. Let’s take them one at a time.

Conversations are dialogue between the coach and the individual. They open the door to understanding feedback gained from others and self-assessments. Conversations create windows into what the individual is thinking.

Challenging is the adversarial positioning that is sometimes required to provoke deep thought. It is the role of a coach to disrupt current perceptions — not because they are necessarily wrong — but because doing so opens the doors to deeper self-understanding.

Coaching is a catch-all term that can include advising, teaching and, more importantly, listening. As an advisor, the coach shares insights into a particular situation. As a teacher, the coach acts as an interlocutor to help the individual learn ways to think differently, communicate more clearly, manage more effectively and lead with greater understanding. 

When coaching embraces conversation and challenges — along with listening and observation — it opens the door for one more “C” word — congratulations. Give the individual credit for making positive change. This encouragement is especially critical at the beginning of the coaching engagement. Change does not occur overnight. It is often the result of a series of small steps that cumulatively add up to something grand.

Cheering is not reserved just for coaches. It is a practice for managers, too. It is important to recognize progress and acknowledge effort and achievement. Cheering builds cohesion and camaraderie — both are essential to effective team performance. 

Note to the wise

If the amount of applause outweighs the coaching processes, you are likely not doing the individual any good. Your praise becomes either happy talk or sucking up. Neither is good coaching and may end up reinforcing the status quo.

Cheering the individual through coaching affirms their progress. It builds their self-esteem during the transition from where they are now to where they want to go. Making personal change is not always easy, so offering words of encouragement along the way goes a long way toward enabling the individual to feel better about themselves and their effort.


Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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