(For individual use only, not to be reproduced or used in any way without permission)
By Mike Akin
You might ask - Why Coaching? It's a good question, and the answer is found in the heart of human nature. We have heard it many times from couples to world councils - communication is the key. Noted author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia declared, "Communication, the art of talking to each other, saying what we mean, saying it clearly, listening to what the other says and making sure that we're hearing accurately, is by all indication the skill most essential for creating and maintaining [key] relationships." Famed psychologist Carl Rogers added that "the basic and most desperate need of our time [is] for more basic knowledge and more competent skills in dealing with the tensions of human relationships."
We all know by instinct and experience that communication is crucial in key relationships. No relationship, business or otherwise, will long survive bad communication. But in business, the bottom line depends on people. In today's competitive marketplace, we cannot ignore the need for good coaching and communication.
Remember, communication is more than what we say - it is what we are. An old axiom reads, "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I can't hear what you're saying." Principled Centered Leadership asserts, "Ultimately, the leadership style one adopts springs from one's core ideas and feelings about the nature of men - whatever a person has at the center of his life." The best seller, In Search of Excellence, indicates that the best-managed companies are still "value-driven" or "value-governed" and that their leadership is committed to certain values and principles which they translate into organizational policies and programs.
As coaches, we should ask ourselves some important questions:
Questions like these reveal our character. Coaching and character cannot be separated.
Character was the distinguishing mark of America's Founding Fathers. Character was their guide and stay. It governed their lives and shaped our history. In The March of Folly, Barbara Tuchman writes, "How fortunate America was to have as one of its Founding Fathers George Washington who had such a character of rock and a kind of nobility that he exerted a natural dominion over others, together with the inner strength and perseverance that enabled him to prevail over a flood of obstacles. He made possib1e both the physical victory of American independence and the survival of the...republic....".
William H. Wilbur's, The Making of George Washington, describes Washington's character when America's fate hung in the balance. Wilbur records the condition at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777. The winter was cruel and stalked the Continental Army like death. Terrible cold, bitter winds, exposure, and lack of food and provisions literally drove the corps to the brink of starvation. Countless letters and journal entries attest to overwhelming sufferings. Barefoot, hungry, nearly naked, the soldiers were sick, discouraged and forsaken. Had they buckled and left their post, America was doomed. They could have returned to their homes, but loyal to General Washington, and heedless of their sufferings, the men stayed on. Historians call it a "miracle" of leadership.
How did Washington do It? What was his secret? What can we learn from this historic leader? Again, we look to Washington's character.
Washington was quiet, modest, firm, fair and wise, but his consideration for others was extraordinary. Washington's men knew that he was deeply committed to them. He was tireless in his effort to procure food, pay, clothing and medicines. He took interest in their personal problems. He walked among their huts; he talked with the soldiers; he walked through the camp at night - their condition often moving him to tears. According to Wilbur, General Washington's relationship with his men was a "glorious mixture of respect, loyalty, admiration, faith and affection."
Washington was willing to carry the load of others. Hundreds of times Washington got off his horse to help soldiers push a wagon out of a mud hole with the cheerful remark, "One more shoulder does it." His contact was daily, sincere and caring. "AII these things...made an Army [Team]. And they made an Army [Team] that was totally and entirely loyal to one man - General Washington". Some historians hold that Washington was the Revolution. And "when he asked his men to endure suffering, they found it impossible to deny him".
Why Coaching? Because Coaching is good communication. Coaching is good leadership. And, moreover, Coaching is a call to character and commitment to people - the kind demonstrated by George Washington. History proves that people can respond - sometimes heroically. Coaching isn't a "quick fix" tool to control people. Washington didn't "fast-talk" his way to victory with the Continental Army. He was committed to them and he gave them his best. He stood as an example of character that others were compelled to follow. When that kind of character is present in our coaching everything else tends to fall into place.