When teaching a class on coaching, I joke with the class about having shirts made up that say “COACH” and threaten to hand them out and make them wear them in their workplace.
“What if I gave you a shirt like this and made you wear it in your workplace when you get back on Monday? Who here would want to wear it? What would your employees say?”
A few replies to my questions from a recent group of leaders during a class on coaching appear below.
“Not a chance.”
“They would ask me if I started coaching one of my kid’s teams.”
“I would be laughed out of the place.”
I pressed a little further to find the root of the hesitation on being labeled the “COACH” in their workplace. Each was a leader in their organization. Each had a title and at least a few employees. But something was stopping them from coaching.
As the conversation progressed, the obstacles became more clear. There wasn’t enough time to coach (and get their own work done). The culture would be critical of this approach. They were not coached as employees, and the list went on and on until an even more revealing answer came to light.
“Because when a team is failing, they fire the Coach!”
There it was, the real fear behind the hesitation. Being the focus of performance may result in the owners switching leaders if the organization is not performing. With the fear out in the open we could move towards agreeing on why coaching is essential to the team’s success.
Coaching goes beyond holding people accountable for task completion. Coaching is about developing people as individuals, stretching them, and helping them achieve more both individually and collectively. Coaching requires a combination of encouragement and accountability. Coaching is needed for teams.
Beyond a mere threat, I actually had these shirts made up and hand them out at the end of the class. Periodically, I would get an email about how wearing the shirt in the workplace helped the leader focus on coaching their employees, despite the initial awkwardness. I even heard from a leader who must wear a uniform each day at work, but wears the “COACH” shirt underneath once a week as a reminder to coach their employees.
A few months ago, I changed my strategy. In addition to having them take a shirt, I issued a challenge. The first leader to email me a picture of them in their workplace wearing the shirt would win a prize.
The responses have been great. Within a day or two I start to receive photos of these leaders wearing their “COACH” shirt in the workplace. The challenge helped provide some incentive, but the results have been greater than just a prize. Many leaders have been surprised as they experience something more once the awkwardness fades: their employees have embraced the concept and are enjoying the coaching.
But that is not the only surprise.
Last week I taught the Coaching class in the morning, but then there was a break where the group had a few other instructors before concluding the day with me. I headed back in the room and started the session.
It was when I clicked to the second slide of the PowerPoint.
There it was. A photo appeared on the screen. It was a photo of the entire class wearing their “COACH” shirts in the lobby. They had managed to take the photo and put it into the presentation during the break.
“Technically, since we are all on the clock, this counts as working.”
I laughed. I was encouraged by their creativity. I was surprised.
After giving out prizes to all of them, I reminded them that now that they had gotten over their initial hesitation, they could all become better coaching in their workplace.
Over the next few days, other photos appeared in my inbox. Coaches were identifying themselves, and starting to do the work. They were making a difference.
How about you? Do you need a shirt as well?
Make a list of those in your workplace, circles, or life that need some coaching. Once the awkwardness fades, it may be just what they need.