Coaching techniques to take from the gym and use at work

“A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.” In this episode, I show the parallels on how I coach in the gym and how I lead in the office. I share three techniques that work in both situations and how you can elevate your leadership game.

  • Short cues work best – Don’t use 39 words when 6 words get to the point. Some coaches/leaders feel like they need to impress you with all of their knowledge that they must impart to you. I could explain to an athlete how the muscles and ligaments work together during a squat. However, if I just want you to go to a good squat that achieves full depth, I don’t need to cover that info. I’m simply looking for your hip crease to go below your knee, so that’s what I cover as the Point of Performance: a simple cue an athlete can remember to inform their movement. Similarly, use the Bottom Line Up Front, or BLUF, as a tactic in personal or electronic conversations to immediately get to your point to the intended audience, and then follow-up with amplifying discussion afterward.
  • Tailor your coaching to the athletes – Athletes respond to coaching and motivational cheers differently. I have seen some athletes who respond positively to a drill sergeant-type of coach (i.e. only speaks in shouts), and others will avoid them like plague. Effective coaches know their audience and adjust their speech accordingly. When addressing the class, project voice a little more and make eye contact with everyone to draw their attention to you. When addressing individual athletes, understand who they are and what they respond to. Beginner athletes don’t mind them spending a little more time with explanations and nuanced practice, where more experienced athletes can use a simple statement like “Let’s go, push through this and finish the run!” Both approaches can help the athlete achieve their goals, but you need to understand which technique will work at the moment. Similarly, you should understand that talking to first-term Airmen or Junior Officers compared to senior enlisted or field grade officers should be different. Don’t “baby” anyone, but understand their experiences (or lack thereof) need to be integrated into your approach. Look to be the positive leader who adjusts their communication styles to fit the situation, yet remains true to themselves and seeks to improve the team at the same time. 
  • Coaching begins before your class starts – If you been in a class I’ve coached, you may have noticed I’m usually there early to prepare. Like close to 30 mins early. I’m going over each movement and how I intend to coach it, points of performance I expect out of the athletes, the timing and flow of the class, and doing an equipment inventory check to see if I need to offer modifications. If there are movements that I’m unfamiliar with or haven’t coached in a while (the coaching staff sees the workouts for the duration of the week every Sunday), I do research way before class. I review my books and watch videos to see if there are cues or ideas I can leverage based on the known capabilities of our athletes. My point is that I don’t start coaching at soon as class starts; I start coaching way before that. You as the coach are responsible for providing an effective and well-run class. You need to be able to account for all of the different levels of fitness within your class and deliver an experience that benefits everyone. The same type of preparation should be used in the workplace. Before you attend a meeting, have a good understanding of potential subjects that will be covered and be prepared to have engaging discussions with them. The ones who are prepared are the ones who get things done. Leverage the subject matter experts around you and be able to articulate what are the best options to consider. Remember personal things like if someone has children or if they are working towards a personal project and ask them how things are going. Again, understand what situation you are entering and prepare accordingly. Coaching and leadership starts way before game time.