Coaching a Friend, Part 2

Previously on Coaching a Friend, I wrote about the importance of remaining objective when identifying coaching opportunities involving our friends. For this installment, let’s focus on how we can use our friendship to take our coaching to the next level.

Use what you know.

Even though your knowledge of your friends can make it more challenging to spot coaching opportunities, it can also be a strength when providing coaching. You have the benefit of insider knowledge to how they think and operate, and this can help you level up your coaching for your friends, specifically by zeroing in on the root cause of a problem rather than giving feedback on the symptom.

Example: Marco is Head Judging an SCG Open, and his friend George is running his first-ever SCG Classic as Head Judge. During the event, Marco asks George to prompt his Classic judges to take calls on the Open as well since floor coverage on the Open is light. George agrees and prompts his judges to ensure they are nearer to the Open and are watching out for calls in both events.

One round later, the Head Judge of the other Classic asks if George can spare some judges to help with deck checks since the other Classic is substantially behind target on theirs and needs the help. George considers, then decides his event can afford to send the two people on his checks team to help with checks on the other Classic.

Marco observes one or two calls from his Open taken by George’s Classic judges and no more. His Open continues to suffer from coverage that is too light, forcing him to take more calls himself.

At the end of the day, Marco communicates this to George. George appears confused, saying he definitely talked with his judges about doing that. In their conversation, Marco learns that George shared his checks team with the other Classic.

This is where the feedback splits based on Marco’s friendship with George. The coaching here could simply be telling George that his communication to his own team should’ve been updated after the decision to share his checks team, telling them there were even fewer of them in total and that this would require them to physically shift more toward the Open to ensure they could cover both events.

Marco knows, however, that George is detail-oriented, at times to a fault, unable to see the forest for the trees, as it were. Here, Marco has the opportunity to give feedback on the root cause for this problem rather than the consequences of it. Imagine if Marco’s coaching sounded more like this.

Marco: “I think the disconnect here is part of your continuing struggle to adopt a big picture view when Head Judging. Here you identified two different requests, thought about the impact on your event discretely for each, then made a decision to act on them. But you never thought about how helping to fulfill the second request affected your team’s ability to continue fulfilling the first. Rather than focusing just on the task at hand, remember that one of your responsibilities as Head Judge is to think about how what you are about to do affects everything as a whole, including other events, sides, the stage, your scorekeeper, and the players. Focusing on those broad implications will help you identify how to more-effectively adapt your team when making these changes in direction.”

Here Marco was able to identify more-effective coaching advice for George to act on. Rather than giving feedback on the isolated incident, Marco is able to connect it to a deeper issue George is struggling with, providing additional context and ultimately helping George focus on what his core improvement objective should be.

For my final installment of Coaching a Friend, I’ll showcase how to get the most out of coaching your friends by sharing observations that others won’t want to, leveraging your relationship to give feedback that really counts.

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