Coaching a Friend, Part 3

Last time on Coaching a Friend, we discussed the advantage we can gain by informing our coaching with our knowledge of our friends. In this final installment, I want to talk about the most difficult and possibly most necessary part of coaching a friend.

Make it count.

Our friendships also create coaching opportunities that others just won’t have. Your friend is more likely to start from a receptive position to your feedback and also more likely to act on what you say. Words spoken by people we care about have more weight. To utilize this advantage to the fullest, we should focus on coaching our friends on topics that others either would not feel comfortable talking about or that our friend would ignore from other sources.

In this way, having friends that you work with is a double-edged sword. Working with someone you appreciate, and who appreciates you, is great. It also means that, as their friend, the onus is on you more than others to provide them with coaching you know they will dislike or otherwise not want to hear. We are in a unique position with our friends. We have a cushion against feedbacklash, and they already value our opinions. All of this culminates in an ability to give highly-effective and focused feedback on even the most sensitive topics.

Example: Allen has been L3 for around a year and is a prominent figure in his community. Jamie is also an L3, though for much longer, and the two became friends as Allen grew into his role. Over the past year, Jamie has heard from many other judges in the program that Allen comes across as arrogant and self-important. Some are even questioning why Allen was permitted to advance, given this apparent attitude. This is having the additional negative impact of Allen receiving no coaching from any of these other judges, as they are convinced he already thinks he has nothing to learn from them.

Jamie has the benefit of knowing where Allen came from. She knows he started in a place of being uncertain of himself and grew into a level of confidence that permitted him to achieve his goal of L3. Because of this, she knows that Allen is going to be crushed to hear that others believe he thinks too much of himself now. Jamie also knows that other judges are likely to believe that someone like Allen has protection from feedback regarding his attitude and subsequently are reluctant to approach him.

I would like to point out that this is an excellent use-case for compassionate coaching. Because Jamie has the benefit of knowing where Allen came from, she has context for and perspective on where he is now. She also knows that hearing about others’ perceptions will distress Allen. As his friend, Jamie is the best-equipped to talk Allen through this feedback and help him manage his feelings and his reaction. She can work past the imminent identity trigger and help guide his focus to where it needs to be, on finding different ways to display confidence and repairing bridges to feedback he did not know he was burning. Jamie can leverage their mutual respect to bring Allen the coaching he needs most.

Coaching builds stronger friendships.

When we coach our friends and help them improve, we take the bonds we have already made and reforge them. This process can sometimes be stressful, creating friction in the cases where we are telling our friends things they do not want to hear. It can also be the most rewarding feedback you give, particularly in cases where you were able to use your insight to coach in areas and ways no one else would have been capable of.

It also encourages them to provide you with coaching in kind. You create a feedback loop with someone you know has your best interests at heart.

Who doesn’t want something like that?

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