Some Background On The Coach Series
I’ve been thinking about coaching a lot lately. In so many situations in life, we find ourselves either coaching others or being coached by others. These experiences can be life-changing in both positive and negative ways.
When thinking about what coaching in a brief sentence, I would propose the following:
The main goal of coaching is to develop people into becoming better at their discipline.
The focal point of this statement is becoming better. Coaching without progress - in some form - isn’t really successful. You might be saying the right words and ideas, but something isn’t connecting with there person trying to help.
I want to pull from two experiences I’ve had in coaching or being coached: Software Development and Personal Fitness. Most of this perspective comes from how I’ve best grown in being coached. However, there are bits and pieces within about my perspective coaching in these disciplines as well.
This Post in Particular is Talking About Great Coaches
Great coaches are often very hard to come by. I believe that it takes a certain kind of coach to help people, companies, organizations to accomplish really ambitious goals. A great coach can help you lose weight and gain muscle in a healthy way. A great coach can also turn a unfocused employee into a focused leader.
In my experience with seeing great coaches at work, there are four themes that really stick out to me about them:
- Great Coaches Prevent Injuries
- Great Coaches Pursue Improvement
- Great Coaches Focus On Form
- Great Coaches Encourage
But today, we're going to talk about how great coaches prevent injuries!
Great Coaches Prevent Injuries
If you’ve ever been injured before, you know that resting and recovering from your injury can be really difficult. You have to fight this constant feeling of wanting to do the things you usually do in the interest of ultimately getting better. If we recover from our injuries the right way, we can come back better than even when we’re fully healed.
While some injuries happen to even the most prepared and ready people, but I believe that a large majority of injuries are totally preventable. So many injury stories start with: “If I had done x, this injury would have been prevented.”
It wouldn’t be out of alignment to say that great coaches are going to be on the lookout for scenarios that might prevent injury. If its preventable, a great coach makes it their job to do everything to stop situations where injuries might occur.
Why Should Coaches Prevent Injuries?
Consider this: You’re worth more to a cause healthy than injured.
Programmers are more productive if they’re working reasonable hours, eating well, and getting enough sleep at night. 65 hour work weeks with no end in sight are going to lead to burnout pretty quickly. Burnout leads to bad work and eventual staff turnover. Great programming coaches want to prevent this environment though whatever means possible.
On the fitness side of things, you’re going to make more progress towards a certain goal if you’re healthy rather than injured. Sure, you can diet better and do things that don’t require exercise. But ultimately, you want to be injury-free to best make those gains.
So do great coaches spot potential injury scenarios?
How Great Coaches Spot Injuries
My experience with Crossfit has taught me a lot about how great coaches can spot injuries or situations that could cause injury. Crossfit - and many other fitness gyms - require that you disclose personal injury histories when joining them. Sure, you can lie your way through it, but the information you provide to your coaches is going to help them prevent injuries.
If you’ve been injured somewhere before, its likely that you could become injured in the same way again. Athletes experience this all the time. Great coaches can only thrive if they seek and are given the right history about their people.
For programmers, its really important to be honest about your employment history but its even more important for coaches to understand that history. I think of this often from the perspective of: “What kind of company culture did this person come from?”
A previous company culture is going to tell a lot about how someone might act rom a social perspective, but also how they might become easily injured or frustrated from your company culture.
If you’re hiring an engineer from a small startup into your large process-oriented company, it might be safe to assume that they’re going to have a hard time adjusting to the new culture. Its a great coaches observation and job to help make that transition effective. These kinds of coaches are going to focus on leading people on understanding process as well as growing skills. Other engineering hires might understand process but lack programming skills. Its a great coaches read and job to help them grow there as well.
In short, great coaches are meeting people where they are and helping them grow in areas they’re less effective.
I want to talk a bit more about this idea of meeting people where they are.
Meeting People Where They Are
These great coaches are not only looking out for injuries, but they’re meeting people where they are. They’re understanding the past physical or mental skill of somebody and understanding where to coach somebody.
From the fitness perspective, this is usually done pretty well. Great coaches in this area are not only going to evaluate you initially, they’re going to be constantly looking for areas that your seem physically limited in progressing. These coaches are going to recommend that you do certain warm ups, or training regimens, or maybe eat better. They’re going to look for ways for you to push any physical barriers out of the way. At no point during this process are they going to look down on you for starting out at a certain point?
Never done a pull up? No problem. 100 Pounds Overweight? No problem. 55 Years Old and Never Worked Out? No problem.
On the programming side of things, mileage can vary. I think truly great and exceptional coaches are able to read where somebody is starting out and not look down on them. We often know where somebody is skills-wise but we’re not happy about it. Great programming coaches are ok with whatever talent they’re given. They’re supposed to develop it, not scold it for where it isn’t yet skills-wise. I’ve found that people often want to be told that where they’re ok is ok and the goal is to get better. Great coaches remind people of this.