This article is part four of a five part series about coaching. Each part explores a different element of what it takes to be an effective coach. Learn how to empower your team to help them accomplish more than they ever imagined. If you master these skills, you can consistently build outstanding teams that provide top medical care and extraordinary client service. Get ready to establish your practice as THE only place to go in town. Not by your prices or equipment, but by how well you coach your team.
In the 1960’s, a study was performed to determine the power of positive expectations on the performance of school children. In this landmark study conducted by Dr. Robert Rosenthal, children at Oak School were split into two groups. One group was labeled as having high intellectual potential while the other group, the control group, was not. It was found that 47% of the children in the “gifted” group demonstrated IQ gains of 20 points or more. In contrast, only 19% of those in the control group showed such gains.
The students in both groups, however, were chosen completely at random. There was no group of specially gifted students. The only difference between the control group and the “gifted” group was the teachers’ expectations.
Since the completion of that study, hundreds of studies have been conducted in schools and workplaces. They all show a correlation between the expectations of a coach, mentor or teacher and the performance of the individual. In these studies, the coach or teacher was unaware that the individual was selected at random. This means that they honestly believed that the person they were coaching or teaching was capable of more than the average person.
Set Higher Expectations
In order to coach someone effectively, you have to set expectations for them that are higher than the ones they have for themselves. If you can’t do that, they need a different coach. People are already capable of achieving what they believe they can accomplish. The purpose of a coach is to push them past that belief. A coach helps them achieve their true potential, not their limited version of that potential.
Here’s the hard part. Most people are very effective at convincing you that they can’t do what you expect from them. If you are not very careful as a coach, you will soon buy into their lower expectations. The moment you do, you lose the ability to help them.
In the studies I referenced, it was important that the teachers fully believed in the increased potential of their students. As a coach, teacher, parent or even friend, we make millions of quick decisions on how we treat someone based on that belief. How we approach them and focus on them. How we listen to them and react to them. It’s all based on what we really believe they are capable of. We can’t fake that.
Have More Faith Then They Have
Think about the differences in how you act around someone you respect, admire, and believe in, versus someone you don’t. No one is good enough to artificially create that kind of behavior consistently over time. Yet, it’s that subtle shift in how we treat others that will slowly erode that limiting belief about their own capability, or confirm it.
It takes incredible patience. In a school environment, teachers interact with kids on a daily basis. In a coaching environment, we don’t always have that luxury. It may be months before you see any evidence of a shift. Then, all of a sudden, little cracks in their picture of their own potential will appear. They are then capable of forming a new picture of what they can accomplish. They make incredible progress when that happens! Keep in mind, they have worked their whole life to build this image of what their capabilities are. You won’t change that quickly. You must have more faith in them, than they have doubt in themselves. That’s not easy because often, they have been practicing the doubt part for a very long time.
This element of coaching is the single biggest reason that most people don’t achieve success as a coach. It’s too easy to allow others to convince us that they are at their best, even if they aren’t even close. When they firmly believe it, and you aren’t sure, they will win the battle every single time. If you don’t believe that someone is capable of more than they are currently accomplishing, don’t coach them. All you will do in that situation is confirm the limits they have set for themselves. You will make it harder for them to move forward.
Change the Mental Picture
People are where they are for a reason. Only in rare occasions, is it because circumstances have conspired against them so that they have no choice. They are there because it’s where they believe they should be or all that they believe they are capable of. If you are going to help them move forward and achieve greater things, help them change that mental picture. To do that, you have to be completely convinced that they can. You have to see their potential, even before they do. Only then, can you help them reach it.