What do sports coaching and business coaching have in common? More than you might think, as it turns out.
Moreover, why do we so readily accept the practice of coaching in sport, but often don’t consider coaching for ourselves or our business?
These are questions I’ve been giving thought to lately as I build my own coaching practice. Also, being a keen sportsman (mostly from my armchair these days), I couldn’t help notice the similarities between coaching in sport and in business.
“Dave Alred is a genius. He changed my life.”
Dr Dave Alred MBE is widely acknowledged as one of the finest coaches in the sporting world. He’s not only coached Jonny Wilkinson, but also the golfer Luke Donald (while he was number one in the world), the England cricket team and the British and Irish Lions.
In his book, The Pressure Principle, Alred bridges this gap between sport and business. He consistently relates his learning, techniques and tips from the sporting arena to the world of business.
As a side note, what a truly impressive guy. Also, great book and well worth a read for those interested in sport and/or coaching.
I digress… an explanation of the similarities is below:
The Coaching Framework – In sport, the coach is responsible for providing a framework to improve performance. Dribbling, passing, and shooting drills in football would be obvious examples. In business coaching, there is also a framework in place to improve performance. Some examples could be effective goal setting, values discovery and raising awareness through self-assessments.
In both instances, the coach provides the framework and the coachee is responsible for making the change.
The Coaching Contexts – The contexts surrounding both sport and business are certainly the same. The below image shows some of the common contexts.
Each context is a vital ingredient in creating a successful coaching relationship.
Body Language and Embodiment – The skill of embodiment is another great example. In sport, I don’t know one footballer who hasn’t puffed out their chest in a bid to hold their space more confidently. In business, owning the space also gives a person more confidence. Alred has developed what he calls the ‘C to J concept’, which emphasises the importance of using body language to create a positive mindset. Key elements of this concept are the ‘command posture’ and ‘being big’, ensuring one’s ability to stay big and tall under pressure to bypass anxiety.
The Growth Zone – Coaching is all about creating awareness to bring about choice to enable change (remember my last article?). However, in order to create change we need to be willing to move into the growth zone – and out of the comfort zone.
Alred calls this the ‘ugly zone’. He suggests that we need to be in the ugly zone in order to change an action or habit.
Any right-footed footballer who has practised with their left foot can vouch for this (and vice versa). Extremely ugly indeed!
Limiting beliefs – The main reason we avoid moving into the growth or ugly zone is because of the fear of failure. We have limiting, risk-averse beliefs that want to protect us from failing. You know the one: those dreaded feelings of looking stupid, feeling embarrassed or not being good enough.
But if we don’t address this, we are unable to develop or move towards our goals. Using the example above, a young boy or girl who neglects to practise with their weaker foot in order to avoid embarrassment is unlikely to realise their dream of playing for Manchester United… or even Keyworth United (my local team of non-league ‘galácticos’).
The consequences can be far-reaching. That same risk-aversion can also affect the business executive who doesn’t put in for promotion or apply for a job that they really want because of a limiting belief.
To counter this, Alred’s coaching philosophy is simple:
“To rekindle youthful learning and create a ‘no-limits’ mindset.”
A philosophy that transcends both the sports field and the boardroom. Something for us all to take on board.
I have a good friend who is a triathlete and has represented Great Britain for many years. A rather impressive individual! He mentioned years ago how he has taken his performance to the next level. I was curious, so I asked him the reason for his new-found success. His response: “I hired a coach”.
A coach in sport is hired to improve performance of the individual or team. A coach in business is hired for exactly the same reason. Coaching can have a powerful impact… just ask Jonny Wilkinson.
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