People ask me all the time… Can the art of coaching be taught?
The short answer is: yes, everyone can improve their ability to relate to others.
Unfortunately, like most things, it’s not that simple.
In today’s quick hitter we’ll describe who can and can’t be taught the art of coaching (hint: it’s not everyone), and how to guide someone through the process of learning how to better relate, communicate and build buy-in.
- The one question you must ask yourself before teaching the art of coaching
- How to get a baseline on the people you lead
- Tips for understanding their context and environment
- Finding and closing the “perceptual gap”
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Brett Bartholomew 00:00
I don’t try to be something I’m not. And I’m not for everybody. And that’s what I hope you guys take as an empowerment message from this is, whatever you are just try to be better at that, you don’t need to be something radically different. Because you want the right kind of people for what you’re trying to achieve to gravitate towards you. And of course, I’m not talking about extremes. If \you’re just an ass and you’re somebody that’s close-minded. I just don’t want you to get off this podcast and think that because you’re introverted or you feel like, you know, you’re not part of this loud society we have now that you don’t belong, trust me, there are billions of people and I’m not exaggerating, who would relate to you and love to be coached by you.
Brett Bartholomew 00:48
Welcome to the Art Of Coaching podcast, a show aimed at getting to the core of what it takes to change attitudes, behaviors and outcomes in the weight room, boardroom classroom, and everywhere in between. I’m your host, Brett Bartholomew, I’m a performance coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book Conscious Coaching. But most importantly, I’m a lifelong student interested in all aspects of human behavior and communication. I want to thank you for joining me and now let’s dive into today’s episode.
Brett Bartholomew 01:20
Hey, guys, we’re gonna have an eavesdropping episode today. And here’s what I mean by this, I just got off the phone with a good friend of mine been a coach for a long time. And about halfway through, I said, man, we really should have recorded this. This is a phenomenal conversation and I’ll get into the details of it in a moment. But of course, I couldn’t stop and record it. So what I thought I’d do is at least give you the context of the call. And I think it’ll answer a lot of questions you guys have. It’ll certainly answer one of the most popular questions that we get, our most common, at least.
And that is the question of, can the art of coaching be taught?
Now if you’re new to the show, we use coaching as a synonym for a leadership, right, or management, if you deal or work with people in any capacity, and you guide them, and you try to teach them or you try to develop them, you’re a coach. Now, we can get into nomenclature differences, all we want but at the end of the day, at Art Of Coaching, we talk about a coach is somebody who leads or guides or helps or facilitates, you know, an improvement based outcome, right? They’re trying to help people become more of what they can be and be more dynamic and agile and flexible within the context of those situations.
Brett Bartholomew 02:26
So let’s get to the core of this. So here’s the context. Good friend of mine has worked in the NFL for a number of years, and we’re talking about staff development. And we’re talking about a host of other things just in terms of where we’re at with education today, of leaders and what we’re learning, what we’re interested in and what have you. And he had mentioned that he was trying to get, you know, a member of the staff to be a little bit better at not just being so focused on the technical aspects of the job. And why? Not because he didn’t want him to be technical.
But because this coach was having a lot of trouble, really applying his knowledge, because many of the athletes just didn’t connect with them. Right? And when we think of a true professional, you think of somebody that, of course, has sound ethics and what have you, but there’s also a blend of warmth, plus competence, do they get it? And do they get me? When you have a blend of warmth and competence, your information goes further, your abilities make more of an impact, you give people a reason to care about what they’re doing or if they already care, you engage them at a higher level. So this is kind of the nature of what we’re talking about.
And so again, the staff member on his end said, I don’t think that this can be taught. And this goes so much deeper into that whole idea of great leaders born versus made, which is out of the scope of today’s episode. The main thing we’re going to focus on is can the art of coaching be taught? And the answer is? Yes. Maybe. I know that’s frustrating, hear me out. Nothing can be taught, or I guess it can be taught, it certainly can’t be learned, understood, absorbed, manifested, what have you, if somebody is not motivated to learn? And I don’t mean motivation, like Rocky for Drago. I mean, like they actually want to receive that information.
Brett Bartholomew 04:12
Because that’s what communication is all about. It is about not just sending messages, but receiving them in commonly comprehensible ways. And creating this dynamic, this partnership between the one doing the communicating, the one doing the listening, and vice versa, right, what are we doing? Now, the one kind of individual and there’s, I guess, a few different types or a situation where this can’t be taught is if somebody is convinced that they just don’t have it, whatever it is, and a lot of times with art of coaching related content, people think oh well I’m not extroverted and I’m not charismatic and I’m not. Guys, nothing we do is about that. Not a lick.
All we do is try to help you take your information and what you know, and make it more relatable so the people you lead care more, learn more effectively, and can adapt and adopt these best practices in a way that suits them. Right? It’s not about oh, if you’re a basketball coach, we want you to coach like John Wooden, if you’re an entrepreneur, we want you to be like Steve Jobs. If you’re this person, we want you to be this, it is never about trying to make somebody a template, you know, the whole idea of leadership, and coaching in general, being based around this idea of the great man, or the great woman, this theory that there’s this enigmatic person, and you put them in any situation, and they’re just going to crush it, is just that it’s a myth.
Brett Bartholomew 05:34
Guys, leadership depends on the context, your ability to learn depends on your engagement and your desire. And this is also a distinction that we talked about on the call about does somebody want to be helped? Do they actually want to learn? And do they want to be helped or guided? Or are they looking to be saved? Everybody knows that person, that’s the ho-hum, humdrum kind of person, kind of er mentality where every time you talk to him, they got the same problems.
And you know, they’ll ask for you’ll give them solutions, or they’ll provide ways that they’ve tried doing this, but nothing works, and nothing seems to make it through and what have you. And those are situations where a lot of times those people aren’t ready for change. And that’s not to say that you give up on them at all, right? That depends on what your bandwidth is, as a leader, you’ve got to be able to balance those things, you’ve got to say, hey, where’s this person at? Can I meet them? where they’re at? You know, what’s this development timeline possibly look like? And what’s their motivation to learn this in the first place?
Brett Bartholomew 06:31
But if you have somebody that genuinely, let’s say, is introverted, unsure of themselves? And you know, they feel like they stumble over words, they have a lot of disfluencies? Can they be taught the art of coaching? Or can they improve at it? Absolutely. You know, and we had one person argue this point on a separate call. And what I’d said to them, guys, is it apologies for those of you that aren’t in training, but surely you understand the example here. You know, I’ve worked with a lot of athletes that have different levels of genetics, right? Some are just absolute freaks, they’re blessed in many ways, some don’t got it, right there, they’re like, Rudy, they just don’t have it the same way, I’m still going to train both of these individuals with proper principles and a rigorous kind of modalities and what have you. Because I want them to maximize what they do have, regardless of their genetic level, regardless of if there’s somebody that’s going to jump out of the roof or somebody that’s barely gonna leave the ground, regardless of if somebody is going to be able to sprint, you know, fast as all get out, or somebody looks like it’s maybe a fast jog, you want to maximize the potential that you have. And that’s relative to everybody. You know, I think that this is the problem we have when we romanticize what effective leadership looks like. And we don’t understand that it is in context. I teach the art of coaching for a living, and there’s situations where I would not be the most effective leader. And that’s fine, right? That’s fine.
That doesn’t have anything to say about your ability to adapt, it just means are you the right fit? Because that’s the term that’s often missing here, right? Not just do they have the motivation to learn, but is it the right fit, and that could be the right fit within your staff, that could be the right fit of the what you’re trying to teach them, that can be the right fit in terms of is it the best timing for this, you know, in terms of everything that you need to teach and everything they need to learn, that matters as well. But you absolutely can take somebody who’s very competent, or not competent, whatever you can take a human being, and you can improve their ability to relate to others. That’s a basic survival mechanism. Right?
Brett Bartholomew 08:31
At some point in time, there was, you know, a Neanderthal or there is a CRO-Magnon man. And, or there is, you know, we could look at any other time and there’s a pioneer, there is what have you. And they had to learn how to blend in with a group. Maybe that was a tribe, maybe that was a group of a different orientation, depending on the time we’re talking about in history, but they had to blend in and they had to put their differences aside. And we suck at that as a society now, right? We just do, we’re not very good at that. Because we have this, what’s the word I want to use? That’s ironic, right?
We have taken down or kind of just look past some of the more nuanced elements of communication, the worse you are at communicating, the worse you are in terms of your self awareness, and vice versa, by the way, the worse you are at relating to other people, and you’re going to find that you waste a lot of energy, creative and productivity based energy as well, trying to make things happen against greater friction, because you don’t know how to relate. You don’t, you know, and that’s the trick. So here’s what you do, just to make this actionable. Here’s what you can do, right?
If I take somebody and I have to upskill them in an aspect of the art of coaching, the first thing I have to do is get a baseline of where they’re at. And this is why we have so many of the things that we do, we have coaching evaluations, we have a research bat communication evaluation that we use at our workshops, and we use it on our online communication training as well. And we get a baseline of the person and the situations they find themselves and I follow this. Because some people may feel like they really struggle with certain topics or certain things in one situation, right? Maybe somebody is not extroverted, you know, when it comes to their work environment, but if you get them around really close family, friends, or maybe family in general, or maybe family while they’re at the bowling alley, or maybe it’s a backyard barbecue, right, there’s little bit more of that extraversion that does come out of them.
Brett Bartholomew 10:23
Again, it’s shades of gray, it’s levels, there’s levels to this. So we have to look at the person and the situation. And we have to get a baseline and we have to see where they struggle and what is it about that and if it’s not about their personality, or the other personalities that they’re interacting with, what is it about the situation, you know. Maybe some people struggle in situations that are pretty, it’s loud, it’s chaotic, there’s a lot of music, or there’s a lot of people around. But when there’s silence, or it’s a smaller group, they do really well, they can give intimate analytical details to people.
And that’s the third part that goes into this is that environment, if you learn to look at and assess your own skills within the context of your own traits, as an individual, right, what drives you, and you can find that on our website as well, artofcoaching.com/whatdrivesyou, your own drives, your motivations, your, the situations you find yourself in? Where do you succeed? Where do you struggle, and then the type of environments, right, where you tend to be more of who you’d like to be, and what have you, and you look at these commonalities, that gives you an idea.
And then what you want to do is find this perceptual gap, you want to be able to say, alright, you tend to struggle, in terms of thinking of metaphors, right, I’ll give you a practical example, I once worked with a coach, brilliant coach, but he couldn’t get himself out of his habit of, you know, always over explaining things, something wrong, guilty of, many times.
Brett Bartholomew 11:45
That’s why it’s so powerful to understand how stories and metaphors work. And so we’re working on, you know, drawing upon certain metaphors. The issue is, it’s hard to draw upon metaphors, if you don’t have great source material. A lot of what this coach read on was all of what they read was just technical, scientific base work, stuff where metaphorical language often isn’t used, at least not in the context of the profession he was in, right, like it’s very direct, specific language. And that as a way of whatever you’re reading, and whatever content you’re engaging with at the time, that’s going to have a way of seeping its way into your daily lexicon.
And so you know, I remember asking him, I go ahead, do you ever read fiction? Or do you ever even just watch a show with your wife at night? No, not really, I just feel like it’s wasted time. And immediately, I could relate, because I went through a big span of my life where I felt like if I wasn’t taking in information at all times, that I was not productive. I mean, literally, as I’m recording this, I’m in my sling. I’m one week out from my shoulder surgery. And there’s a lot of things I’m severely limited in doing. And I still have trouble just chilling and recovering. I feel like I gotta be productive all the time. So that demons still there. But back to him. What we learned is there was no external inspiration to draw from, you know, he couldn’t ask his athletes Hey, have you seen this episode of blank? Because it’s kind of like this, or hey, think of it this way? Because it’s kind of like that.
Brett Bartholomew 13:05
And metaphors are a way to scale and scaffold, you know, what can be barriers to just people overthinking in general. So yes, you’re hearing me correctly. All we prescribed for this individual right off the bat is like expand the ambit of your interests. Right? Like, go see a movie that has nothing to do with your field, listen to a podcast, if that’s what you have to do. That has nothing to do with your field, read a fiction book, yes, a fiction book, do something, right? If you want or you know what better yet, here you go. Here’s some research on metaphors and how beneficial they can be to communication.
And believe it or not something that small helped him, we don’t try to reinvent the wheel, we try to just find where you’re at. And we try to make sense of it. Because we want to understand the situation, the person and the environment in which these behaviors happen. And we want to upgrade it. And then what we can do is some simple surveys, we can say hey, you know, like, how did you feel about this? Was that more relatable? And it doesn’t have to be guys like, I’m not suggesting that you send your people, you know, a Survey Monkey thing. There have been plenty of times I’ve led staff meetings, and I’ve been explaining something fairly complex and I say, Stop.
Brett Bartholomew 14:10
Do any of you watch Queens Gambit? Okay, think of it this way. Here’s the move we’re trying to make. Here’s the outcome we want to achieve. Now, all of a sudden, somebody would say, all right, like, yeah, that makes sense to me. By the way, we just watched that last night. It was amazing. Then I’d say great, what about that metaphor made sense you? And a lot of times what they’d say is, well, you referenced a show I’ve watched so I could see it. When you explain what you explained before I couldn’t see it because I’m still trying to hear you, understand your description and then I’m trying to see it in my mind’s eye. That works. You know, for some other people.
It’s just about understanding modal strengths. You might have people that are more kinesthetic, they need to feel it, touch it. They need to be able to warp it. This happens a lot in Silicon Valley. When they’re making things they’ve got to feel what this prototype looks like. Right? So what you’re talking about here is shaping the learning experience. If you have somebody who has a genuine desire to learn and improve, and you can shape the learning experience to meet them where they’re at. And you have a better idea of the context surrounding what they struggle with, why they struggle with it and when they struggle with it, you can create a really impactful toolkit.
Brett Bartholomew 15:17
So yes, the art of coaching can be taught, but you want it, you got to have to want to learn it. Now, here’s one thing I talked about a little bit before. You’re certain people, I don’t try. I don’t try to help that much anymore. And I know that sounds bad. But if somebody comes to me with like, a prove it to me mentality, and they’re like, hey, you know, this person is bad at this, and yada, yada, yada, and I don’t think he can be helped. You know, I know you’re some guru here, prove it, I’m gonna look at them and I’m gonna get out of my face, dude, this isn’t some circus trick. Being a coach and educator, a teacher or whatever is not a circus trick.
Nobody’s here trying to gain the approval of other people. What we’re asking here is a fundamentally simple question. Can somebody improve at something they give a shit about? Can they? And the answer is yes, if they care enough, and they get specific enough about the issues in the situation, and you have a teacher that can help them become more self aware and work through it, you can improve, and it’s worth your time, more than $12 billion a year is lost in health care in the United States due to poor communication. Why does that matter?
Because as all this money that was spent, whether it’s through litigations, or loss efficiency, or what have you, in the medical realm, continue to build up and build up and build up, we now see medical practitioners have to go through communication training, essentially art of coaching training, they have to go through training that helps them relate better to their clients and patients.
Brett Bartholomew 16:44
And by the way, I have a cracker of an episode coming up on that, right when it’s a solo rant episode, I think you guys will love it all about my experience, going through the healthcare system, with a surgery and seeing some of the unique communication things that go on. Because what I’ve been doing for the last six months is studying a lot about how these evaluations are formed, and how other industries do these things. And it’s really fascinating, because it just continues to show gaps everywhere. But I hope you picked up on everything we talked about today.
The gist was can the art of coaching be taught? Absolutely. If somebody wants to learn it, they have a good coach, right? Somebody that understands the nuances of personality and the nature of situations. And what you guys have to ask yourself is, you know, what is it that when you think of an effective leader, or what you want to be as a leader in the first place? What comes to mind? And why is that your model? That’s what I want to ask you.
Because how I flipped that question a lot of times now is, hey, yeah, you can become better at communicating and relating and building relationships with people, without a doubt. And I’m not going to argue the proof of that exists. It exists every day through human history, people learn to coexist and get stuff done. Right? That’s the reality. But the thing you have to ask yourself is, what do you think is your model? What’s your model of great leadership, effective leadership, or truly somebody that’s amazing at the art of coaching? And why does that come to mind for you? Why is that you know, the aspirational thing that pops up in your head? What are you trying to become, because if you’re somebody that thinks you are in the wrong, because you’re introverted, you’re a lone wolf, you don’t really belong, and like, you feel like you don’t really belong.
And you’re like, hey, I want to be more extroverted, I want to be more gregarious, you might be selling yourself short. Because there are some really, really, really great and impactful people who are introverts in this world. And believe me, I know, there’s research that talks about, you know, if people who talk more and have certain tone of voice and what have you are often more successful.
Brett Bartholomew 18:37
Guys, don’t let a study especially, you know, a couple of studies here and there, dictate what’s effective in your life, or how you should live it. Right. I’m somebody that’s an example of I’m pretty rough around the edges, right? I don’t always that I can put my science hat on or I can put my locker room hat on, you know, I can speak eloquently or I can sit there and speak in a way that would probably, you know, embarrass my family and what have you.
But the reality is, like, I don’t try to be something I’m not. And I’m not for everybody. And that’s what I hope you guys take as an empowerment message from this is, wherever you are, just try to be better at that, you don’t need to be something radically different. Because you want the right kind of people for what you’re trying to achieve to gravitate towards you. And of course, I’m not talking about extremes. If you’re just an ass and you’re somebody that’s close-minded. I just don’t want you to get off this podcast and think that because you’re introverted or you feel like you know, you’re not part of this loud society we have now that you don’t belong, trust me, there are billions of people and I’m not exaggerating, who would relate to you and love to be coached by you.
Brett Bartholomew 19:38
All I’m saying is take a step forward into becoming more of what you already are. Assess it, evaluate it, and be coached. Because the key of the art of coaching and improving it is getting a coach yourself.
That’s something I’ve doubled down on a lot in the past year. I have three different coaches helping me, one with one part of my business, another one with part of my storytelling because I’m going to be doing a potentially TED talk in the future. And then you know, I have a coach helping me through my doctorate and I have to learn how to communicate in those contexts in very different ways, how I communicate my business in my doctoral work and in a speech that is basically going to be 15 minutes and asked to be simple, but not easy, right? Like it has to be something that’s absorbable without being dumbed down, and it’s hard to do those things if you don’t assess it and analyze it.
Brett Bartholomew 20:26
Alright guys, that does it for my rant today. The art of coaching can’t be taught, but you can become more of what you already are. The key is you got to give, I clean that up. You got to care, you got to want to learn, you got to engage with the material, you have to be open to uncomfortable truths about yourself and you have to be patient right, bottom line, but it absolutely can be taught just like anything else can be taught if you care and you spend the time on it.
Brett Bartholomew 20:49
Alright, this is Brett Bartholomew from the Art Of Coaching. Appreciate you all, signing off.
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