I was conducting some team bonding exercises with the young MCC cricket team for this season last week. Every member of the team shared one strength and one area to improve for everyone else. Rudra, senior player and skipper potential, said that young Vijay was a fabulous asset to the team with his attitude. In areas to improve he said Vijay had the habit of hitting out when he should defend and that weakness had cost the team a few matches.
'I told him to stay a the wicket and we could save the game. But he went for a shot and got out.'
I told Vijay to bear that in mind. He nodded.
I asked Rudra if he had something to learn from this experience.
'What else could I do?' he asked genuinely flummoxed. 'I told him three times. It is up to him. He has to do it now.'
As far as Rudra was concerned, he had done all he could.
I asked him to score a hundred or a double hundred. Would he be able to deliver? If not what does it mean? If I told him ten times - would that help?
Or - should I find ways to actually help him score that hundred? Would he like that?
"I Told Him" - My Job Is Over
'I did my job', 'I did my best', 'I told him so many times, I gave feedback, now its up to him'. Instead of helping him perform better, you have increased pressure on that person by pointing out what could be done (and by default, what he was not doing). Maybe, he would have been better off if you had not told him anything.
Feedback Should Lead to Better Results
Coaching and mentoring, or even having a genuine interest in making the other person perform better, involves finding ways to actually improve the performance or behavior. Not merely dump information or targets or observations on the other person which only disturbs their morale and upsets their mental state.
If your advise is not adding to the performance, maybe you are better off not giving advise.
It's About Them - Not You
If you are really interested, keep the other person in focus, not your self. Every sentence that begins with 'I did...' is about you. If you can find sentences that start with 'He did...' with something positive to say about the other person, you are on to something.
Saying it, or giving feedback, does not absolve you of the responsibility. Think through and say stuff that causes a shift in energy. You can sense the increase or drop in energy almost immediately.
If the energy and performances drop, you have not thought through enough, and can do more harm than good.
But My Intent Was Good
'But I meant well,' is another common refrain. It's like standing on the bank of the river and telling a drowning person that he is drowning and he should try harder to save himself. If you can save him do it, else shut up. Good intent should result in good results for the other person.Otherwise the only good this intent has done is for you and your ego. It's easy to feel like you have done a lot of good by pointing out all that is not right about the other person and by setting them lofty targets without really empowering them with the knowledge to do it. If performances are falling, your good intent is obviously no good.
Don't Mistake Half-Baked Coaching for Giving Tough Feedback
There are coaches who are tough on their wards because they want the wards to perform to their potential. They guide, facilitate and allow the player to reach his potential. Then there are coaches who are tough without showing the path, without any improvement. Wards love the first types. We always loved the rigour and the discipline that our good coaches subjected us to and are always grateful to them for making us tougher. The second type of a coach can kill our spirit and many wards actually stop enjoying the sport or game or work. Some quit.
Evolution of Coaches, Teachers and Managers
In the first stage of a coach's evolution, the coach is all too pleased to have the power of teaching someone and downloads all that he knows on to the poor wards. In this case he may not even know the craft well enough to teach its practices well. The second stage of evolution is when he knows the craft but does not know how to impart it. Here he talks so much about himself and how good he is and how much more the others need to do to get better. Consequently it only demoralises the wards. In the third stage, the coach knows his job (to transfer knowledge of the craft, not knowledge of himself and his greatness), and it shows in the wards performance. The coach prepares in a way that the ward imbibes the right practices and gets the right results - knowingly or unknowingly. The results speak. The ward is empowered. The coach has done his job.
Next Time - Think Through
The next time you wish to give free advise, ask yourself this. Is what you are saying empowering the other person? Can you see the concentration increasing, the light shining brighter in his eye? Can you feel a shift in energy, and improvement in performance? If yes, you have empowered the person. If not, maybe you should work on yourself some more.
Stop Saying 'I Told Him'
Each time we say 'I told him but he did not do it', we are accepting failure. If he fails, we have failed. If he is unhappy, we have failed. We need to go back to the drawing board and find that one elegant solution that will produce results. It may not always be words that empower (I Told You So). If you love your ward, if you know your job, if you love your craft, you will invest enough to find a way to better that performance. To bring a smile to the ward's face, to see him enjoy the performance. Just by being there sometimes. With a small input at others. Mostly by making him feel good about himself in the end.