Remember the show Father Knows Best? It ran from 1954 to 1966 and in that time, the concept was not offensive. Remnants of this idea that someone in our midst might know best, however, still exist in our culture. One such role beyond parent, subject to this idea, is coach. The sports team coach is said to know what’s best for the players. The media coach is said to know what’s best for camera shy leaders. And the leader playing the role of coach is said to know what’s best for their team members. Do any of these coaches really know what’s best or are they merely in a position of authority that we respect, and infrequently question, much like the role of father being believed to know best? This question is best answered by “it depends”, but, as there are with most questions, two sides will be addressed in this post with reasons for both and evidence of why each may be true for you.
I must first make a confession. I am an Executive Business Coach. Writing this post without telling you that feels dishonest and if you found out later, you might question the validity of what I’ve written. Thus, in an unusual use of first person in the Monday Moment, what I can tell you is based on experience. Yes, the coach always know best, but not in as many areas as you might think. Here’s what is meant by that. We cannot possibly see our own behavior objectively. We cannot see how we lead with clarity. We cannot see how the team perceives us without outside feedback. We can’t see our barriers and break them down as easily as someone looking from the outside in and we don’t respond to the voices in our head holding us accountable nearly as well as we respond to the voice of someone else. So, for those reasons, yes, your coach knows best because their vision is clearer. From any coach you would hire to help you become a better leader, more aware communicator or more effective manager, these are the bare minimum standards to look for and expect: objectivity, more listening than talking, assessments positioned initially as hypotheses, and continual engagement of you, your opinion, and your feedback in every step of their process. Oh, and yes, they should have a process. Whether the model they choose to use is the same one they use with your colleague or boss, is not a decision to which you are usually privy, but if you learned they had made a different choice with another person, it is because they can see a different need of that other person. Thus, also, is the nature of valuable business coaching. No one human being fits neatly and cleanly into one box, quadrant, process, model, or another, so when a coach has access to more than one model, which every experienced coach will, they will know best which one to use that will improve the results you’ve requested. After all, your coaching is about your results, which leads us to the other side of this answer.
Often the coach you hire or are assigned to work with doesn’t know best what’s in your head, unless of course you tell them. In coaching, we do tend to get a “sense” if you will and follow hunches, but they should be presented as such, versus steadfastly directing you what to do, in the cases when only you truly know what’s best for you. In the case of working with many of my own clients, one thing that is a common theme is a focus on their own authentic personality. With that comes my natural tendency to advise on a topic and give direction. Not all personalities need this kind of guidance. Not all clients are able to be completely forthright. Not all clients reveal every relevant detail that could shift the value of any stated advice. Thus, for example, if your coach tells you they know best about the culture of your office, when they’ve never been there, beware. If your coach tells you they know best the nature of your authenticity, but you strongly disagree, be willing to have that discussion and clearly state your opinion. It is not a coaches place to tell you what to do without leaving room for you to buy off on, agree with, or show willingness to try a new thing or two. They are to challenge you, yes, act as if they know better than you when the reality is that they simply see you more clearly than it’s possible for you to, no. They do not know best who you are, merely have a vantage point outside your own eyeballs that lets them see things you may have missed and share them with you for consideration.
It really does depend. Does your coach know what’s best for you? How much do you trust them, value their opinion based on their background or credentials, and feel as if they get you? Those are powerful inner questions to ask of yourself when embarking on a coaching relationship. Misplaced trust in a coach who may not know you best can be disastrous. Trusting yourself on when you might need one and then seeking out the one who gives you the greatest sense of optimism that you might actually get somewhere is the recipe for success.
If this resonates with you and a business coaching relationship is one you’re currently looking to pursue, perhaps it makes sense for us to simply have a conversation. I look forward to learning more, perhaps sharing guidance, and certainly talking with, versus AT, you. Oh, and as an aside, I’ve had that coach and boss who told me what to do and back then I was afraid to question if that action was right for me, so remember at all times when working with your coach, it’s you who knows you best and they are there to work with you so you can BE your best.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!