When coaching for compliance, even if it is well intentioned, a coach can elicit a defence response from the person being coached. People tend to experience this as a stress response accompanied by negative emotions and activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Which in turn, triggers a number of hormonal processes that essentially shut down the capacity to learn or change in any way.
At this point, people have been thrown into the negative emotional attractor, NEA, which we will cover more another time. In this state, people are in survival mode, their creativity and openness to new ideas are greatly diminished and the likely that they will make or sustain behavioural change is extremely low.
Let’s think about a child in little league baseball and compare 2 different “Coaching Styles”
This little guy is playing third base in a close playoff game.
When he makes a throwing error to first base, his coach yells and screams and tells him how costly that mistake was. “How could you mess up such a simple throw?” Suddenly the horror the player already feels for having made a mistake is magnified by 10! His stress level goes through the roof. He is now terrified with a racing heart and shallow rapid breathing. All he can think about is the gravity of his error and he prays that the next ball doesn’t come to him.
But, of course it does. He is now so paralyzed from the corrective coaching he received that he bobbles a routine ground ball, making yet another error. This is what often happens when coaching for compliance. Although, you as the leader may think that you are helping individuals improve. Instead, a stress response happens and activates the sympathetic nervous system and actually makes them less capable of learning, developing or changing behaviour.
Coaching with compassion elicits a very different response.
Focus on future state and strengths. The energy and excitement around this positive emotional retractor style activates the parasympathetic pervious system which sets into motion a set of physiological responses that put the person in a more relaxed and open state. Creative juices flow, new neuropathways form in the brain, thus paving the way for new learning and sustained behavioural change to occur.
Upon seeing a throwing error in the big game, the coach calls a quick time out. He visits the player at third base, telling him that it is ok. He reminds him to take a deep breath, relax and get ready for the next batter. He reinforces the fact that he is one of the best third basemen in the league and tells him that he has made that throw a hundred times. All he has to do is think about his mechanics and see himself making a good throw. Just as he does 99 percent of the time.
After that coaching and reassurance, the player is now calmer, more relaxed and ready for the next play. This time, when the ball comes to him, it is not a routine ground ball, but rather a tricky play. He won’t have time to glove the ball and still make the throw to first, he has to get creative. Thinking quickly, he grabs the ball with his bare hand, sets his feet, squares his shoulders and makes a beautiful long target through to first base for the out. Because his coach helped him reflect on his strengths and envision a positive outcome, evoking the PEA and activating his parasympathetic nervous system, he was able to relax and think more clearly and creatively.
Looking at this relevant example outside of your own “coaching & leadership efforts” what is coming up for you?
Reach out to discuss your efforts and see how we can partner together. I can help you discover your executive presence and support you to adopt a coach approach.
It is not surprising that too often leaders fail to create positive, sustained behaviour change. When trying to help them, sometimes without knowing you trigger a stress response instead. Is this happening in your team?
You are creative, capable, wise and good. As are your team members. Let’s step into possibility and help. To be an effective leader, you can’t get around the critical role that emotions play in people’s change efforts. Leaders need to learn a coaching process, this requires learning how to tune in to the person being coached, creating a sense of synchrony that allows you to read as well as influence the emotions the person is experience. I wrote about the Role of Emotional Contagion in Coaching here.
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