How can you tell the difference between good, bad and extraordinary coaches?
For every remarkable thing I’ve accomplished, I can link it to a coach or mentor who helped me get there. The truth is that I’ve had coaches since the age of five, so it’s no surprise that by now I’ve had a ridiculously high number of coaches. Some were terrible, many were good and a few were absolutely extraordinary.
I will now share you with my top tips to find outstanding coaches… and I have to admit that it feels like I’m giving away my “biggest secret”, because the one thing that’s made the biggest difference for me is being guided by some of the world’s best coaches.
My very first world class coach and what he taught me
I started judo at the age of five, and it turns out that my judo coach who had not finished elementary school was actually the coaching genius who taught me the basis of what I do.
When my judo coach told me to do 50 push ups, I’d do 50 push ups.
When my judo coach told me to gain 3 kilos for a competition, so that I would be at the high-end of my weight category, I gained 3 kilos.
When my judo coach told me to move my thumb 1 millimeter to the left, to make a throw more effective, I’d move my thumb 1 millimeter to the left.
[highlight]I didn’t follow him blindly because he was my coach;[/highlight]
[highlight]He was my coach because I followed him consciously. [/highlight]
Many times he told me things I didn’t like to hear, and made me do things I didn’t enjoy doing. But he never lied to me and always told me the truth. I observed his commitment to serving me, and consistently, I saw the results of his guidance.
He wasn’t perfect, and he made mistakes, like every human does; yet it was very clear to me (and my parents) that his intention and focus was always to help me grow. The journey was long and painful. It took almost 12 years to get my black belt, and often up to 10 hours a week of intense practice, which was both emotionally and physically painful.
As a result I got the silver medal at the Brussels Championship at 15. Then when I got my black belt, I was both the youngest person and the one who got the highest score. This is something I never achieved academically… because no teacher in school was even close to being as good an instructor as my judo coach.
When I practiced judo in South Korea at 18, which is the second-best country in the world in judo, the South Korean teacher asked me to show him and his students what my coach had taught me in Belgium. When I was at Bristol University, I ended up coaching the judo team, even though the official coach had won a bronze medal in the Olympics 20 years earlier.
What I learned from these two experiences is that I only discovered how well my coach had prepared me when I was faced with these opportunities. And it was only a few years later that I discovered that what I had learned from him would become the basis of my entire career.
All I knew at the time is that I could see results and that we had a strong bond of trust: I had faith in him like he had faith in me. I told my coach when I disagreed, and he listened, yet ultimately, he called the shots. I followed his guidance even when I disagreed because I knew that whatever he wanted me to practice, would ultimately benefit me.
He made it very clear from the beginning that in the dojo, he was the master; and that during the fights, I was. This the same with my coaches: during the sessions they guide me and lead, outside of the sessions I am my own master. It isn't a question of power, simply an agreement between two people. He promised that if I followed his guidance, I would become a great judo practitioner; and I promised to give it my best, no matter how difficult the challenge is. We both delivered on our promises and that’s why we have grown a tremendous respect for each other.
3 things you can learn to find extraordinary coaches
Jumping forward by a little over 10 years, and I still have coaches. Last year, I completed a 6-month program with one of my business coaches, which was outstanding. It was a program for which I had to pay for the whole thing upfront, and I liked that model so I asked my spiritual coach to do a similar 6-month program with him. He refused and told me to reach out to him whenever I want coaching, session by session.
What’s interesting to notice is that by refusing my offer, I ended up spending less money than I had planned because in instead of the one session a month I wanted, I ended up doing with him one session every 2-3 months... and the result was outstanding.
You may be interested to know that I still work with both coaches because they’re both extraordinary… in their own unique ways. They both deliver outstanding coaching, and paradoxically, their approaches are both as different from each other as they are similar to each other.
What you can learn from these stories is that the most extraordinary coaches have their way of working. Extraordinary coaches are crystal clear on how they work, and they don’t compromise because they only work with a client when they can give their very best.
The 3 criteria to find an extraordinary coach:
[toggle title="1. Is it their way or the highway?"] Does the coach know exactly how they coach, and how they will guide me?
I want a coach who shows me clearly how they coach, and that it’s their way or the highway.
I want a coach who’s a leader (ie. they lead my growth), and I want a coach who believes 100% that if I follow their process it will give results.
Caution: note that pushing this trait to the extreme can be someone who is close-minded.
[toggle title="2. Are they masters or servants?"] Does the coach want to serve me?
I want a coach who has my interest at heart. I want to feel that they are focused 100% on my growth, and what’s good for me, even if it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable.
They’re not pushing their agenda, their nostalgia, nor what is good for them. My goals and what I want is what matters most to them, and they serve me even when it means annoying me.
Caution: note that this trait pushed to an extreme can be someone who does everything to please you, and not be willing to challenge you. If they do everything you ask them and never say “no”, then there’s a problem. [/toggle]
[toggle title="3. Do they create results?"] When I take action after a coaching session is over, do I observe change?
I want a coach who tells me, or helps me decide what and how I will practice what I have learned during the session, because I know that it is only through repetition that I will see results.
By repeating certain actions over and over, I must see something change, otherwise the coaching is not working.
If I don’t take action and practice what I’m being given, then the problem is that I’m not making myself coachable, and then I have to reflect on whether I am really committed.
If I give myself 100%, practice and take action, I want to see changes between every session.
Caution: to an extreme this can put too much pressure on the coach to “deliver” results, while really it is ME as the coaching client whose job it is to deliver results
If you want to dig deeper, answer these questions IN the COMMENTS section below:
- What are your best / worst experiences with a coach?
- When you’ve hired coaches in the past, what was your selection process? What were you looking for? What guidelines did you follow?
- When you hired coaches in the past, what worked, and what didn’t work?