I was reading a piece by my colleague, Dave Wondra, on coaching recently and it struck a cord. Dave, a master coach, was writing while sitting in his favorite pickup truck, watching his daughter’s soccer team practice. He realized that she has improved at soccer precisely because she has stuck with the practice of soccer. Here’s the insight that hit him at that moment:

When I consider coaching, a parallel comes to mind ?��Ǩ��� a commitment to learning is also required to really get what coaching is all about. There is a big difference between intellectually understanding how to coach (?��Ǩ?�I know?��Ǩ��) and being able to gracefully and naturally put that knowledge into action (?��Ǩ?�I know and I can do?��Ǩ��). In this western culture of ours, we like to believe that memorizing processes, and learning short cuts and secrets, is the path to success. While this approach may work in some pursuits, I am clear it is not the path to becoming a masterful coach.

Rather, it?��Ǩ�Ѣs a matter of practicing the craft, over and over and over again. But while being in the practice of coaching is repetitious, it takes more than mere repetition to become a masterful coach. For one thing, we must ensure that we are always reflecting on the impact our methods have on our those we coach. This sort of regular self-reflection goes a long way toward ensuring that we continue to hone our coaching skills. One way to make a coaching practice a learning practice is to regularly ask ourselves the following three questions:

?��Ǩ�� What worked well that I will do again next time?
?��Ǩ�� What didn?��Ǩ�Ѣt work well that I won?��Ǩ�Ѣt do next time?
?��Ǩ�� What should I try next time that I haven?��Ǩ�Ѣt tried before?

I think Dave has pointed out a very important dynamic that supports productive coaching. Yes, we can (and should) provide feedback to those we coach. We love it when it’s positive and we can see the opportunity even when the feedback is more difficult to hear (or deliver). And yes, we can (and should) facilitate the process of getting feedback from others for the person we’re coaching. After all, we can’t be everywhere or see everything. Even if we could, someone else can often provide that little nugget of insight that our colleague just can’t hear from us. (Remember what it was like getting all of your feedback from your mom? Sometimes a kindly uncle could deliver the very same message and we could actually hear it!)

But to make coaching really work, feedback has to go both ways. Regularly, we have to stop and ask those we coach those magic questions: How is this going for you? What’s working? What would you like to see more/less of?

Doing so does two things (that I can think of off the top of my head): It helps us to actually get better at coaching (and at coaching in this particular relationship) and it gives our colleague the real opportunity to influence how the relationship works. Now she’s sharing the responsibility with me and helping me do a better job of adding value to her work. It’s a subtle, but important change. And it’s a key part of the practice of coaching.