Be a Better Coach in 3 Steps – Part 2: Essential Communication & Business Skills
The world’s best coaches regularly make a practice of also being some of the best students. They know the importance of being humble and constantly striving for success when it comes to what it takes to be a leader, mentor, and instructor.
In part one of this series we looked at the three areas you can examine to improve yourself as a coach – technical knowledge, communication ability, and business acumen – and we discussed widening your technical knowledge in-depth.
Now, it’s time to focus on getting your technical skills OUT of your head, INTO your students, and INTO the world.
Deepen Your Communication Ability
All the technical knowledge in the world doesn’t do you any good if you can’t impart it to others. Giving knowledge to others, perhaps ironically, relies heavily on your ability to listen to others and communicate with them where THEY are. And I don’t mean where they are physically, but where they are mentally and emotionally. In the simplest example, you can’t coach a beginner like an advanced student and vice versa. In more complex scenarios, you can’t coach a visual learner like an auditory learner, or an angry student like a shy student.
Different people need to hear different voices and different cues. Your job as a coach is to increase your lexicon on a near daily basis so you can find the language your client needs to hear. This is how you will have them reach their goals. And when they reach their goals you effect their very being, both inside and outside the gym.
Remember your best coaches and teachers – did they just teach you about your sport, or did they affect you as a human being? Did what you learn bleed outside the gym or classroom? Chances are, those coaches and teachers were great communicators.
Like technical skills, there are many levels and areas of skill when it comes to communication. Some new coaches may just be working on feeling comfortable in front of a group. Some might be fine with a group, but are terrified of the idea of a sixty-minute private session. Some can speak without a problem, but can’t write a decent blog for their website or an effective email communication to their clientele. As such, there are a number of ways to attack deepening your communication ability.
When it comes to really connecting with other human beings there are a number of excellent seminars available. Things like Tony Robbins and Landmark Education are two of the first that come to mind, but there are many other similar resources out there. The truth of communication is, you can’t get good at communicating with others until you’re good at communicating with yourself. Whatever you’ve got in your head about yourself will always stand between you and others. So get yourself clear and in the process you’ll find the rest of the world suddenly gets easier to navigate, and lo-and-behold people are going to find you more compelling and attractive.
Classes are particularly great if you are working on your writing skills. Typically writing classes at a local community college are quite inexpensive. If you are pressed for time, check out online courses. I have taken a number over the years through community colleges, universities, and online companies like mediabistro.com.
We’ve all seen the self-improvement aisles at the bookstore. There are a billion of these types of books out there. Just like when we talked about finding books to read on technical knowledge, ask your favorite coaches and teachers what communications books they recommend.
The internet is a great resource for learning how to write effectively, whether it be via your coaching blog or emails to your clients. A few sites I swear by are Writetodone.com and Copyblogger.com. Breaking Muscle’s own Coach Nick Horton also wrote a great article on The 7 Deadly Sins of Fitness Blogging.
Increase Your Business Acumen
Now you’ve got technical knowledge and you’re on the path toward effective and clear communication with others. Great, but now there’s this thing called accounting, this other thing called marketing, and the whole staff management situation. What do you do with all that?
Most of us never really thought about those aspects when we decided to become trainers or coaches, or at least we might not have realized just how complicated being an entrepreneur can be. Running your business is a skill set, just like anything else you’ve taken on as a coach and you can’t pretend you don’t need to study it or your business will suffer.
Between in-person seminars and online webinars, there are a ton of resources out there regarding small business development. Within the CrossFit community alone there are a number of affiliate owners and business consultants spreading the word about how they grew as enterprises and striving to help others avoid the pitfalls. One example of this is John Burch at The BIZ.
Perhaps you are more interested in one-on-one coaching than seminars, though, and want to have someone guide you on your path, customized to your business. In that case you may want to hire a business mentor. Andy Petranek, entrepreneur and founder/owner of CrossFit LA, does just that. Andy is also an excellent communicator, so he can help you solve problems on a lot of levels. To contact him, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I fully admit I am a business book junkie. I love reading them. Again, talk to people you admire to find out what they recommend. It doesn’t matter if their business looks anything like yours. Maybe they run a restaurant or a machine shop, but the energy and freedom they have in their life and business is appealing to you – THOSE are the people you need to talk to. To get you started, two of my all-time favorite business books are The Starbucks Experience by Joseph Michelli and Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh of Zappos.
Networking Groups –
Networking groups are fantastic in that they serve multiple purposes. If you have a fear of getting up in front of others, or if you struggle with explaining what you do succinctly (the infamous “elevator speech”) you might investigate local networking groups. Typically you have to get up at every meeting and have a set, short period of time to explain what you do. It’s not only a great way to meet people in other businesses and spread the word about yourself, but it’s a great way to get good at the actual words you are spreading. Once, I did a version of this modeled after speed dating that was actually quite fun! Toastmasters is another resource available in most communities.
So now, maybe you’re full of good ideas on how you’re going to improve yourself as a coach. Or maybe you’re thinking, “Wow, there’s so much to learn.” Think about how you would coach your clients and apply that advice to yourself: take on small chunks at a time, seek out experts, and put your skills to regular practice.
Like any student, you won’t be great or feel like an expert at first, but with time and commitment your skills will grow. You will feel more confident in your technical knowledge, you will be better able to impart this knowledge to others, and you will run an effective business. You will start to feel like an educated and accomplished coach. Most important of all though, is that to be a good coach, you must always feel like a student.
Now that you've read both parts of this article, what do YOU plan to take on to improve your coaching/teaching ability?
In case you missed it, read part one: