#114-The Pivotal Moment In Coaching
John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader.
John: All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito, your host today. I would love to talk about a topic that is near and dear to me. It is without a doubt, I think for many leaders, one of the most challenging parts of leadership, and that is coaching. Coaching people. And for some people, this comes naturally. And wow, I give you all the credit in the world because, for me, this didn’t. It took me a while to understand it and learn it. And I had to be coached on how to coach. And today I do the coaching to coach the coaches. Wow. That’s a lot of coaches in there. But anyway, I figured some stuff out that really, really worked for me. I want to share them with you.
John: I hope they help you because no matter what you are, whether you’re a CEO of an organization, whether you’re a mid-level manager with your coach of a sports team, a principal, whatever, there are elements of this that will absolutely help make you a better coach and ultimately a better leader. And here’s what I look at. Coaching, ultimately, is helping somebody do something they would not have been able to do without your help. And it comes into play in all kinds of realms of life. As a parent, as a kid, as a student, a career-minded individual, a business owner, and relationships, whatever. Ultimately, we all need coaching. And ultimately, we’re always in a situation of being the coach, whether we realize it or not. So I’ll give you a quick example. Recently my son is now at driving age, getting ready to drive. And I got him, which has been a car that’s been in my mind for so many years, I got him a Jeep Wrangler and I love this car. It’s fantastic. It’s lifted. It’s got big tires. It’s like, I just can’t wait for the weather to turn and be able to take the doors off and everything like that. So I got it for him because it is his. But I also realized, wow, this really kind of a cool benefit that I’ll be able to drive it every once in a while and have some fun with it. So in any event, the one thing with it though, it’s a 2012 and it is a manual. So it is not an automatic transmission, it’s a manual.
John: So stick shift for those of you who have never driven a stick shift. Well, let me say this. For those of you who have driven a stick shift, a couple of things. One, once you learn how to drive a stick shift, you always know how to drive a stick shift. You never forget. Granted, you might get, you know, a little rusty at it, but you never forget. You can literally go 15, 20 years without driving a stick, jump into it and you can do it again. Secondly is, I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anybody who’s driven a stick shift that doesn’t love it. They think it’s awesome. Now, granted, if you’re in traffic, stop and go, it’s kind of a pain in the ass. But for the most part, it’s a lot of fun to drive a stick. Now, I don’t know, maybe someone out there is saying, I hate driving sticks. Send me a message. Let me know. You might be the first one I’ve talked to. But for the most part, I think everybody loves it.
John: So I got this Jeep for Nick, super excited like, wow, really cool, you know, experience. And at the same point, he’s kind of freaking about, OK, how am I going to learn how to drive stick and how am I going to figure this out and how is this. And I could see the questions that he was asking me were along the lines of like, OK, am I going to be able to do this? What’s it
going to require? Can you walk me through it? And you know, what’s funny is, you know, we’re talking on the phone. This is before we actually took possession of it. Let’s go through it over the phone and sit down and go through it. And I’m trying to describe it. And I’m like, OK, well, here’s the clutch, here’s the brake. Here’s the accelerator and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I’m trying to walk through it and teach it to him. And we went through it over and over and over again. I’m like, OK, here’s what we got to do with the pedal clutches down. You get the brake. Down your shift, you lift the, you know, off the brake, you start to put the acceleration down, you’re lifting the clutch up. You know you got to do this nice and smooth movement, blah, blah, blah. And we’re just going through it over and over and over again. And it’s getting to a point where he’s still asking so many questions, not really grasping it. We go through this again. Where do you do this again? What where so when do you put what happens when you come to a stoplight? What do you do? And I’m going through it and I’m finally like, buddy, listen, there is no way I can teach this to you just by talking through it and drawing it on a piece of paper. The only way you’re going to learn how to do it is you’ve got to jump in the driver’s seat and you’ve got to do it, and that’s it.
John: And it just reminded me that so many coaches there comes a point where you can’t just, you’ve got to end the classroom discussion. You have to get them out there doing the task. I don’t care if you’re learning how to be a presenter, if you’re learning how to fly a plane, if you’re learning how to drive a stick shift, whatever it is, or play basketball, you’ve got to ultimately get out there and play. You’ve got to do the thing you’re trying to learn how to do. Otherwise you are just never going to learn it. You can read so many books on it, you just can’t learn it. That’s how you do it. I don’t care what you are if you’re a brain surgeon or you’re, you know, a teacher or anything, so ultimately it came time to do that. And we got in the car, got into a big parking lot, and had him jump in the driver’s seat. And it was really, really a cool experience. Now, what it also brought to memory is and realization is that you’ve heard me talk about the four different competency levels.
John: And this is really critical to know because there’s one transition that is the most difficult by far. And if you realize that, then you start to say, OK, this isn’t as difficult because I just need to master this one transition to transition. So basically, any time we’re starting a new task, we’re starting off as unconsciously incompetent, which basically means, like Nick and like me, when I started driving stick, before I jumped in the car, before I knew anything about it, I didn’t know what I knew. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know the first thing about driving a stick shift. I had no idea how to do it. So unconsciously incompetent means you can’t do it and you don’t even know what you’re doing right or wrong. You really haven’t done it. Or if you have done it, you still just don’t know what you’re doing right or wrong. Then you make a transition to consciously incompetent, which means, oh, OK, you know, I’m riding a bike. OK, got it. OK, now I’m falling off the bike cause I’m not pedaling fast enough where I get to look forward. I can’t just look down. I’m crashing into things. OK, now I’m realizing what I’m doing wrong. So when he’s driving the stick which started off and right away of course, which I expected, he stalls and I said, OK, here’s the reason why. Lifting the clutch up too fast, you’re not putting the acceleration down enough. And ultimately that transition, is that going to move? So the car’s stalling. That’s what’s happening. So he
started to figure that out. Now he’s at the level of unconscious or consciously incompetent. So unless you drive, and write these things down, these four things are really valuable.
John: You start off as unconsciously incompetent. You then become consciously incompetent. OK, Nick saying I get it. I understand what I’m doing wrong. OK, now the next thing is figuring out how to do it right and you have to think through it. Now, what I will tell you, once you get through consciously competent, which is where you were, you really have to be conscious and aware of what you’re doing and do it right. You then move on to what’s called unconsciously competent, which means, like many of you, you jump in a car, you drive a car. We all know, we don’t even have to think about it. Right. We sometimes drive to a location we don’t even remember going to. We don’t even remember getting it, we just remember getting there. We don’t remember the journey because we’re so good at it. Our brain just goes into autopilot. We don’t even need to think about it. It’s like breathing. We don’t need to think about it, OK, I got to take a breath and take a breath out. It just happens. We’re unconsciously competent at it. The difficult part of coaching is the fact that when you were so good at something and you were unconsciously competent, it’s really hard to teach somebody because you actually have to take a step back. So it made me realize that, as I’m in the passenger seat of the car and Nick’s asking me these questions and even before we get in the car and I’m like, you know, he’s like, what do you do when you’re turning a corner? I’m like, you know what? I got to sit in the car. Just think this through. I gotta feel it because I don’t know. I couldn’t think of what it was that my body would do in those moments. And I really had to think hard.
John: I think this is a challenge that a lot of leaders have, a lot of coaches have, is they don’t take it back a step. They just say, well, you just gotta do it. Or you just you know, if you’re teaching a kid how to dribble a basketball, it’s like you forget all the mechanics that went into it to get your brain to become unconsciously incompetent. So the biggest message I would say to a leader is really force yourself and it’s tough, but take yourself back and really think through what are the things that you have to do to be successful, to do this task successfully. What goes into making that sales call? What goes into knowing how to pivot in that meeting? You know, what goes in? What were the things that you saw or heard or body language that you read that told you to do that? Because, again, it’s second nature to you. You don’t even have to think about it. You’re so good at it. You just do it. That’s why you’re a leader. That’s why you’re in your position. You did so well at the task. You’re now in a position to teach in others. But to be really, really effective, the best teachers, coaches, leaders are the ones that can take it back to being consciously competent. So here I am with Nick being very quickly reminded of this fact.
John: And so what I realized, though, and what I told them is, listen, you are going to stall this thing. No joke, we started 20 times in a row. He’s getting super frustrated. I’m like, listen, this is just part of learning it. I promise you, if you keep going, I promise you that you will ultimately learn this, become successful. When you get it, you will get it and you will never forget it. It will just hit you. And what I’m looking for here, this is the magic moment, the moment where whether you’re the student of the teacher, you hear this or you say this. And you go, oh, I got it, OK, I get it, all right, OK, I got it. That’s what you’re looking for, right? That Aha! Moment. Oh OK. Yeah, now I get it.
John: And for driving a stick shift, it’s just this feeling that you get where you know the proper balance between the acceleration and the clutch, you know the actual timing of it. You get the feel for it and it’s hard to explain and it’s hard to write it down. You can’t put an instruction manual. You have to get the feel for it. But once you get the feel for it, it’ll never go away. And that’s where you become consciously competent. We share with you my story about learning how to water ski the whole day, falling, falling, falling. And the one time I figured it out, my friend gave me great advice and I’m like, that’s the feeling I need in my legs. I need to push through the water and I stand up. And that did it and never, never had any problems again. I used to be a baseball pitcher and I remember, you know, learning how to throw one of the best pitchers a pitcher can throw is a split-finger fastball. It is a tough pitch to throw. And I remember reading books and I’m like, OK, so I’m putting the seams through my fingers are spread like this and I’m throwing the ball and it’s kind of a snap at the end. And I’m like, I’m reading this and I’m trying to do it on my own. And I’m like, I’m just so frustrated. I was. You can’t read how to throw a split-finger fastball. You have to be coached on how to do it.
John: And you just, even a coach has trouble teaching you how to do it. Even a professional pitcher is going to have difficulties because it’s just the feel of that snap. And I remember at a baseball camp, throwing, throwing, throwing, and I’m trying so hard because if you get this pitch, it’s one of the most effective pitches. The batter has a really difficult time reading this pitch. It comes in a really undetectable spin. And what happens is it comes in fast. So it’s basically like 90%-95% of your fastball speed and then the bottom drops out and there’s like no warning. It just drops. It’s like it just and it’s subtle enough. So it’s not perceptible but it’s big enough. So it’s effective and it’s a great, great pitch to master. Very few pitchers can get it. So I’m doing it. I’m doing it, I’m doing it to my arm is like falling off. And then one day one pitch, it was like, wow, I got it. I saw it. And it was amazing because I’m like, wow, that’s just the catcher was like, whoa, that’s amazing, the man just did it. And I’m like, well, OK, throw it back to me. Let me do it real quick. And it was that moment. I’m like, oh, OK, that’s the snap you got to do.
John: So what’s key with anything is you’ve got to get that person, you’ve got to get the person you’re coaching to that level that oh, I get it moment. So with my son, I’m like, listen, buddy, you are going to get this. You’re going to get the feel. And at some point, you’re going to get it. You’re gonna move it in the first and then you’re going to do the same thing and you’re going to move it into second. And when you do that, you’re now consciously competent and then the rest is easy because you’re just going to keep doing it over and over and over again, and eventually you’re not going to think about it. And sure enough, we’re driving. And that moment where he gets it in the first and we’re moving and we’re like, keep going, keep going. And OK, now shift second. And he gets it in the second. That’s the hardest thing. Going from first to get it moving is hard. But then once you get moving, get it from first. The second if you can get from first, the second you can get from second and third and third or fourth. And he finally did it and it was like, oh, I guess I got it. I know what you’re talking about. I see. All right, gotcha. And that was the moment he became consciously competent. So it’s just amazing to me.
John: And again, it applies to everything. I see a lot of people that are great at a task and I see a lot of people that are promoted to a leadership position. And they were promoted because they were so good at that role. Now they’re leading other people, teaching other
people how to do it. And there’s a lot of people that I know that are great at that role. But they don’t, they’re not effective as a leader because they’re not good trainers or teachers or coaches. They just lose that part of it. And this is what it is, honestly. Listen to this episode, because if you can just take it back a step and really be conscious of the stuff that you are now totally unconsciously competent at, that’s how you become a coach. That’s how you can write the instruction book. And again, it’s not about reading the book or writing a book. It’s about getting out there and doing it. But I mean that metaphorically if you can get it to the point where you can write out all the steps and the things that everybody has to do to master that task, you will become an unbelievably effective coach.
John: Don’t lose sight of that. Don’t lose sight of the importance of doing the task. They will never know, I’ve learned that the phrase somebody told me long ago. To play the tuba, learn to play the tuba, you got to play the tuba. You can’t read about it. You know you got to get out there and you actually got to do what you got to. Put your hands on it. You got to try it out and see what it’s like to learn how to drive a stick shift, you get to get out there, you gotta do it. There’s no way to do it unless you get out there and do it. All right. That, to me, is the pivotal moment in coaching that. “Oh, I get it.” So look for that. Tell the person your coach. And listen, here’s what’s going to happen. You will be frustrated. You’ve heard me talk prior episodes about the phases somebody goes through. And I’ll talk real quickly to this.
John: When Nick started wanting to learn how to drive a stick, he was an enthusiastic beginner. He didn’t know what he’s doing. Low skill, but very high skill and motivation. Right. Awesome. Great. I can’t wait to do it. Well, after 20 times of stalling the car, the frustration level is super high. He really quickly became a, I’ll pause to give you a chance to think about it if you heard that last episode… He became a disillusioned learner very quickly and he realized this is a lot harder than I thought. And their temptation at that point is to quit. Trust me, that’s where you lose. People in your organization are trying to develop them on a task. They let you know. When I was water skiing and falling, falling, falling. I’m like, you know, I don’t want to do it anymore. My friend grabbed me. He’s like, you’re doing it. I don’t care if we’re out here. The whole day. He just pushed me, gave me the right leadership to do it. And then he gave me some tactical stuff. Here’s what you got to do differently. And it worked. He pushed me over the edge. Once you get through a disillusioned learner, the rest is easy because then you become a capable but cautious performer. That’s where Nick is right now. Capable but cautious performer. OK, and now it’s going to take repetition over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
John: And then you become a self-reliant achiever. Now, when you’re a self-reliant achiever, you go into teaching mode. You then as a leader, when you have self-reliant achievers on your team and in your organization, they’re the ones that are going to help you scale the organization. They’re the ones that are going to help you protect the standards. They’re going to develop people. They’re going to get the rest of the team up to their level. And that’s a beautiful thing as a leader, when you develop those self-reliant achievers and then they’re your next leaders, your formal leaders, and they help you grow that organization to a huge level. So keep in mind those four phases somebody goes through critical. Again, you lose people, disillusioned learner. Keep pushing them. You have the leadership you provide in that moment, in that phase is by far the most critical. That’s why you are who you are and that’s why you are in the role that you are in. And that’s why you are in that moment with that person to push them through, keep them going, because that next phase, the rest of it is
going to be easy. Get them to be capable because cautious performers and then ultimately on a self-reliant achiever.
John: So hope this was helpful. Relatively brief episode today, but in my mind, coaching as a leader, it’s absolutely critical. I could do 50 episodes on this, all kinds of things that I learned. This is something I wish I watched this podcast 15, 20 years ago when I was early in leadership, 25 years ago when I was brand new, because it would have helped me, I think, shave three, four or five years off of my leadership path. So I hope that does the same for you. Feel free to message me directly. I’m happy to go through some different scenarios with you or help you coach other people and become a better leader. Feel free, please reach out.
John: In the meantime, like subscribe, share all that kind of good stuff. Give me comments. Give me suggestions on what you like to hear. What are the challenges that you are having as a leader, whatever your role is, your organization, what are the unique things that you love me to share? Talk about, bring some people on that can talk about. I’d love to be of some help and of course, go down below, give five star reviews and let me know your thoughts there until next time. Have a great one. We’ll talk to you soon. Thanks, everybody.
John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at email@example.com Once again, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! Lead on!