Coaching means a lot of things to a lot of people. Of course, there are sports coaches. In my personal life, I’m a Lego robotics coach. There are also business coaches and life coaches. I’m not a professional coach, at least not as my primary job function. I’m a technology leader. However, to do that effectively, I often need to play the role of a coach. I’ll get into what that looks like shortly, but first, I’d like to take some inspiration from Star Wars.
In our careers, we often look at ourselves as the hero of our own story. We’re Luke Skywalker. People look up to us, and want to be like us. It can be fun to be the hero and give advice accordingly. This is not the role of the coach. The coach isn’t the hero. The coach is the 900-year-old wrinkly green guy, Yoda, in The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda isn’t going to fight any battles or win any wars. He isn’t the hero. Luke is. Yoda coaches Luke to become the hero he can be.
Do or do not. There is no try.
I coach my direct reports, others deeper in my organization, people from other teams, and people from other companies. They all have different situations, strengths, and opportunities. None of them need to be like me. They need to be the heroes of their own stories. They need to be the best versions of themselves and rise to their potential.
I’ve coached people through self-awareness problems, confidence issues, frustrations, work-life balance concerns, and advancement aspirations. I’ve coached people whose great ideas were rejected, and we thought through the possibilities for moving them forward. I’ve coached performance issues, communication breakdowns, and political hassles.
You must confront Vader.
The key is, that the people I coach do the work. I don’t arrange meetings, fix issues myself, or pull favors to help them out. They are the hero of the story. They need to rise and embrace that role. I can’t save the day for them any better than Yoda on his death bed.
Coaching is a key leadership capability, and I am very passionate about it. The reason is, I’ve benefited significantly from coaches speaking into my life at various critical stages. I’m where I’m at due in a large part to quality and caring coaches. All I’m looking to do is pay it forward.
Do you coach? Have you been coached? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.
Want more Star Wars anecdotes for technology leadership? Check out my other articles here: