When I first got involved with coaching, I had no idea what I was doing. I was fresh out of college, and I used my experiences as a player to help guide team members. I reached back into my memory of what other coaches had taught me, and I spent a lot of my coaching voicing their opinions of the game and how it should be taught. At some point in your career, you will need to ask yourself an important question. Who am I? Finding your identity as a coach is an important step to taking your coaching to a different level. We have all heard about championship teams who “found their identity” on their way to becoming a champion. We can discuss team identity in another piece. We are going to work on finding our own identity as a coach, the centerpiece to finding coaching success. Finding your identity will take some deep reflection, and it will probably involve making purposeful changes in your approach to coaching. To be honest, this website was born many years ago out of this type of reflection, and I continually revisit that internal discussion every time I write. Until you understand who you are, you will not be able to fully serve those you lead.
Step 1: Discover YOUR Purpose
Why are you here? Why are you coaching? What is your purpose? These are instrumental questions that will shape your internal dialogue and shape you into the coach you want to become. As it becomes more clear as to why you do this, you will find a passion that will guide you in every decision. My purpose in coaching has evolved over the years as my motivations for coaching became more clear. When we discover our purpose, coaching becomes easier. We are able to use your purpose as the road map for your craft.
Step 2: Determine YOUR Single Biggest Strength and Weakness
In Peter Lencioni’s book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, he outlines a moment when his fictional CEO, Kathryn probes her management team for their greatest strength and weakness to spark a dialogue of who they are as a group. When you look at your strengths, you are trying to find your greatest strength that will contribute to your team’s success. By understanding what you do well, you can coach to your strengths. By understanding where you are weak, you can work to improve in those areas. Until you make this identification, you will never understand who you are and what you do. Many people find this to be one of the harder steps in the process. This is an uncomfortable moment when we either have to applaud ourselves for something we do well, or criticize ourselves for something we are not as strong. Many will stall because they are unwilling to dig deep and find something real about themselves. Many will sell themselves short on either side of the conversation. Be brutally honest with yourself.
Step 3: Find YOUR Voice
Many coaches misunderstand the difference between mentoring and modeling. In a previous coaching position I had the opportunity to work with some great coaches and great leaders who shaped me into who I am as a coach today. I was in a leadership position at the school, and I was very confident in my ability to do my job effectively. Joe Daley, our Dean of Students and at the time and one of my greatest influencers, said to me, “We don’t need ten of you running around this place.” At first, I was a bit taken back. Why not? If everyone did their job like I do, this place would run like a well-oiled machine. His point was that although we all need to be on the same page in how the organization needs to run, we do not all have to be clones. We all have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses, and we need to compliment each other not become each other. Everyone will coach the game differently. It is important to be true to yourself. As you begin to understand what works well for you, you will begin to find your voice. You will begin to understand how to relay your message to others. Do not become a copycat of another successful coach. You can align with his ideals, but his style is his own. You will never be able to tell the story like he does. However, you may be able to tell it better when you find your own voice.
Step 4: Make YOUR Impact
I watched a presentation a few weeks ago from Chadd Cassidy, a hockey coach at Northwood School, on Creating a Legacy. Your legacy is the final step in finding your identity. Once you come to understand your purpose, what you do well, and how you will distribute your message, applying these pieces to your everyday work becomes what defines you. Now that you have discovered who you are, your teams need to experience you and your coaching. Your impact on your players becomes part of your legacy. What will your players say about you when they move on? Did you make a positive impact on their lives? This is what we should strive to achieve in coaching. Your values will shape your coaching, but your impact will define your legacy.
An important theme to all of this is that it is a personal journey. You will notice that YOUR is emphasized in each step. This is all about you and nobody else. I have players sit down in my office all of the time and ask me the same question. How do I get noticed? My answer is the same every time, and it applies here as well. Figure out who you are, and be who you are. From there everything else will work out.
Take a moment to tell me what you think. Leave a comment below and begin a discussion on Finding Identity.