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Coaching: Learn as You Go

Spring, 2007

by Joel Comiskey

Most of what I know about coaching has come through failure. In 2001, I started coaching fulltime. That is, my fulltime paid job was to coach leaders. There was one problem. I didn’t know how to coach. I thought I knew, but in reality, I equated coaching with consulting and teaching.

It became apparent as the months passed by that my form of coaching was not working. Those who I was coaching got tired of my constant advice-giving and when I ran out of answers, I was hard-pressed to justify my coaching position. My evaluations became more and more negative and some leaders left. It was truly a dark night of the soul.

The good news was that I could only move upwards. I began to devour every piece of literature on coaching. A whole new world opened up to me—one that I didn’t even think existed. The gracious leaders that stuck with me welcomed my changed perspective. I now had something to give.

As I look back over that difficult time period and where I am now, I realize that God was taking me back to the school of learning. He used my mistakes and failures to move me upwards in my development and ultimately to make me a far better coach. You’ll also make a lot of mistakes. Just remember that mistakes are helpers, not hindrances. Teddy Roosevelt, in fact, said, “He who makes no mistakes, makes no progress.” Skill comes after experience.

Coaching often involves trying, failing, trying again, etc. There are no clear rule books. It’s more like treking through the forest with machete in one hand. The way you’ll get to the destination is by learning and growing.