Avoiding the perfection mindset as a coach

Coaching is one of the best jobs on earth! You turn on lights bulbs in people’s heads, you make people feel good, and you help them develop real solutions to problems they have. You feel great when you are successful. The one thing I find with coaching that causes the most grief for coaches and the people they are coaching is the perfection mindset. The perfection mindset sneaks up on coaches and the people receiving the coaching during every session. Why? Because we as coaches resist telling ourselves and our clients to stop and be presence. The perfection mindset is pure evil and creates behaviors and habits that increase the risk of a negative coaching experience. Here are three methods we can include into our coaching activity that will help prevent the perfection mindset.

Focus on shipping

From the initial conversation and through the development of a coaching strategy the shipping mindset much live throughout the process. The coach is helping the client see through the fog. The more decisions, right or wrong, the client can make the more holes are poked in the fog. Every conversation should end with a decision and from the initial encounter you should spend time learning about the client’s ability to make decisions and execute on those decisions. We need to go beyond being satisfied with the client making a decision to hire you. We must be willing to listen and help the client craft solutions that are unique to them that demonstrate quick results.

Here’s an example a very good and dear friend of mine who is 50 years has a heart condition, smokes, and is overweight. He’s tired and can’t mustard the energy to workout. Excuse after excuse the barrier of working out and quitting smoking is too high for him. Instead of trying to convince him that working out is the best solution to his weight lose and attempting to shame him into creating that routine; I focused on what decision can he make right now to get him to better health. A small incremental decision he can make that he can commit too and be proud of. I listened intently to his needs which were an easy solution to lose some weight which he felt would happen if he didn’t eat as much at dinner. I immediately, mind you on a Wednesday night, met him at a local grocery store and helped him pick out food that he could incorporate in his meals in the morning and afternoon such as ground chia and flax seeds, yogurts to mix seeds in, high potassium foods such as coconut water and bananas. My solution focused on shipping something versus the perfection of quitting smoking pursuing the overall goal of quitting smoking and developing a routine to work out. After his first week he lost weight, gained back stamina, and was not hungry late in the evening. He created a habit that serves as foundation for healthier habits.

Focusing on shipping small increments, no matter how small, is still a step in the right direction and will eliminate the tendency to perfect and overload.

Discover the sustainable commitment mode

Understand, as quickly as possible, what your client can realistically commit to and achieve. In the previous example my friend, yes he is a real lifelong friend, could not actually quit smoking and begin exercising. Why? I knew that he had other commitments. He has a family that loves spending time with, he is a program manager in a multi-billion dollar global company, he enjoys time with his friends, he is active in his community and at church. Would pushing him to the perfection help him achieve his goal? Nope. Your clients are humans who are seeking your advise. They are busy, very busy, and really need you, as their coach, to hear that, be present, and empathize with them. When building a coaching alliance take the time to understand your client’s current responsibilities holistically. I ask a lot of questions and then place the responses about responsibilities into four categories of commitment:

  1. Family — This is the commitments you make to the people you love that they can not give up on. An example: Attending your son’s T-ball games that are every Tuesday night.
  2. Employment — This is the commitments you make to the company ( Com derived from Con; Pany derived from Pane.) Broken up can be translated to mean: with whom you break bread with. These are the commitments made to the people who your earn a living with.
  3. Social — This the commitments we give for connectedness. Examples are every week we go to church on Sunday or every month there is a lean coffee event with Agile euthastics.
  4. Self — This is the commitments we give to ourselves. Examples are working out twice a week or taking an online class.

Develop a simple pie chart, or four quadrant chart, and share it with your client to help them be candid about what they can and cannot do. By understanding your client’s capability to deliver on commitment you are able to tailor your coaching to the individual’s success versus an ideal or perfect state.

Create a habit of doing a retrospective

If you know that you will formally hold yourself responsible for the quality of what your client shipped you are less likely to seek perfection. Doing a retrospective is the toughest part for every coach because guess what? Your clients’ success is your success likewise their failure your failure. Be objective, see yourself as a third party auditing you. If you don’t you will not improve or grow as a coach or leader. The frequency of retrospectives for me is every time my client ships.

By incorporating a focus on shipping smaller increments, understanding your client’s ability to commit, and inspecting your coaching frequently you will eliminate the perfection mindset, more your clients along quickly with a higher degree of confidence, and grow yourself.

Please feel free to comment or just drop me a line. I will only respond to your questions in a private message since responding in public doesn’t allow for the necessary level of vulnerability to achieve the desired learning.

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