The Power of Positive Coaching: The Mindset and Habits to Inspire Winning Results and Relationships
January 14, 2019
Lee J Colan and Julie Davis Colan have a new book that brings together two highly-relevant topics in the field of management: coaching and positive psychology.
The Power of Positive Coaching (McGraw-Hill, 2019) brings together two highly-relevant topics in the field of management: coaching and positive psychology. The authors argue that effective coaching is made up of two components: a positive coaching mindset and positive coaching habits. Although the context of this book is business coaching for corporate leaders, the elements are easily transferrable to any setting because they are based on predictable, research-supported human dynamics.
The book asserts that inspiring winning results and relationships is a two-dimensional challenge that involves a positive coaching mindset and positive coaching habits. Having only one is insufficient to equip leaders to coach effectively and inspire their teams optimally. A positive coaching mindset and positive coaching habits go hand in hand, and they have more than a proportional relationship. A coaching mindset has a multiplier effect on coaching habits. This relationship between mindset and habits is expressed in a simple equation:
Positive Coaching Mindset × Positive Coaching Habits = Winning Results and Relationships
The authors, who are established experts in the field of leadership, organization, and coaching, balance a casual and practical style with specific data to support their assertions. Their model of a positive coaching mindset and habits is intuitive and straightforward.
They make the case that a positive coaching mindset is built on a foundation of self-knowledge. Inspiring coaches intentionally, courageously, and consistently deepen four levels of self-awareness to build a positive coaching mindset:
- Know Your Thoughts
- Know Your Purpose
- Know Your Values
- Know Your Emotions
They cite recent studies from positive psychology that support the impact mindset has on performance, while also relaying personal stories, client examples, and sample forms to help the reader apply the concepts. These concepts seem less intimidating and more actionable with a very “how-to” feel, equipping the reader with practical tools to elevate their coaching game.
To set up the five positive coach habits, the authors use a football coach as an example. While it’s not a groundbreaking example, it’s hard to argue with the simple truths of the five habits. This brings us back to the book’s central focus on creating habits and taking action on what we already know. The five coaching habits of inspiring coaches (with the result of each habit in italics) are:
- Explain expectations. Take the time to ensure alignment with their teams before moving forward.
- Ask questions. Clarify a problem or ask for ideas and suggestions. Asking questions ignites employee engagement.
- Involve team members in creating solutions to improve their work. This enlists ownership because people are committed to things they help create.
- Measure results diligently to boost accountability.
- Appreciate people. This builds commitment to sustaining and improving results.
In the spirit of application and creating positive habits, the authors state that if you choose your habits, then you must take responsibility for your results. If you choose not to build these coaching habits, you must accept these outcomes:
- Instead of Alignment, you get Confusion
- Instead of Engagement, you get Disengagement
- Instead of Ownership, you get Entitlement
- Instead of Accountability, you get Blame
- Instead of Commitment, you get Compliance
These positive coaching habits are based on natural human dynamics and needs. That is likely why these habits work across generations, industries, and cultures; they meet universal human needs in the workplace.
The authors acknowledge that it is easy for one thing or another to get in the way of these habits, but if you say “yes” to those things, you are saying “no” to winning results and relationships. Particularly strong is their argument that positive coaching is not a “salt and pepper” practice. You cannot sprinkle a little explaining here and appreciation there and expect winning results or relationships. You must perform these habits consistently. They pose the rhetorical question to the reader, “If world-class athletes need a coach every day, why wouldn’t your team?”
To the authors’ credit, the model is concisely presented with simple graphics, which are well-thought-out and actionable. This book seems most effective for an organization that wants to create a culture of coaching, since it is less prescriptive about how to react to various coaching scenarios. Instead, it revolves around a positive, proactive, and population-focused approach to coaching, which lends itself to organizational and cultural change.