I recently read an article about how important reviewing film and instant replay with coaches is to the performance of football quarterbacks, particularly those at the professional level, on game day.
I’m not a pro athlete, but I do have a coach who works with me on my golf swing. He often brings his iPad to the driving range while we work. I hit a few balls and he gives me both positive reinforcement and constructive criticism about what I am doing right, what I’m doing incorrectly and what I’m not doing at all.
I must check my understanding of what he is saying with what I am hearing. Sometimes he must revise his coaching comments and give me his feedback in a way I can hear and internalize.
What I find most helpful is when he films my swing and we talk about it, right then in real time. I watch what I am doing; the film doesn’t lie. I may think I am doing something and his verbal feedback either reinforces or attempts to modify my behavior.
By watching the video together, he can describe something verbally and then show me what he was describing. What I think I am doing and what I am actually doing are very often at least slightly different. It is that combination of doing, hearing and seeing that allows me to more easily modify my behavior. My coach then asks me to demonstrate what we have been working on and continues to give me real-time feedback as I keep trying to execute the technique we are working on.
On a good day, we both leave with a sense of satisfaction that progress toward the objective - a perfect golf swing (it may be illusory) - has been achieved. It is now up to me to continue demonstrating that move in a practice situation and, then, under “game” conditions.
On a bad day, we both leave a little frustrated that the day’s objective was not accomplished and we reflect on what is not happening - or what needs to happen - to accomplish that objective. We sometimes email our thoughts to each other between sessions.
How could you translate that approach into your everyday interactions?
Imagine you are meeting with your boss to get his support for a new program you want to introduce but he doesn’t seem to agree with you. What if you could call a timeout, go into the next room and meet with your coach? You’d tell him what you thought was going well and what didn’t seem to be working, and he would give you his view.
Then, you would go to the tape of the meeting and watch what you both had discussed. You and your coach could revise the game plan before returning to your boss’s office and resuming the meeting.
What if you were meeting with a team member to put him on a performance improvement plan. You and the coach had “practiced” what you were going to say. Your strategy was to control the conversation tightly but you are getting a lot of pushback from your employee.
You call a timeout and go to the corner to talk to your coach and watch the videotape. He shows you several instances in which your employee took over the conversation. You regroup and get ready to restart the conversation.
When control starts to get away from you, you take two more timeouts. You and your coach watch the videotape and you firmly direct the conversation. The meeting ends with you having delivered the message you wanted to get across. Your employee is very clear about what he or she needs to improve, how it will be measured and when.
How do you bring the idea of a coach, timeouts and video tapes into the real world?
Going into a situation with a good, tight game plan is a start. Contingency plans will ensure you are prepared if the original plan gets off track.
And it helps to have someone you trust who is willing to be your coach or mentor. It must be someone who will challenge your thinking. They can review your plan before the fact and discuss how it went afterwards.
Don’t be afraid to call a short time out (10-15 minutes) if a meeting is going badly and, in some cases, ending a meeting until more people or information can be brought into the conversation.
Professional quarterbacks can’t postpone the game but you both can use tools and techniques to improve your real-time performance.
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