Author Daniel Coyle writes in The Little Book of Talent
that at some point you’re likely to find yourself in the position of being a coach, mentor or teacher – whether “at home, or at work, or on the playing field.”
Based on his research of master coaches, he offers the following 6 tips to help you be more effective:
1. Establish an emotional connection in the first few seconds.
Coyle writes that effective teaching is “built on trust” and, generally speaking, each of us decides in the first few seconds of interacting with a person whether we trust them.
There are different ways to build that initial trust: from eye contact to humor, to body language and showing empathy – whichever option you choose, you should prioritize that connection above all else.
“Before you can teach, you have to show that you care.”
2. Deliver information in “vivid chunks.”
Many of us have come to believe, largely through the influence of movies, that great teachers and coaches “stand nobly in front of large groups and give inspiring speeches,” but in reality the opposite is the true.
The best teachers and coaches don’t stand in front — they stand alongside their students and deliver information in small, vivid chunks that are customized for the learner.
3. Avoid “mushy language.”
Coyle writes that one of the biggest mistakes teachers and coaches make is using “mushy, imprecise language.”
You want to communicate with exact nouns and numbers, and avoid adjectives and adverbs that don’t tell the learner precisely what to do.
Here are some examples:
Instead of: Move your hands higher
Say: Move your hands next to your ear
Instead of: Play the song a little faster
Say: Match the metronome
Instead of: Please work more closely with the sales team
Say: Please check in with the sales team for ten minutes every morning
4. Create a scorecard for learning.
Coyle argues that the problem with most scorecards — from sales figures to performance rankings to test scores — is that they distort priorities, and lead us to focus on winning today at the expense of the larger, longer-term goal.
Instead, he suggests creating your own scorecard, with a metric that helps you focus on the skills you want to develop in your learners.
For example, Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, wanted the company to have the most skilled customer-service team.
The typical metric used to measure a customer service team’s performance is the number of customers served per hour, but Hsieh wasn’t merely interested in efficiency – he wanted to make people happy.
He then began tracking those times when customer-service representatives delivered extraordinary service, what the company calls “delivering wow.”
Delivering wow became the basis of the scorecard, and it seems to have worked: Hsieh once anonymously called the company in the middle of the night asking if he could order a pizza, and received a list of the five pizza places closest to him that were still open.
5. Solve for “reachfulness.”
For Coyle, reachfulness is the essence of learning – the point at which the learner is “leaning forward, stretching, struggling, and improving.”
As a coach, mentor, or teacher you should think like a designer: What environment can you create that will encourage the learner to tip from passivity toward reachful action?
6. Aim to develop independent learners.
Coyle writes that your long-term goal as a coach, teacher or mentor should be to help your learners improve so that they no longer need you.
Instead of being the center of attention, you should create an environment where people can reach on their own: “Whenever possible, step away and create moments of independence.”