Many people come to coaching to improve performance. This is true of
people who are in sales, or in a business capacity where they have measurable
objectives. It is also true of people whose accomplishments are not
as easily quantifiable, but who feel that they could somehow accomplish
The other day, I got a call from somebody who said: “I’m
looking for a coach who will be a drill sergeant, not a cheerleader”.
I thought that was a very interesting choice of words. I would like
to use them to make some points about what helps people improve their
First, a few words about cheerleaders. You can count on them to be
there, rooting for you. It’s nice to feel their support…
but this is not an incentive to perform better, because you know the
cheerleaders are going to be there no matter what.
“Cheerleaders” will not be very effective in helping you
perform better if you see their words of support as essentially empty…
if you feel that the cheerleaders are just rooting for you because they
have to, or because it’s the nice thing to do.
Now, for the drill sergeant. He will scream at you and berate you …
but he’ll get you to go beyond your comfort zone, and to accomplish
things you didn’t think you could. It feels good to be challenged
by somebody who believes you have it in you to achieve more (when this
challenge is a realistic one).
While the cheerleaders give you unconditional support, the drill sergeant
builds your skills and your spirit. The person who called me feared
that a “cheerleader”, while supportive, would be ineffectual.
Does this mean that the “drill sergeant” is the right approach
for coaching? No, but neither is the cheerleader.
The drill sergeant’s way is all about pressure and performance
– pushing people to the limit. It’s a way of selecting a
certain kind of people, while others fall by the wayside. The idea is
that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This kind of selection
builds a very powerful team spirit - - among the people who make it
to the team. For instance, the Marines think of themselves as “The
Few, The Proud”.
It takes improving your skills, but also improving your spirits, your
morale. In a team situation, the coach will appeal to your sense of
being part of something larger than yourself, and this is a very important
part of what is going to motivate the team players to give their all.
When you’re trying to reach your own goals -- be they life goals
or business goals -- you are talking about personal goals. Chances are
you will be more motivated if you consider, not just the goals themselves,
but something larger than achieving these goals.
What is this something larger? It is a deeper sense of who you are.
The ultimate reward of accomplishing your specific goals is getting
in touch with this deeper sense of who you are.
On paper, this may seem like a
subtle difference. But, in practice, it is a big difference. It's
the difference between a goal that is an abstract notion, and a goal
that you feel deeply
the inside out.
See also: Life Change Coaching