How does having a coach benefit the athlete/executive when seeking to make behavior change?

In sports, behavior change involves not only awareness of thought processes about an endeavor but also enhancing or learning a new skill, physically — it can mean physically stretching limits, going off balance and falling. The risk of making behavior changes in sports may come with the consequence of loss of confidence, failure for self or team, losing the gold medal in the particular race and perhaps even losing one’s spot on the team entirely.

As an athlete, how often do you analyze your behavior and seek to change it?

As an executive, how often do you analyze your behavior and seek to change it?

For the executive, the risk may be reputational, financial, or loss of work. The consequence may also be losing a spot on a team as well as loss of job and self-confidence.

In the previous post we discussed how goal setting for the athlete might be perceived as concrete in comparison to the executive; the same thought applies to change when looking at physical change versus behavior change. I am referring to physical change as movements of the body such as in performance in a sport and behavior change as actions of the mind and as a result, behaviors.

The athlete continuously seeks to make changes physically. (Certainly there is psychological and emotional determination as well as sportsmanship and confidence-based change.) For change to occur in sports, through coaching, the athlete takes the opportunity to practice it with their coach; every turn, every swing, every movement in their sport is an opportunity to make change. The athlete is guided in the moment of performance to remember it, visualize it, repeat it, see it, feel it, and take it to new terrain and new heights to expand and develop with the guidance of their coach, often right there by there side. Physical change such as this develops muscle memory; it is a concrete change.

The athlete seeks opportunities to test what they discover through coaching; they practice, repeat to learn deeply, and expand by testing at a higher level of challenge and for a longer period of time. They explore, fall, and get back up again with their team knowing they have only fallen because they reached outside their comfort zone in order to strengthen and enhance – to be better for the team. And this is acceptable and expected behavior for the athlete.

Looking at the executive, there is clearly a difference in how behavior change comes about and what is acceptable and expected. The risk involved for stretching one’s self and stepping out of one’s comfort zone is of a different nature for the executive. Behavior change for the executive comes in the form of analyzing one’s self in a more abstract way. Soft skills such as thought patterns, communication skills, and people skills are examples of what an executive will need to be open about and accept as needing change in order to begin making that change. Not only is behavior change versus physical change more difficult to accept, it can be more difficult to identify when the change has occurred and more challenging to make it stick.

To answer the questions above, I would say the athlete seeks to make changes constantly – it is his or her main goal, besides having fun! I would say the executive may or may not be aware of the need for behavior change and if they are aware, the effort may be intermittent at best. Having a coach for either the athlete or the executive provides an efficient way to “see” one’s blind spots and work toward enhancing skills and behaviors.

What is true for both the executives and the athlete is, when either are afraid to push their already established skill level, they will become stagnant. When a ski racer wipes out and breaks a leg, we may think she is working hard and giving it her all. When an executive crashes because she took a chance, the perception is often very different—she doesn’t have what it takes or she can’t be trusted with a new project. Behavior change and skill building for the athlete and the executive come with very different risks.

Check out the Adventure Leadership Summit for an adventurous approach to addressing behavior change.

In Part 5, I discuss Skill building when coaching the Novice versus the Expert