Coaching is an important aspect of personal development. A coach serves as a resource for creativity and “professional enlightenment,” as I like to call it, helping to bring issues, insights and resources to the surface that could otherwise remain unexplored, and therefore, untapped. I had an opportunity recently to offer some coaching guidance to undergraduate students in a New England school known for its leadership development and, I must say, whatever negative stigmas exist today about the current generational gap certainly do not exist up there. These kids were smart, articulate, and motivated. Hell, they volunteered to come in on a Saturday to grow themselves and take advantage of the unique resources their alumni offered—a chance at honest feedback and life lessons. In comparison, my Saturdays at Ohio State were typically spent recovering from the night before—until Saturday night came along and I was miraculously feeling better (isn’t it amazing how beer cures all hangovers?) Anyways, as coaches, we were to assess the students’ levels of self-awareness and ensure that, as leaders entering into the job market, they understood the gap—if any—that existed between the image they projected and the image they wanted to project. In other words, were they communicating themselves in an effective way that was in line with what they wanted to convey? Instead of making this post a list of different behaviors to consider that we all know about, I’d rather just focus on one particular behavior and relate it to something that helped me in the Teams; something that everyone feels from time to time: Nerves.
No, Not Sweaty Palm Syndrome!
Everybody gets them, but few know how to manage the influx of information that is setting our minds on a one hundred meter dash to find certainty. Many people suffer from the Sweaty Palm Syndrome, or SPS, whether it’s from public speaking, assuming a new responsibility, coordinating an event, the list goes on. The difference, though, between a high-achiever (HA) and everyone else is that the HA knows how to self-manage, and s/he does this in a few ways:
Talk to Yourself.
Naturally, the students were a bit nervous which reminded me of something guys would do in the Teams to really drive a learning point home. Talking things out (i.e. out loud) may seem a bit weird at first but doing so serves three important purposes. First, it forces you to slow down because it takes longer for the brain to verbalize thoughts than it does to think to oneself. Converting thought, to speech, to action takes significantly longer than just the action of thought itself. Second, because this process is slower, it builds greater muscle memory by telling the brain…to…REALLY…focus…on…this [behavior]. Finally, self talking through steps or procedures helps to reduce the amount of stress because verbalizing is a form of positive self-talk; you focus on the task rather than the stressors or potential pitfalls involved. Self-talk was a trick I used in the Teams to remember a specific process, such as initially learning how to holster my pistol the right way. “Scan—de-cock—thumb—holster” was what I said to myself as it spurred four key points: -Scan left and right for any more threats -De-cock the hammer -Place thumb over the hammer to ensure it’s de-cocked -Holster the weapon (while maintaining thumb on hammer) Anyways, I can’t emphasize the effects of (positive) self-talk enough. It was something I did during BUD/S as well as other selection and training I went through later on in my career. Note: Be sure to be socially aware enough to know when to talk it out and when to keep things to yourself (see rule #1).
When you talk things out loud you also show others how to think (or at least, how you think) which also opens the door for feedback and exploration. One of the questions I had for my student this weekend was how he arrived at his decisions because he seemed to spit them out pretty quickly. Were they rationally or emotionally based decisions? I can tell you that time will be the deciding factor in which type to use, but if you have the luxury of time on your side then take advantage of it—do your research because facts don’t lie (as long as they’re the right facts).
Time on Target Talking.
Too much of any one thing becomes just that—too much—and some people don’t so much get the SPS but rather DOTM, technically referred to as Diarrhea Of The Mouth. One of our metrics in the Teams was how much time we spent while on target (i.e. enemy territory) known as time on target, or TOT. Generally, the less the better. Time on Talking is very similar but not quite as extreme. The point here with my version of TOT is that nobody likes hearing the same voice over and over. It gets old. In fact, even if an incessant talker has a lot of decent points to make it is often easier just to tune him out rather than listen to that voice yet again. Self and social awareness are key, or being aware of how much you talk relative to how your conversation is received. If there was one main takeaway from that coaching event it was that fostering greater self-awareness is a critical skill (yes, it can be learned) but oftentimes needs someone close to you to say, “Hey, wake up!” It’s easy to believe that you’re already effective, but if the message you send is received differently from how it was intended, you may need to consider the source.