Are You Open to Some Coaching?


Let me steal a family story for a leadership lesson.  It’s dangerous being a leadership teacher, because it gives family and staff license to hold me to my “best self” standards.

I was hitting a tennis ball with my 3 kids a couple weeks ago.  Kate and Cece were on one court.  Jack and I on the other.  Jack is in the early stages where the racket flops, the wrist flips, the feet forget to move; it takes a lot to get it together.  I was coaching for all I was worth, trying to keep it down to about three instructions.  As I wandered toward Kate’s court to pick up an errant ball, she asked me The Great Question:  “Are you open to some coaching?”

I learned The Great Question about ten years ago from Denise Stein and Brad Zimmerman, two great executive coaches.  I’d used it with Kate.  And this wasn’t the first time she’d used it with me.  Can you put yourself in my tennis shoes, being asked that question by one of your kids?  In my psychic shoes I had mixed feelings: curiosity, pride (that she was using a lesson I taught her), openness, but also the great mix of pride and defensiveness (as in, “who does she think she is using my lessons on me and trying to tell me how to coach?!?”)

I said, “Yep, I’m open to coaching.”  She said quite simply, “Quit coaching him.”  She was so right.  What I was doing to Jack was what I used to do to that ridiculous Country Sedan I used to drive to the Ford Plant in the 70s, when it conked out:  I’d flood the engine.  Poor guy wasn’t getting enough air; just a lot of gas from dad.

I hit with him again yesterday.  He asked me “are you open to coaching?”  So, I knew where that was going!  “Quit all the coaching?” I asked.  “Yes” he said.  I told him I would only say one thing and that was “good.”  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need to be reminded to turn off the (well meaning), over-charged critic in order to

Lead with my best self,