Windshield Coaching

Are you a leader? The “Mind what Matters” blog this week is targeted at anyone that has even one person that they are entrusted to lead and develop. Regardless of what industry you are in, what training you’ve had, or what your job description entails, if you are a leader this blog is for you. 

Over the past couple of weeks, we have received great feedback on our blogs about “questions” and “questioning”. With that in mind, I have a very important question for all of the leader-coaches that might be reading this blog.

  • “When you enter a coaching conversation, do you coach from a windshield or a rearview mirror perspective?” 

I hope you are taking a moment to let that question sink in.  Once you have an honest answer…Here are a few additional questions to think about.

  • “When you think about your last five coaching sessions, who’s agenda was at the center of the meeting?” 
  • “If you were to analyze your calendar over the past 90 days, how much of your time was spent coaching to facilitate growth for your team members?” 
  • “When you finished your quarterly, semi-annual, or annual performance review process, was your joint commitment in the conversation to move forward or continue looking back?”

About two weeks ago, a couple of buddies and I took an adventure motorcycle ride from Cincinnati to Nashville. Our objective for the trip was simple…let’s go on an adventure, avoid as many highways as possible, and spend the day seeing all the beautiful landscapes through southern Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee (anybody thinking about the movie “Wild Hogs” – heck yes!). The trip was magnificent as we traveled on winding roads, ate at local diners like Jerry’s outside of Lexington (great people and food), and passed the most beautiful farms you can imagine. A normal 4.5-hour trip in the car took us 10+ hours and we didn’t care for even a second. The Nashville trip was a training ride for a cross-country trip we will be taking in early September!

What if we coached like we were taking people on an adventure that helped team members fulfill their personal vision, perform at unprecedented levels, and obtain goals that they might not even think are possible today? Coaching is like an adventure ride where the path is filled with amazing stops, winding turns, setbacks, adjustments, fun, laughter, and maybe even a few tears. 

As I was staring at those amazing roads, I was reminded that in order to get to where we were going safely, I had to focus my attention looking through the windshield (forward), NOT through the rearview mirrors (looking backward). Here is another question for you – when you spend too much time looking through the rearview mirror while driving, what will eventually happen (I’m not speaking to my autonomous driving Tesla friends)? One friend recently answered by saying this, “you will end in a terrible crash.” How many of our coaching sessions end in terrible crashes because we spend too much time looking back and not coaching forward. I will tell you that this simple concept changed my coaching mindset, and I believe it can do the same for you. 

Here are five simple tips for DEVELOPMENT BASED WINDSHIELD Coaching:

  • Schedule dedicated development based coaching time [don’t cancel]
  • Plan development based coaching sessions [don’t wing it]
  • Consider the employee perspective first [don’t get lost in your agenda]
  • Look back only when it makes sense to [don’t dwell there or you’ll crash]
  • Enjoy your coaching sessions [coaching should be fun]

On our road trip, I was very thankful for my rear-view mirrors on both my left and right side so that I could protect my blind spots. I was even more glad that I had the windshield to see out the horizon in front of me, my path, and my future. As you quickly discover when you learn to handle a motorcycling, wherever your eyes go, the bike goes.  

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