Who’s driving your coaching conversations?

Who’s more motivated, the Olympic athlete or the Olympic coach?


The athlete wants to be the best (and therefore most successful) athlete they can be and the coach wants to be the best (and therefore most successful) coach they can be.

Dame Kelly Holmes said to us “I’ve always said that there should have been another 10 gold medals handed out for each one that I won in Athens.” She recognises that each of her amazing victories was a team effort and that one of those extra gold medals would have gone to her coach.

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Which group of performers would you invest in?

So if you’re a leader, manager or team member in your organisation and have a coaching role too, who would you rather work with? Someone like Dame Kelly Holmes, who exhibits a strong desire to improve and a willingness to change, or someone whose attitude is “So here I am, develop me”. The fact is you can’t coach someone who doesn’t want to be coached.


These people are here for the ride and aren’t too bothered about the direction. As a result, they’re quite happy to wait around before setting off. They see development as someone else’s responsibility and not their own. The bigger the organisation, the larger the training department, and the more comfortable the ride is and the less responsibility they have to take.


These people know what they want and are simply waiting for someone else to provide it. They might say things like, “if only someone would help me with…” or after the event might say “no-one showed me how to…”. Good at navigating but not very proactive in getting there.


These people take an active responsibility, interest and participation in their own development. They will suggest targets and objectives, come up with ideas for development, and initiate their own learning. They will ask questions of their coach, listen to suggestions and take on board feedback. Two people, performer and coach, working on one person’s performance.


These people know where they’re going and know how to get there. They’re sometimes so busy driving they haven’t got the time or inclination to consider other possibilities, let alone ask questions or listen. They’re more likely to use a coach just to tell someone where they’ve been and where they’re going next.

So if you’ve got limited time or energy for coaching, and you want to choose where to invest, why not focus on someone whose motivation most closely matches that of an Olympic athlete and who’s interested in finding a co-driver.