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  • Rich Haglund

You can't coach people you don't know

Updated: Oct 23

Knowing your team members well enough to know what currently motivates them and what their abilities are is a critical prerequisite to effectively coaching them in their professional growth.


In a recent podcast (link to podcast and summary notes), The Knowledge Project's Shane Parrish talked with Tiny Habits author and researcher BJ Fogg. As Fogg studied motivation and ability, he realized that there is a "compensatory" relationship between them. If I'm highly motivated to clean out my closet--because it's the last place I remember having my left Airpod in my ear--but have never met Marie Kondo (low ability), I can still clean my closet. On the other hand, if Marie Kondo doesn't give a hoot about my Airpods (low motivation) but is really good at cleaning closets, she'll uncover the Airpods.


As I listened to Parrish and Fogg discuss this, I thought of the Manager Tools' trinity. Effective management is built through trusting relationships, feedback, and coaching. I can't jump right into coaching. I have to start with relationships, built through regular one on one check-ins, to get to know my team members and their motivations and abilities. Then, and only then, can I coach them in their professional development.


Behavior, Fogg notes, occurs when motivation, ability, and a prompt come together.


So, if you want to coach someone else in their professional growth, start by finding out the team member's current motivation and ability relative to the motivation.

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