How do coaches turn values into action?

Interview

By Simon Turner

How do coaches turn values into action?
With Laura Turner-Alleyne

To what extent are your coaching behaviours aligned with your personal values? And what's the affect on you when your behaviours and values don't align?

And who decides those values anyway? Are they dictated by the environment you coach in and the goal of winning? Or, are your coaching values fully decided and driven by you?

Try this exercise:

From the list below, choose 6 values that immediately jump out to you:

  1. Achievement
  2. Authenticity
  3. Collaboration
  4. Compassion
  5. Creativity
  6. Empowerment
  7. Fairness
  8. Friendship
  9. Fun
  10. Growth
  11. Honesty
  12. Inclusiveness
  13. Openness
  14. Passion
  15. Perseverance
  16. Professionalism
  17. Respect
  18. Service

Now rank your top 6 values onto three levels:

  • Level 1 - start by choosing only one value - your gut feeling of what's most important to you
  • Level 2 - next, choose two values that sit under level 1
  • Level 3 - finally, choose three values to sit underneath the others

Here's an example:

  1. Inclusiveness
  2. Openness, Service
  3. Compassion, Honesty, Empowerment

Congratulations, you just created a values pyramid. A hierarchy of what's important to you.

But the question is....

How do you turn values into action?

We posed this question to 2008 Olympian Laura Turner-Alleyne, lead coach at West London Track & Field (bio | twitter | LinkedIn).

Laura's answer

My coaching is deeply rooted in five values that we chose when we first set up our club - precision, dedication, perseverance, respect and excellence. I don't coach people because of how good they are. I coach them because they can bring something to the group by living those five values.

Although we set the values as coaches, we ask the athletes for their perceptions and interpretation of the values. We give them space to decide what the values mean to them.

I adjust my behaviours to match situations. So, for example, the more gruelling the training, the more light-hearted I make my communication. I want the values of precision and excellence to come through in the training session while I also respect how each person is feeling that day.

I recognise the responsibility I have as a coach to have an impact. For me, impact comes about through bringing our values to life day to day through meaningful interactions. That could come from something as small as positive feedback to an athlete that leaves them happy or calling a person after training because I noticed they feel a bit down or just offering opportunities to talk things through.

When I recognise an open straight-talking athlete I make sure to ask them off-line about my behaviours. I ask for really honest feedback and we talk through their feedback about the extent to which my behaviours align to the values. I ask them, how do you want me to be?

"My goal as a coach is to have an impact and leave a legacy beyond competition."

When I think back to the coaches I had as an athlete, I realise their greatest impact on me was that I could retire as an athlete and function in the real world afterwards.

The bigger picture is, we want to leave a legacy of young people who develop as a person, not just becoming the best athletes they can be. We want to help them navigate the big wide world.

Three takeaways

1. Values underpin behaviour 

A lot is made of coaching behaviours - the set of actions and choices that leads us towards achieving a coaching goal. But what if those behaviours are out of alignment with what's important to us?

A clear set of defined coaching values can serve as a compass that keeps your coaching on track. A point around which you can orientate yourself.

2. Coaching values are not cast on stone

What's the difference between empowerment and autonomy? Or, creativity and innovation? Or, authenticity and humility? These values are very similar and yet subtly different in important ways. Likewise, your coaching values can shift, evolve, iterate and change over time.

3. Misaligned values leads to stress and burnout

Many coaches complain of being overworked. The sheer hours of a professional coach or the after-work hours of a time-poor volunteer coach can really add up, leading to fatigue and irritable behaviours.

But there's nothing more draining than coaching in a way that is misaligned with our values, our sense of what's right. That's the stuff of burnout and quitting.

Reflection questions

1. Describe your ideal coaching in three words?

2. To what extent are your coaching behaviours aligned with your personal values?

3. What external pressures do you face that cause misalignment of behaviour with values?

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Written by Simon Turner

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The MVMT blog profiles difference maker coaches. Each week we ask challenging questions and share key takeaways that bring clarity and purpose to your coaching.

Read our blog here

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