L:11 – Put me in, Coach

close up photography of two dogs
Photo by bin Ziegler on Pexels.com

When I learned that Mike Babcock has a Bachelor’s of Education: Today. That explains a lot, actually.

In an interview that I heard this weekend, Mike Babcock said that having millennials on his team has changed the way he had to coach. He said it started after the 2005 lockout, and he resisted the change at first, but now he’s a very different coach than he was before that lockout. He talked about what kind of guidance millennials need compared to older players and how he needed to change in order to continue being an effective coach. Coach Babcock realized that if he’s not being heard, then he’s not a good coach, and he changed so that his millennials could hear and understand him. Babcock has 23 players, and he has to coach 23 different ways.

How often, when you say you don’t understand someone, do they just repeat what they said to begin with. Because if you didn’t understand the first time, saying it slower or louder will definitely help. When Child struggled in elementary school, we taught him to say “can you explain it using different words”. That was supremely helpful most of the time. Eventually, one of the biggest compliments that we heard about Child from his hockey coaches was that he’s easy to coach. In fact, one of the evaluation check boxes on the team tryouts forms was, “Player is coachable”. Check.

And when my gentleman associate and I were doing ballroom dancing classes every week, he would catch on to complex steps very quickly – like, in 5 minutes he could get something that Miss Angie had scheduled 3 weeks to teach us. She was always surprised, and he always though she was making fun of him. He described his ease of learning like this: “You teach me drills, and I’ll do the drills.” And boy howdy did he do the drills.

People seem to think that putting “Excellent communication skills” on their resume is a big desirable skill. And it is, don’t get me wrong. But most people also think that it means that you have good manners in business conversations and you respond to emails promptly after spell-checking your response. Yeah, notsomuch. There will always be someone who thinks very highly of their ability to bestow information on others. And if others don’t get it, that’s their fault. There will also always be someone who thinks that they don’t need anyone telling them how to do TheThing, because they know stuff about stuff. Neither of these two people have very good communication skills, but they’re more likely to blame The Other Guy for the breakdown.

Sidebar: I’m a pretty big Chris Hadfield fangirl, and his book Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is delightful. If you haven’t read it, you really should. One bit of the immensely quotable biography that has stayed with me is “there is no problem so bad you can’t make it worse.” I feel like the fastest way to make it worse is always poor communication and refusal to admit that you have things you can learn from everyone you encounter.  Also from Commander Hadfield: ” In any field, it’s a plus if you view criticism as potentially helpful advice rather than as a personal attack”. Yep. And Steven Covey hits the nail on the head: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”.

This Lent, may I be coachable. May I coach with grace. And may my failures at each not be because I refused to listen with good intention.

Extra Credit

This isn’t the interview I watched this weekend, because the internet failed me. Boo! But it does speak to Mike Babcock’s leadership and support for lifelong learning. Have a look, you won’t regret it:

Lessons in Leadership with Mike Babcock, Head Coach, Toronto Maple Leafs

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