“A compassionate yet unreasonable friend” is one of my favourite definitions of a coach.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines compassion as “feeling or showing sympathy”. A great coach will always be compassionate. A great coach will understand how his client feels, on a deep and respectful, intimate level. He will always be on his client’s side. He will be in his corner, he will have his back and he will always have his best interests at heart. He will do his best to not let his client fall; he will never let him down.
Yet at the same time, if the client doesn’t find his coach to be unreasonable, the coach isn’t doing his job. You see reason is the mechanism that stops us going that bit further, taking that next step, stretching ourselves, adding that extra weight to the bar or running that extra mile. We think “this is too hard”, “this is too difficult or dangerous” and stop, usually just short of the level which is going to make a difference.
If we were trying to build up a certain muscle group, doing what we have always done won’t work. It is the extra weight or extra repetitions that adds the pain and that also adds the value. If we have always done ten, it is doing eleven or twelve that builds the muscle. And so it is in many contexts. By demanding more of you than you do of yourself your coach will appear unreasonable, because he is leading you to try at a level that your own sense of reason would prevent. That is why all great sportsmen and women have coaches, to help them to play at their very best, more often and more consistently.
The comparison between sports and business is limited because typically sports people spend a lot of time practicing and relatively little time performing, whereas business people spend almost all of their time performing and almost no time practicing. So in business the need for a coach, a compassionate and yet unreasonable friend is of even more importance.
Without a coach who is giving you honest feedback, who is looking out for you, who is in your corner, who is demanding more of you, who is helping you to deliberately get better? Who has the courage to tell you it like it is?
The reason Tiger Woods has coaches is, he says, because he can’t see his own swing. Who is watching your swing? Who is your compassionate yet unreasonable friend?
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