The Coaching Chronicles #8: Walk the Talk
Updated: Jul 26, 2019
Alignment is crucial in so many aspects of our life. As we travel daily to and from work, we place our safety in the assumption that the four tires of our vehicle are aligned. As our car suspension connects the vehicle to the wheels, the tires are hopefully all contacting the road at the optimal angle. If not, we notice our vehicle pulling to the left or right, that the steering wheel is off center when driving straight, or that our steering wheel is vibrating during transit. This can ultimately result in difficulty steering, increasing the risk of an accident and compromising the effectiveness of the car's brakes.
Similarly, our spines' alignment contributes to our overall sense of well-being. When our spinal columns are out of alignment, we can begin to notice problems with sleep, stress, metabolism, and more. One of the largest impacts of misalignment is back pain, specifically stiffness, soreness, and discomfort. Those who have experienced back pain know how debilitating it can be. When spines are out of alignment, the entire body is affected.
In the same way, coaches must have alignment to be effective. If their words, actions, goals, and plans are not in sync, many areas are affected (Kee, Anderson, Dearing, Harris, & Shuster, 2010). Just as a misaligned spine has repercussions across the entire body, misaligned coaches are highly ineffective. Their character is called into question, their motives are doubted, and they find trust as ethereal as leprechauns and unicorns.
A person has integrity when there is no gap between intent and behavior (Covey & Merrill, 2006). What they say is what they do. Period. End of discussion. The more grey area that exists, the more gaps that open up between desires, words, and behavior, the less power that person has in influencing others. It is ridiculously simple to understand but incredibly hard to pull off with fidelity. Integrity requires complete alignment of the values, the core beliefs and behaviors that coaches have claimed as important to them and their actions (Scott, 2004).
Trustworthiness springs from the congruence of what we say and what we do. When others can count on your word and see that your actions support your words, the door opens for the presence of trust in the relationship (Kee et al., 2010). Coaching is leadership and leadership is influence. Without trust and integrity, coaching and leadership are stillborn. Trustworthiness has an inverse relationship with the integrity gap - the greater one is, the smaller the other one becomes.
Trust is not an event, it's a process. Every interaction changes the balance of trust in a relationship. People trust someone they can rely on - someone who is steady and dependable. Trustworthy individuals follow through, keep their word, and are there when needed (Jablon, Dombro, & Johnsen, 2016). Not once, not twice, not even often. Trust flows from integrity that is consistently consistent, day in and day out.
When someone shows you who they are by their actions, believe them the first time. Most people can perform once or even twice. The newness of the situation or the allure of the challenge brings out the best in people. But what happens when the work becomes a grind? What happens when there are roadblocks, setbacks, and outright failures? When coaches keep their integrity in dismal situations, when they maintain their values and principles when facing defeat, their worth shines through. Consistency is easy when everything is going right. People show you who they really are in adversity.
Because coaching language and skills require alignment of the integrity of one's attitudes and behaviors, coaching continually strengthens emotional intelligence for self-awareness, self-control, motivation, social awareness, and skill enhancement (Kee et al., 2010). Rather than seeing it as a chore, coaches should welcome the pressure of always striving to maintain alignment and balance. Though it is definitely a lot of work, it sharpens one's metacognitive and emotional intelligence.
Most of our interactions and values are shared through conversations. To be an authentic communicator, we have to know what we believe in and then act in a way that is consistent with those beliefs (Knight, 2015). If our words say one thing and our actions say another, our communication is compromised. Our primary method for coaching others, powerful conversations, becomes neutered if practiced in the landscape of broken promises and meaningless platitudes. Rather than trying to solve every problem, it's easier to keep commitments when coaches under promise and over deliver (Aguilar, 2013).
To read more about how coaches can build integrity, read the next post in The Coaching Chronicles.
Aguilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching: Effective strategies for school transformation. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.
Covey, S. R., & Merrill, R. R. (2006). The speed of trust: The one thing that changes everything. Simon and Schuster.
Jablon, J., Dombro, A. L., & Johnsen, S. (2016). Coaching with powerful interactions: A guide for partnering with early childhood teachers. National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Kee, K., Anderson, K., Dearing, V., Harris, E., & Shuster, F. (2010). RESULTS coaching: The new essential for school leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Knight, J. (2015). Better conversations: Coaching ourselves and each other to be more credible, caring, and connected. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Scott, S. (2004). Fierce conversations: Achieving success at work & in life, one conversation at a time. Penguin.