Since I’m not great under the hood of any car I’d better explain what he meant. Here are some ways to compare coaching with being a mechanic.
- Both diagnose problems. Mechanics usually possess a keen sense of what is wrong. Some use diagnostic tools while others trust their experience and instincts. A coach’s first job is always to correctly diagnose the problem. Often the observed behaviors are not the real issues. Like a mechanic, good listening skills, and instincts may combine to help a coach correctly assess what needs addressed.
- Both offer potential solutions. When a problem is correctly diagnosed, mechanics can provide a solution that should fix the problem. Occasionally their recommendation will be easy and inexpensive to fix; other times the investment may be substantial. Coaches also typically offer a potential solution but differ in how the solution will be implemented. Unlike a mechanical problem, few coaching engagements are straightforward or simple. Because people are involved, perceptions must be shifted and the person being coached must be willing to put forth the effort for change to occur.
- Both use tools. A mechanic’s toolbox is filled with a variety of specialized instruments that play specific roles when diagnosing or fixing the problem. Coaches also rely on assessments, surveys, journals, and other instruments designed to reveal what is happening and track progress toward making improvements.
- Both rely on communication. A mechanic must listen well and clearly state expectations so the customer understands what they are investing in and why it is important. A poorly maintained piece of equipment can be deadly. Coaches must also be good listeners and know how to communicate what they are observing and wanting the client to address.
Being a mechanic isn’t for everyone. The best mechanics are typically persons with an ability to work with their hands, problem-solve, and collaborate. They are often extremely persistent in diagnosing and fixing challenging situations. Coaches know how to build trust, pose tough questions, and hold people accountable. Not everyone can be an effective coach.
I’m grateful my client sees value in the coaching work I’m doing with his firm and its people. He recognizes and appreciates the assistance he has received with the interpersonal relationships that can prevent organizations from succeeding.
Now if only I could get away with wearing coveralls to work.