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David Lim
(MSW, MBA) Mental Health Therapist, Life Transition Coach, Writer
Seattle, Washington
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Leadership, Management, Coaching: Tough or Nurturing?

Which works best? A boss, manager, supervisor, or coach who pushes, makes you feel uncomfortable, uses fear as motivation ... OR the boss, manager, supervisor who is patient, calm and creates a comfortable, trusting and safe relationship ...
Written Sep 15, 2008, read 4164 times since then.
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Which works best? A boss, manager, supervisor or even a coach who pushes, makes you feel uncomfortable, yells at you OR the boss, manager, supervisor who is patient, calm, creates a comfortable, trusting, and safe relationship?

In college basketball, Coach Bob Knight was often criticized for his wildly inappropriate, boorish behavior. Yet, based on results, it seemed to work. Coach Knight won three national championships, very early on in his career. He coached a US team to an Olympic Gold in 1984, and his teams won countless conference championships (A side note: Coach Knight's teams always graduated at a rate among the highest in the country. And the coach also contributed his own resources to the improvement of education at Indiana University).

Then there is John Wooden, another college basketball coaching great. He was tough, strong-willed, brilliant. He also listened, created a respectful and trusting space. You still had to do things his way. But seldom did he yell or lose his temper. He did not berate his players. His teams won 88 games in a row and 10 straight championships. And his players graduated at high rates.

From psychology, there are decades of research and evidence that says the most important determinant of change is the relationship between the client and helping professional (therapist, doctor, teacher, coach, psychiatrist).

In other words, the more a customer or client feels respected, trusted, and understood ... the safer he or she will feel. That safety will help the customer or client respect the relationship. It all adds up.

What about pushing a client, using "tough love?" If a coach, help professional, therapist, is going to help a client make long lasting change, then the basic relationship space of trust and respect has to be created and cultivated. However, stretching a client to do something that he or she is not comfortable doing is ultimately the bottom line of change. And at times this CALLS for a more direct, strict, "tougher love," approach.

BUT in the long run, lasting change and lasting results comes from the relationship between help professional, client or customer.

CLOSING NOTES: Coach Wooden was able to sustain longer term success. In his first few years, his teams struggled. In fact, Coach Knight's first few years were filled with amazing success. But in the long run, Wooden had the most consistent long-term success in the history of College basketball. Meanwhile, Coach Knight's team backslid towards mediocrity.

Think about your experiences. Maybe there was a parent, coach, mentor, or teacher that you look back on as "influential." Someone you respected, trusted, admired. Someone who motivated you to perform at peak levels or at higher levels. Maybe that person did set some hard lines once in awhile. Maybe he or she asked you to stretch out of your comfort zone, to work harder, practice harder, etc. But instead of resenting that "pushiness," you stayed with it because a respectful, trusting relationship had already been established.

One dimensional coaching - constant pressure, constant berating, constant cajoling - can produce some wonderful results in the short run. But in the long haul, it may be self-defeating.

Learn more about the author, David Lim.

Comment on this article

  • Certified Professional Coach 
Duvall, Washington 
Nina Durfee, ACC
    Posted by Nina Durfee, ACC, Duvall, Washington | Sep 17, 2008

    David, your points are vivid and insightful. It is true that in the long run, lasting change and lasting results come from the relationship between help professional, client or customer. And I would add that even though sometimes the end result can be reached with either negative or positive approach, the end does NOT justify the means. Life is not about what will happen in the future. Life is happening now, and the whole ride should be one of joy, confidence, success, harmony and growth.

    A good coach will not only hold the space to nurture the best in his or her client, but will be nonjudgmental through "failures" and struggles, and will acknowledge and celebrate success along the way.

    Thank you for profound thoughts.

    Nina

  • Life, Prosperity, and Small Business Coach. Author. Speaker. Trainer. Singer/Songwriter. 
Seattle, Washington 
Kate Phillips
    Posted by Kate Phillips, Seattle, Washington | Sep 18, 2008

    Great food for thought, David. You say that one dimensional coaching might not work so well if the coach is always pushing, pressuring, berating. It might be the same if the coach is one-dimensional the other way, always accepting to the point of being too soft, not pushing and challenging enough.

    Sometimes people need to be pushed (but not all the time), and I think the results are best when they also have a respectful relationship with the person doing the pushing. I can't say I enjoy being pushed, but sometimes I have benefitted from it.

  • Entrepreneurial Coach 
Kirkland, Washington 
Russell Cox
    Posted by Russell Cox, Kirkland, Washington | Sep 18, 2008

    For me, I would title this article "Pushed Towards Change or Nurtured Towards Growth."

    My experience as an entrepreneurial coach is that you can push or force a client to change, but those changes will not likely be permanent nor will they necessarily represent positive growth.

    While, on the other hand, if you provide positive, nurturing support the client will change and those changes will almost always be positive and permanent.

    Good work, thanks.

    Russell Cox - Entrepreneurial Coach
    My Profile - My Coaching - My Programs

  • Positive Outcomes Professor, Business Coach, Consultant,  Professional Speaker 
Pottsville, Pennsylvania 
KimAlyse Popkave
    Posted by KimAlyse Popkave, Pottsville, Pennsylvania | Sep 18, 2008

    David:

    You are right on the mark. A nurturing relationship has always produced the surest path to success.

    As coaches, we deal not only with guiding individuals to formulate and take action to accomplish goals, we deal with the emotional attachments that these individuals have to their present situations and their desired situations. Emotions are quite often very powerful. Nurturing a positive, respectful relationship is the key to success.

    Thank you for your article.

    to success,

    Kimalyse Popkave, M.Ed., CMI, CPPC President K A Popkave Coaching & Consulting (www.popkave-coaching-and-consulting.com) (kimalyse@popkave-coaching-and-consulting.com)

  • Positive Outcomes Professor, Business Coach, Consultant,  Professional Speaker 
Pottsville, Pennsylvania 
KimAlyse Popkave
    Posted by KimAlyse Popkave, Pottsville, Pennsylvania | Sep 18, 2008

    David:

    You are right on the mark. A nurturing relationship has always produced the surest path to success.

    As coaches, we deal not only with guiding individuals to formulate and take action to accomplish goals, we deal with the emotional attachments that these individuals have to their present situations and their desired situations. Emotions are quite often very powerful. Nurturing a positive, respectful relationship is the key to success.

    Thank you for your article.

    Cordially,

    Kimalyse Popkave, M.Ed., CMI, CPPC

    President

    K A Popkave Coaching & Consulting

    www.popkave-coaching-and-consulting.com

    kimalyse@popkave-coaching-and-consulting.com

  • business consultant 
Beaverton, Oregon 
Thomas Cox
    Posted by Thomas Cox, Beaverton, Oregon | Sep 18, 2008

    If it's true (as I believe) that all true change comes from within, then the nurturing approach will do a better job of calling forth that change.

  • Counselor/Psychotherapist 
Bellingham, Washington 
Chris Wolf
    Posted by Chris Wolf, Bellingham, Washington | Sep 19, 2008

    Thank you, David. In the psychotherapy field, there is extensive research showing that the quality of relationship between the client and therapist is a much stronger predictor of the client's therapeutic progress than what method or technique the therapist uses. It seems to me that pushing for change would work well with a client who feels respected by me and WANTS to be pushed, and that a more nurturing approach works better with someone who naturally responds better to praise and support. In either case, the relationship-- and the practitioner's ability to accurately glean the client's own "style"-- is the foundation necessary for any good work to take place.

  • Designer 
Arizona, Arizona 
Mia Jade
    Posted by Mia Jade, Arizona, Arizona | Sep 19, 2008

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  • Seattle Business Coach / Seattle Leadership Coach / Executive Coach / Author / Speaker 
Seattle, Washington 
Hsuan-Hua Chang, PCC, LMBA
    Posted by Hsuan-Hua Chang, PCC, LMBA, Seattle, Washington | Sep 20, 2008

    "Making sure someone achieves certain performance levels is managing. Helping them handle problems for themselves is coaching." (from Coachingļ¼šThe Ten Killer Myths from Harvard Management)

    I prefer coaching more than managing since coaching develops a person's potential and will also have positive impact on people's performance.

  • CEO 
New Orleans, Louisiana 
Robert Auchmuty
    Posted by Robert Auchmuty, New Orleans, Louisiana | Sep 23, 2008

    Very well put.. I seem to forget some of these things. Always nice to read them again though.

  • Effectiveness/ Business  & Awareness coach 
Norwalk, California 
Bruce Leonard
    Posted by Bruce Leonard, Norwalk, California | Oct 31, 2008

    A lot of good points thank you. i truly believe that change comes from within 100%. Not everyone has the clarity to see what might have become hidden or dusty inside of us. As coaches it is our business to be in such a relationship that we know when to push and when to nurture. I think you can never go wrong with a little bit of nurture in evry conversation.

  • Ghost Writer/Blogger 
Los Angeles, California 
Terra  Paley
    Posted by Terra Paley, Los Angeles, California | Dec 20, 2008

    I strongly believe in coaches. I refer my clients to a coach-I coach them to find the right coach. Biznik is full of coaches-finding the right fit is essential.

    As you so aptly note, style and approach could be the critical difference. Many coaches offer a free first session and then a commitment to a contract. I think it might take more than an hour where everyone is on their best behavior. Coaching should examine all aspects as Bruce Leonard pointed out-many people do not recognize their own good or shortcomings.

    I meet many very nice coaches but would not suggest them to my clients. I look for the coaches with specific plans and that are flexible enough to throw out the plans when needed. However, you have to have rapport with the coach of choice. Chris Wolf said it best above-the quality of the relationship.

    Either way, I strongly believe in coaching. I have seen it work wonders in many arenas. Sometimes you need multiple coaches in sequence. I appreciate the work it takes to become a coach and I note who has accomplishments outside of coaching.

    Good article!

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