Tiger Woods or Hank Haney, Who’s your Coach?

There is a theory that a great coach is one that has been there, done that and still doing it. On the surface it may seem that the best coaches are the ones whose credentials say that they eat their own cooking and drink their own cool aid or at least did at one time.

But if we dig a little deeper below the surface we see there’s more to being a great coach than just having great personal achievements and glorified accolades.

There is a distinct difference between achieving results for oneself and teaching others how to do the same. Doing and teaching are two different skills. Just because someone can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that they can teach others to do the same.

Many times a great coach isn’t/wasn’t always the best player on the team. In fact, many times the best coach is/was an average player at best. Don’t believe me?

Take Hank Haney for example. Hank who? Haney. You know the guy who coaches Tiger Woods?

Surely to be Tiger’s coach Hank must have won several major championships on the PGA Tour?


Ok at least won several PGA tournaments?

Not once.

Finished in the top 10 on the PGA Tour?

Zero times.

Did he even play on the PGA Tour?


Are you serious?

When I speak at events for business events and colleges on the subject of leadership I ask the audience members, if they were attempting to become a professional golfer and make the PGA Tour who would they want to have coach them, Tiger Woods or Hank Haney?

With the rare exception of a couple of hard-core golfers in the room, the majority of hand raisers would vote unanimously for Tiger Woods. Now not to say that golfing with or learning from arguably the greatest golfer of all time wouldn’t be cool. And he does know a thing or two about golf.

But how much do you think you’d learn from someone who coaches the world’s greatest golfer?

Wouldn’t you want to learn from someone who dedicates his time to being a student of his discipline and has the ability to teach you how to be great – even if he isn’t?

I have found that with very few exceptions there are certain characteristics that all great coaches embody. Here are the top 5:

A great coach:

  1. Is constantly learning and working on mastering the rules and rudiments of the discipline.
  2. Has the ability to teach (intuitively or learned) and lead by example.
  3. Has great listening and communication skills.
  4. Loves teaching/coaching and genuinely cares about the person being taught/coached
  5. Is attuned to the individual differences in people’s personalities and styles.

So how do you find a coach with the above characteristics?

Before you set out to find the best coach for you, you must clearly define why you want a coach and what results you’re hoping to achieve with your coach.

After you’ve answered those two questions the best thing to do is perform an interview with possible candidates to see if they’re a potential fit.

Five of my favorite questions to ask potential coaches are the following:

  1. If I were to become a coaching client of yours, could you take me through the process from A to Z?
  2. What is your coaching experience?
  3. Have you coached others in similar situations to mine?
  4. What are some of your other client successes?
  5. Who are you and what do you do outside of coaching?

In question 1 the coach should answer according to how much time, energy, action and money is required from both sides.

Questions 2-4 validate the coach’s past experience and successes with other clients. Although there’s no guarantee that past performance is indicative of future results it’s the best measure we have for potential.

The last question,  is usually what determines whether the coaches personality, belief system and core values match yours.

In the end a coach is there for you. And it’s your results that matter.

Feel free to comment on your experiences with a coach by posting in comments below.

(Photo: thegordons)

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