One way to improve the performance of your team or staff is to pursue mastery in using coaching skills. Managers that do this skillfully will improve the performance of their team. There are many proficiencies and deliverables to master as a coach, and one of these proficiencies is championing. You should champion your staff early and often.
What exactly is championing? Championing is a form of support that can be comprised of many things including the following:
- acknowledgement of an achievement
- acknowledgement of a breakthrough
- acknowledgement of a success
You can champion actions, progress, dreams, traits, commitments, talents, gifts and qualities. When you champion someone, you are championing something that has already occurred. A memory aid is that championing requires a champion. A champion is someone who has already excelled, accomplished something or succeeded at something.
Championing is Not Cheer Leading
Championing is distinctly different from cheer leading. Understanding the difference can help you become a more masterful coach. There is nothing wrong with cheer leading; it is just that championing supports someone at a much higher level than cheer leading. Cheer leading implies firing someone upwhen their energy or capacity is low. When you are cheer leading, the emphasis is on leading. Leading means taking someone who isn’t there yet to someplace different. Masterful coaching is not about leading.
Thomas Leonard, the father of coaching, stated "the more often and deeply the coach champions their client at all levels (including their actions, progress, dreams, traits, commitments, gifts and qualities), the more encouraged the client feels and the more likely they are to succeed. For the coach to merely be encouraging is not enough; there is a much higher level of support generated when the coach operates at the championing level…"
When you can help the person see for themselves and acknowledge their own achievements as they define them, you are championing. The coach is the catalyst that helps the person internally reference for themselves what they have accomplished. By championing someone you get them to connect to the strength inside of them that allowed them to get to where they are. The coach can point out the shifts they have made and help them to make the connection to how it has evolved them. Coaching, as a whole, always has an eye toward personal evolution.
Let’s take a look at some examples of championing.
Scenario 1: Accomplishment of a Certification
Employee: "I just completed my certification in XYZ. It has been a long hard journey because I have had a lot of interruptions in completing my education especially with the death of my father. Also, along the way I was married and my first two children were born."
Coach/Manager: "I am curious, is it the certification itself that you are most proud of? Or is it more the tenacity to stick with it despite all of the events and obstacles along the way that could have stopped you?"
Note the Coach/Manager didn’t just congratulate him on the certification. This is where most people start and stop. When the employee mentioned the ‘long hard journey’ and ‘lot of interruptions’ and other challenges, the Coach/Manager digs deeper to get what the employee is really most proud of as she defines it.
Employee: "I am really proud of sticking with it. Not everyone would be able to keep coming back after all the things I have experienced that might have stopped me. But I did it. I finished!"
Coach/Manager: "I admire your courage and your tenacity. Not everyone would be able to keep moving forward despite all of the hurdles that appeared in your path. It is inspiring. Congratulations."
The coach champions more the person and less the accomplishment of the certification. The path of development to get to the accomplishment itself is more important. In this case the coach is championing the character traits that the employee is most proud of – the tenacity or "stick with it-ness."
Scenario 2: Championing a Profound ‘Ah-ha’ Moment
Employee: "I had been delivering training classes once a week for about 8 months. For one particular student, I was having trouble getting what it was that she wasn’t understanding, but I kept listening. It is so challenging with so many learning styles. I finally ‘got it’ – what the puzzle pieces were that were missing and why she wasn’t connecting them together causing her gap in understanding. I observed how other more experienced teachers did this naturally. It was in that moment, I finally felt like I was successful in truly developing my teaching skills."
Coach/Manager: "What does it mean to you to have that gift of understanding the learning gap?"
She listed. She diagnosed. She was excited that she could do something and figure it out on her own. The coach is paraphrasing in her own words what she heard and wants to run it by her to see if there is a better way to phrase it.
Employee: "It means that I really can teach and I can help my students really progress forward!"
Coach/Manager: "There seems to be a moment in every teacher’s experience where they realize that all they have been trained to do, all the experience they have had, is finally coming together. They get it. Teaching is happening at the level you have always wanted it to happen. Is that what is happening for you?"
Employee: "Yes, it finally is! I really feel like a professional now!"
A coach looks for the greater truth or a reference point that the client goes through; it is the greater scheme of life. The coach doesn’t just say, "I see this." There is a point in every client’s development where the light bulb turns on and they see they can really do it and feel how powerful it is. This point is the total understanding or ‘ah ha’ moment where they now fit in the evolution of themselves as a person pursuing mastery. The masterful coach tells the client WHY it was evolutionary for them.
Be curious. Ask them. Your goal is to get them to champion for themselves, so before you tell them how great you think they are, ask them what they are proud of about XYZ or how it represents a significant shift to them. People need a lot of room to articulate why they are so proud of themselves. It may be the first time they have ever articulated this. Not because you have to know, but because you want themto know.
- Be sincere. Anyone can tell when you don’t really mean something, or if it just puffery. Championing can be very quiet, especially compared to cheer leading.
- Be excited about their progress. It is disappointing when the client is really excited, and you say something under-whelming like ‘that is nice.’ Match their tone.
- Point to the underlying shifts or growth. Lock it into place by pointing out the fundamental improvements they have made, the long term meaning, and the evolution that occurred.
- Be awed by their willingness. That we are willing to try at all shows courage.
- Champion at all levels. Don’t just focus on what they actually did or did not do. Include their dreams, traits, commitments, follow-through, qualities, service to others, feelings, insights, and profound moments, as well as their actions and progress.
Almost all of the work in championing is done by the coachee. We want them to figure it out for themselves. If they can’t, you can help them figure it out. Value is still being generated even if you do nothing – if you set it up properly.
- Don’t self reference. "That is great; I earned that certification last year." Self referencing diminishes any accomplishment.
- Don’t champion, and then immediately tell them to do more or ask what is next. It diminishes their accomplishment. Let them revel in it awhile.
Another way to understand championing is to look at the results (got certified, got nominated, won an award, etc.) as the layered bricks. Championing is the mortar around the bricks that locks in place and reinforces the results turning it into an accomplishment. So, rather than being a pile of bricks on the ground, it becomes a well-built pedestal for them to stand on.
Benefits of Championing
Why champion? Championing someone causes a shift from doubting, and feeling disconnected, to feeling energized, integrated and confident. You create a greater awareness in the person of their own strengths, talents and capabilities. Greater awareness leads to better decisions and performance. The more you use championing, the more your staff will use it too.
Want to go from stressed out to streamlined? Wishing you could spend more time actually doing the work you love? Mia Turpel’s know-how as a business and career coach, speaker, project manager and trainer will help you do just that. Discover how to find Your Best Work in the Your Best Work, Find It, Love it, Live It telecourse. Want to know more about championing? Need coaching training? Contact Coach Mia Turpel.