4 lessons of military style coaching


When I say “military style training” most of us think of R. Lee Ermey, the fierce US Marine Corps drill sergeant in the 1987 movie “Full Metal Jacket”, as an example of a trainer. military. Ermey’s character was secular, demanding, and an image of precision in basic military activities. He was not a coach image. Fear and screaming is a way to teach basic military skills, but intimidation techniques rarely work as a way to develop higher leadership, initiative, and critical skills among employees.

Real military coaching works great in any format, especially on video, and it’s an amazing leadership technique for retaining and developing employees. One of my earliest memories of my time in the military was sitting down with my immediate boss on a beautiful fall day in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the Republic of Korea. We discussed my background, my goals for the military unit I was to lead, and its performance standards for the key tasks my unit needed to accomplish in order for the unit to be successful. I left the meeting motivated, excited and aware of the responsibility I had to the 35 people I led as I contemplated the miles of fences, mines and barbed wire that separated North Korea and Korea. from South.

After about 30 days of work, my boss and I sat down again to discuss my performance. The conversation started with a look at what had happened in the first month as the new boss. My boss described what I was doing well, what I needed to improve assessed against the standards he set in our first meeting (he had clearly checked my performance with my team) and what specific actions I needed to take to get my job done. ‘to improve. Again, I left the meeting motivated, inspired, and visibly clear on what I needed to do, what was expected of me to be successful, and the actions I needed to take to be successful.

I realized that my boss had given me the secret to one of the best tools for leading others: the military coaching session.

Military coaching involves describing accurately and precisely the performance standards for success in a position, then having frequent coaching sessions regarding job performance. The best aspect of military training is the direct comparison of job performance against a clear, distinct, and well-defined performance standard. Military coaching is all about performance and performance improvement. When we coach, discuss, and teach to a clear, well-defined standard, it’s easy to see what we need to do to improve and be successful.

How to be a good coach

1) Have defined, clear, written, consistent, equal and achievable standards

A great coach knows what he expects from a team. More importantly, they tell the team in clear, straightforward, and straightforward language what they want, and those expectations don’t change. Coaching to improve a team or individual is all about matching a person’s performance to a clear standard and then telling that person how they need to take clear, specific action to improve. The standards must be clear and consistent to develop their skills according to the requirements of the coach.

2) Have frequent, quality and immediate interactions focused on performance

Performance coaching is about small, frequent and immediate meetings. Watch sports trainers in action during training. They’ll tell players how to best execute a game, giving one player 15-30 seconds of advice, sidelining another player for 3-5 minutes, and then working harder with another smaller group of players for an hour. The secret to being an effective coach is to coach according to each person’s needs in a way that will improve their performance. It’s important to note that coaches provide feedback all the time, especially when they recognize when an employee has performed well.

3) Knowing how to give a compliment

When a leader says “Great job” or “Great job” it sounds like a compliment, but is it really? What was done well? Who did well? A compliment is a verbal or written acknowledgment of a specific, definable event, action, date, and result that an employee has accomplished that the boss wishes to repeat. When giving a compliment, slow down and make it clear who did the activity well, what the business outcome was, what was the specific activity that created the success, and what was the standard of performance that others can understand and repeat. Giving a compliment attracts attention. Use the compliment to develop and strengthen team and employee performance.

4) Coaches vary their approach, but not their standards

Truly great coaches find a way to reach every member of the team, but they don’t vary in their standards of requirement. When I first joined the infantry, my company commander kept me at the range with some of the sniper instructors so that I could become a great marksman. I needed the extra work and my company commander, my trainer, knew I needed the extra work, so I worked to get it right. Its standards have not changed. What changed was his approach, allowing me to get the additional instructions I needed to meet the standard.

Korea has been a great first place of employment for me. My lessons in leadership, training, coaching and high standards have served me incredibly well in the years to come in demanding combat zones. The secrets of military training were fundamental to developing and bringing others to even higher levels of performance: training at one level; give specific and actionable feedback to a clear standard; and develop improvement plans to become and remain a leader and coach.

Chad Storlie is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) officer, Iraq veteran, and has 15 years of university teaching experience as an Assistant Professor of Marketing. He is a mid-level B2B marketing executive and widely published author on topics related to leadership, business, data, military, and technology. Contact him at [email protected] or 402-960-1350.


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