During a UFC championship fight between Brazil’s Amanda Nunes, and USA’s Raquel Pennington recently captured attention when Pennington turned to her corner and said she was “done”.
After telling her coach she couldn’t go on, the 29-year-old bantamweight title challenger listened to her corner, and went back out for the fifth.
At that point, FightMetric reports that Pennington took another 19 strikes over the course of 2:36.
Pennington was unable to make a comeback, finished the match covered in blood, and was hospitalized directly afterwards.
This leads us to the billion-dollar question:
When do you push a team member beyond what they believe they can do? And, when do you step back, and let them set their boundaries in that moment?
How Do You Know When to Push?
As coaches, our goal is always to bring out the very best in our team members. Ideally, we unlock a potential our employees didn’t even know they possessed.
“A coach… helps an individual realize his full potential and maximize positive outcomes,” points out an article in Entrepreneur.
Knowing when to coach though, is essential, and there’s a fine line between healthful encouragement, and pushing your employees beyond their reach too fast.
“Pennington’s corner implored her not to give up, despite being down four rounds.” Says an ESPN article, ‘change your mindset,’ was the advice she got back from a coach…”
Was her coach right to try and push Pennington further? Should he have listened to her and allowed her to step back from the match?
As coaches, it’s our job to know where to draw that line. And that’s rarely an easy call.
“It’s not surprising to me that, when confronted with Pennington’s plea in the fifth round of a UFC title fight, her corner’s first reaction was to talk her out of it,” says ESPN, “that’s part of a coach’s job: Demand the very most from your athletes – especially when they believe they have nothing more to give.”
And yet, when your athlete ends up hospitalized, it may lead you to wonder if that extra push was given at the wrong moment.
As an article in Chief Learning Officer says, “determining when coaching is a good investment can be challenging.”
There are three components to address that will help you, as a coach, know exactly when to push and exactly when to take a step back.
The first is keeping your eye on the long-term prize; the second is knowing your team members’ abilities; and the third is making sure your focusing – not on yourself – but on your employees.
Keep Your Eye on the (Long-Term) Prize
“Coaching effectively supports long-term, sustained employee development,” points out an article in Chief Learning Officer.
And that’s exactly right. Coaching isn’t just about helping an employee meet this week’s goal. It’s about getting them to a level of consistency and success that lasts an entire career. If knocking it out of the park before this coming Friday is going to do your employee in, then by all means, forego this week’s deadlines in favor of a higher revenue at the end of the year – or even, at the end of next year.
Sometimes, failure is an okay outcome. Failure gives you a golden opportunity for growth. Sometimes though, an extra push will unlock a reserve of energy; harnessing a success or win your employee may not have expected.
As a coach, it’s your job to know where you and your employee stand.
Know Your Employee’s Skills
It’s critical that – as a coach, you invest time and attention in understanding your employee’s skills, emotions, and abilities. This gives you the power to know exactly when to push – and exactly when to give a little.
If Pennington’s coach had had a better understanding of her limits and skills, would he have known when to call it?
Amanda Nunes pointed out, “If she didn’t have the right conditioning to fight, the coach should have thrown in the towel for sure. I think my coach wouldn’t have let me go through that.”
And that’s a critical skill for a coach; knowing what your employee’s training has prepared them for, and where skill gaps may leave them exposed to risk or error.
It’s Just Not About You.
One of the first mistakes new coaches make is thinking that coaching is all about them.
A big win. A higher sale. A team that consistently meets their goals. This reflects well on a coach.
That’s where the danger lies.
Great coaches know that – no matter how exhilarating it is to see your team succeed – coaching is all about your team members. It’s not about you.
Entrepreneur points out, “Good coaches show team members their potential, help them find confidence in their work, point out the value of what they do, and inspire them to be the best version of themselves.”
If you can keep your focus on your team, you’re in an upper echelon of coaches that have a high level of skill.
Putting it All into Practice…
Recognizing when to push your employee under pressure and when to hold back is a high-level skill; but it’s certainly one worth working towards.
Remember to keep your eye on the long-term results, get to know your employee’s skills, and focus on them – not you. These three skills will help you to know when it’s time to push, and when to let your employee gauge their own limits.
If you’re like most coaches, you will learn by making mistakes, stumbling on successes, and taking the time and energy to perfect your coaching skills.
Join our next Coaching Cohort to learn how you can become a game-changing coach in less time with better results.