Learning to Influence Effectively

There is a golf driving range near my house that is equipped for winter. I have gone there regularly. For a long time, my swing has been erratic. I have done much analysis and tried many fixes. After months of effort, there has been no progress. I have been a prisoner of my weaknesses. Unable to stand it any longer, I decided to take a lesson.
The golf pro was a very young man named Zach. I worried he might not be effective. I have met with many golf pros who are not effective. They know the golf swing but they do not know how to teach. They see the technical task, they do not see the relationship in which they are embedded. They spew technical expertise and instruction on the student without understanding or meeting the deepest needs of the students and there is little positive impact.
Zach asked me questions as I hit a few balls. The entire time he never had me stand passively listening while he gave a lecture. As I kept swinging, he analyzed my swings on the computer. He then had me watch myself on the computer screen. Together we tried to make sense of what we were seeing. Then Zach invited me to make two small adjustments. As I began to experiment, I almost immediately began to hit the ball long and straight.
It felt like a miracle. How could two such small changes resolve months of frustration? I felt genuine joy. I also experienced another powerful, positive emotion. I was full of gratitude for the teacher who so effortlessly ended my months of frustration. I felt a bond. I wanted to be Zach’s friend for life. The latter reaction was striking to me. I had known the man less than an hour yet I valued him greatly.
I gave Zach some specific, positive feedback.   He lit up. Then he told a fascinating story.
When he first started, there was a senior golf teacher. He was a master of teaching. He would sit in a chair and watch his students swing. Instead of instructing them on what steps to take, he would say, “When you swing feel like …,” and he would provide some graphic image.
The other golf instructors would marvel at the impact of this unusual approach. Zach paid great attention. He never figured out the imagery part, but he did discover something important. Teaching is relational and the solution needs to come from inside the student. The job of the teacher is not to be an expert who pours the solution into the student.   The job is to provide the challenge and support that allows the solution to come out of the student. Zach became a master teacher.

  • What is the difference between a conventional teacher and a master?
  • Of all the leaders you have known, which one was the best example of a master teacher and what difference did the leader make?
  • How can you help your people to improve their performance?
  • How can you use this passage to create a more positive organization?


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