The new series of Strictly Come Dancing has launched here in the UK and I have to own up to being an avid fan!   This year the series has a new judge in the shape of retired English ballerina Darcy Bussell and it was Darcy’s feedback on the show that prompted me to write this post about the coaching lessons we could all learn.

As a coach and trainer, though admittedly not of dancing (heaven forbid),  I get annoyed at many of the strictly judges’ less than helpful comments.   Every year Bruno and his colleagues tell the celebs to relax, be more confident or improve their frame, but rarely do they tell them how to achieve these transformational miracles.    Then, just when I had given up hope of a really helpful piece of feedback, along comes Darcy with a master coaches ability to give just one simple yet powerful little tip for HOW to achieve what she wants them to do – hallelujah!

So what coaching lessons can we learn from Darcy Bussell?large__8405185756

There are two things that Darcy does particularly well.
  1. She focusses on one specific area that she feels will have the most impact
  2. She makes specific suggestions on what the person could DO to improve
In my experience, most people when coaching, fall into the well-meaning but ineffective trap of telling the other person to BE something ie.:
  • Be more confident
  • Be more relaxed
  • Be more musical
  • Be more assertive
Inside the person receiving this feedback the alarm bells are going off big time “Listen you idiot, if I knew how to be more confident I would be!
I suggest we all take a leaf out of Darcy’s book and give them something specific to DO that will help them BE.

Some examples of Darcy’s specific coaching suggestions:

To Richard Arnold:
If you feel the nerves, on the first day of rehearsal take that music home with you yes? Listen to it when you are cooking, in the bath, then you’ll feel really relaxed on that dance floor again. Ok, that will help.“.  This is a simple and realistic tip that anyone could do easily and which will associate the dance music with a relaxed state rather than just with the stressed state experienced in training or performance.   A great way to create a more relaxed performance!

To Dani Harmer:
“To help with your top line imagine you have the most beautiful necklace on and that will help with your posture.” Again an easy to implement, specific suggestion that will change Dani’s posture through a simple visualisation.

To Victoria Pendleton
One thing I think that would really help you – try a lower heel,  because I can see you are really finding it trouble balancing with such high heels and then you’ll be able to feel the ground more,

So how can we translate these coaching lessons into the world of work?

Somebody recently asked me how they could BE more assertive.   I gave them the following simple suggestion for something they could DO to get them started.
When you are in a situation where you want to be more assertive, always take a deep breath and mentally “press the pause button” before responding to any request.“.
It’s a simple suggestion that allows you to regain the thinking time you need to decide how you really want to respond. If you apply this approach you too could come up with simple, helpful and specific performance enhancing suggestions to help your staff and colleagues perform at their best.

In conclusion: 

Giving feedback that includes simple clear specific suggestions for how to improve is a real skill that takes effort and time but which pays huge dividends.   Learn a coaching lesson from Darcy but please don’t copy her annoying habit of saying “Yeah, Yes or OK” at the end of every sentence.

photo credit: Kryziz Bonny via photopin cc

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