There have been a lot of raised eyebrows this week at the appointment of a female coach by Britain’s number one tennis player, Andy Murray. It would appear he is the first leading player to do so and when asked what his peer group thought of his appointment he declared, quite rightly in my opinion that he doesn’t care.
Of interest to me is what attributes he believes his new Coach, Amelie Mauresmo brings; those small differences that can enhance his game and subsequent results. The key differentiator appears to be her ability to listen. Murray commented that as he gets older he listens to his body much more and recognises that he doesn’t need to be pushed to his physical limit every single day. Apparently, Andy’s mum, who was a big part of his tennis career up to the age of 17, was a good listener, and so is Mauresmo. Murray knows what he needs and she is willing to listen.
Whether or not this skill is predominantly the domain of female coaches (I haven’t checked out the research on this); I do know that exquisite listening skills are paramount in any successful business. Even those of us for whom this skill comes naturally, sometimes have to make a conscious effort to hold back with our own thoughts and opinions in favour of letting the individual work things out for themselves.
Remember, coaching isn’t about proving that you’re an expert. Rather it’s about being respectful of your coachee’s expertise and working in partnership with them to realise their stated goals and ambitions.