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Becoming Your Best Coach - Questioning Your Self

Published 5/19/2021

You have the greatest potential to coach yourself. But first, you need to understand the ground rules, and build your coaching skills. We start that journey in this episode.

✨ Sponsor: Voyage

Voyage is a tool built by and for developers. Voyage saves hours of your time by automating staging environments of your full-stack app for each pull request; and it includes feedback tools with each deployment so you don't have to juggle emails, slack messages, and excel spreadsheets from your counterparts.

Set sail with Voyage and save time and headaches with our automated staging environments. Head over to https://voyageapp.io to get started today!

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What is a good coach? That's what we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. My goal in the show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. What is a good coach? Most of the time, most people, when they hear the word coach, tend to think of one of two things, either an athletic coach or a life coach. Someone who can push you to become better. And that is certainly the image that most of us conjure up is certainly part of what it means to be a good coach. I want to spend this episode and possibly a couple more episodes talking about this idea from a slightly different perspective. But I want to set it up and kind of go down the path to help you understand who your most important coach is. You can look back on your life and see various coaches that may have been varying levels of effective for you. Whether that person was a parent, which certainly most parents have some coaching duty as they raised their children. Perhaps it was a literal coach. Maybe it was a teacher. Maybe it was a friend. It certainly could be a coworker, manager. Maybe you actually do have a life coach in your life. And you can call to mind these different coaches at different points in your life. And for what it's worth, coaching is more of an activity than it is a role. And so if you can look back and see all of these different coaches, there's one that you're probably missing. That's yourself. You are going to be with you longer than anyone else. You're going to be available to yourself your whole life. And you're going to be the most invested in yourself out of anyone that you know. Of the course of your life, you will care the most about you. And so naturally you have the capacity. You have the opportunity to be your own most important coach. But a few things have to be in line because we've also had bad coaches in our lives. We've had people who may have acted like they wanted the best for us or wanted the best for the group. But then they turned around and they didn't follow through. Maybe they had some malicious second goal, typically not malicious, maybe just selfish secondary goal. And this is one of the reasons why you have the opportunity to be your own best coach because a lot of those problems that you otherwise would have with an external coach, they're probably not possible with you. Okay, so before we go down too far on this road, I do want to say that having a coach in your life has a unique value that you can't provide yourself. That's irreplaceable in some ways. But I do want to talk to you about how you can set yourself up to be a good coach for yourself. And we should be clear that you will coach yourself over the course of your life many times. You'll have to counsel yourself. You'll have to be the one that sees and deals with most of the emotions that you're going to go through in your life. So you will be confronted with the responsibility of coaching yourself. The question is how effective can you be at actually doing that? We should lay some ground rules for what you expect from a good coach, what you expect from someone who cares about your success and is pushing you towards it. Any good coach has no incentive, has no incentive to tear you down. Any good coach has all of the incentives aligned to build you up, to push you towards success, to help you to recover when you fail. And to look towards a brighter future, the opportunities that are in front rather than the failures that are behind. Now, good coaches also understand that failures are very important learning points. This should come as no surprise, but what I hope you see is the perspective shift. If you shift your perspective away from the person who's experiencing the failure to the person who is observing and analyzing the failure, the person who is responsible for looking at that failure through the lens of opportunism rather than pessimism. If you shift your role to that coaching role, then you have no reason to tear yourself down for failure. There's nothing positive that will come from that. There's nothing incentivizing you to beat yourself up. So this is a ground rule. You have to approach this perspective as if you were the observing coach. Not the person who's experiencing the failure, but the person who is observing it, analyzing it, and looking for the lesson in it. Okay. So that's one very major part of setting yourself up for long term successful coaching. In fact, if you do nothing else that I recommend to you in this episode, that's the thing you should focus the most on. Focus on understanding failure through the lens of a coach, that external observer, gathering analysis, gathering that information from the failure and using that information rather than feeling the failure as if it's a final end point. Now, it is important to understand that this doesn't mean that you just turn off all of your emotions. And once again, what does a good coach do? They respect emotions. Sometimes a good coach will send you home rather than pushing you harder because they know that you have no complete control over your emotions. Sometimes we have to listen to our emotions. And it may sound like we're actually kind of pushing emotions into this second category, but actually a lot of good coaching relies on playing off of our emotions, not manipulating them, but understanding them and working with them as a fundamental part of the human experience. But there has to be a balance and observational balance so that you can take a step back away from your failures and learn from them. Okay, so this is kind of the ground rules of being a good coach, being aligned and incentive. You can't have the incentive of wanting to tear yourself down. There's no use in spending time in that kind of head space. A good coach is going to always look for opportunities. I want to talk about one incredibly important skill that every good coach has that you must develop for yourself if you want to coach yourself to your own potential. We'll talk about that right after we talk about today's sponsor. Today's episode is sponsored by Voyage. Voyage is a tool built by and for developers. In fact, I had a chance to look at a demo of voyage built by the people that I was looking at it with. And it's an incredible product. Voyage saves hours of your time by automating staging environments of your full stack app for each pull request and includes feedback tools with each deployment. So you don't have to juggle emails or Slack messages. Excel spreadsheets, all of these notes docs that you probably have laying around. None of them are up to date. You've got comments that are getting resolved. You've got to do lists that are laying probably also laying around. All of this goes away and you can streamline it into one simple process that you're used to using. Something you're probably already using, which is the PR workflow. It's such a simple and magical tool, honestly. And the thing is, you know, you probably have tried to do something like this in the past. For example, a front end only deployment where you have PR builds for just a front end and they all attach to a staging back end. Well, with voyage, you're going to get the whole app as you built it. Unlike other tools, voyage builds and deploys your full stack, whether you have multiple repositories, multiple services. None of this is a problem. Voyage will deploy your complex application the way you built it. And of course, this deployment is long running. Multiple commits will all be deployed into that same PR build. Now, here's the important thing that we were talking about before that built in feedback tools with the built in feedback tools. You get your whole team involved quickly once your app has been deployed. You can send your team a unique URL. It's secure, by the way, they can enter a password. For example, on that, you are all in wait for the feedback to come in via a number of integrations like Jira and GitHub. Your whole team can view the link. They don't even need a GitHub account to actually view it. It's safe and secure. Your code is completely secure, never accessed by any team, including the people at voyage. Go and check it out. Set sail with voyage to save time and headaches with automated staging environments. Head over to voyageapp.io. It's voyageapp.io to get started today. Thank you again to voyage for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So, we're talking about becoming a coach to yourself, the work of teaching yourself how to improve. This may seem a little bit crazy, but the idea of having a coach is not having someone who is ultimately better than you at everything that you're doing. This is critical to understand. Good coaches are not necessarily the best at this thing that they're coaching. So, what does it mean to be a good coach? Well, it's a very different set of skills than the skills of execution. A good coach can practice coaching skills that are adjacent to whatever the execution skills are. So, that's an important side note about coaching. If it seems paradoxical that you can coach yourself into improvement, it's not. And that's because coaching skills are a separate set of skills. Now, I want to get to the most important or perhaps one of the most important skills that you can have to be able to become a good coach to yourself. And that is to develop a consistent habit of questioning yourself. Develop a consistent habit of asking yourself questions that leads you to thought. This is a kind of a nuanced skill. We need to understand it thoroughly so I want to walk you through what this means. If you're like most people, a vast majority of your life is on autopilot. You wake up, you go through the same routines, you develop habits and then you follow those habits almost without thinking about it. The foods you eat, the movements that your body makes, the way that you talk, all of this is informed by your well-worn habit pathways. And as a part of this, we very rarely take a step back and ask questions about those well-worn pathways. It's as if we have our heads down and we're plowing through based on directions that we received or intuition that we had long time ago. And we don't stop to look at the map to cross-check whether we're headed in the right direction. And so if you want to become a good coach to yourself, if you want to grow yourself, if you want to improve, one of the most important things you have to learn how to do is ask yourself thought-provoking questions. These are questions that are pointed not towards a yes or no answer. But these are questions that have perhaps different answers over time or at least very meaningful and different answers between two different people. For example, some of the kinds of questions and you have to develop your own and then you have to ask yourself the same questions consistently. But some of the kinds of questions you might develop for yourself are, what is my ultimate goal in this particular place? What is my ultimate goal at this particular company, for example? What am I trying to get out of this? What do I care about? What are my values? These are all seemingly questions that, you know, if you were to guess that other people, do you have answers to these questions, do you know what your personal values are? Do you know what you care about? Most people say, well, of course, everyone around me knows those things. But if it came time for you to articulate the answers to these questions, if I were to ask you to sit down and write out your list of values or perhaps on the antagonistic side, write down things that are other people's values, but that are not your values. Things that you don't necessarily disagree with, but they're not necessarily the most important things to you. We like to imagine that we have clarity on this, but most of us don't. And the only way we can gain the clarity that we need, which is really like the map that we need, is to ask ourselves these questions. When we ask ourselves thought-provoking questions, we are kind of forced to process and articulate things that we otherwise might take for granted, or we may leave ambiguous. And when we have ambiguous answers to questions like, what are your values, then we make decisions not based on the answers to those very important thought-provoking questions, but instead based on the moment, how am I feeling today or what do I want today? Now, there's nothing necessarily wrong with making decisions based on the moment, but a lot of times doing this over and over will lead us to walk in circles. We're not going to make progress towards our larger goals, our longer term thinking. And this is one of the most important things that coaches would help you do, and you, as your own coach, you can help yourself do this as well. Ask yourself more thought-provoking questions. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. We're going to keep on talking about this kind of thing, this idea of coaching yourself, because not everybody has a good coach in their lives right this second. You will pay yourself back in spades if you can learn these skills of self-coaching, and I'm hoping that I can help you through that. And this is very different from just self-improvement. We're not talking about, you know, this, this, this, this journey, kind of broad general idea of becoming the best you. I'm going to stay away from that kind of territory, because a lot of what we're going to talk about when we talk about self-coaching is very practical advice, like, what was the last time that you ask yourself a thought-provoking question? This is very practical. It's something that you can pick up your journal tomorrow morning and actually step into. You can do what I'm talking about on this podcast. It's not just me telling you that someone has to be the best white, white, can't it be you or something, you know, platitudes like that. I challenge you, I challenge you to ask yourself those thought-provoking questions and see what things become clear, what kinds of decisions you start making differently. Thank you so much again for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to Voyage for sponsoring this episode. You can get started with Voyages Automated Staging Deployments by heading over to voyageapp.io. If you want to talk about your goals, if you want to talk about coaching, perhaps practice coaching with other people, we're going to talk about what it means to practice coaching in another episode of the show. I want you to join our Discord community. There's a bunch of other software engineers and some of them are non-engineers, but they are in this community and we're talking about this kind of stuff on a regular basis where we even have a book club now. It's a really fun and very low stress, low chatter kind of environment. Head over to developertea.com slash Discord to join that today. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.