coffee-coachOne morning, my office had a fancy coffee machine delivered. The machine was fancy enough that we had training sessions to learn how to use it. The machine’s controls involved a few pre-programmed settings for common usage scenarios. Not being a coffee drinker, I didn’t appreciate the intricacies of preparing a morning cup, so while I was interested in the training it was not particularly relevant for me. I just wanted to know where to get the hot water to brew my tea.

Then, we had a local barista Joseph Yancey join us for a morning of coffee coaching. It was his day off, but he loves the artistic aspects of preparing coffee and wanted to share that with coffee lovers. The coffee machine was still somewhat intimidating to me since I didn’t know how to judge the results of the preparation process. Out of curiosity, I hung around to listen to what the barista had to say.

Co-workers arrived at the office and were ready to start their day. They joined us in the break room and gathered around our visitor. Instead of expounding about the principles of great coffee and the brews and mixtures he preferred, Joseph focused on helping individuals to achieve their goals.

As each person explained the kind of outcome they were looking for, he was very patient in coaching. He noticed the intimidation of trying something out of the ordinary and reinforced the idea that no one should be concerned about failing to produce exactly what they hoped for. Instead, he emphasized making better and better approximations of the desired result to accomplish incremental progress. This created a safe space for individuals to develop new skills.

Each person explained what they wanted and he told them how to refine their techniques. He showed them motions with his gestures and posture as a model but he didn’t take over. Each pair of hands became surer by trying for themselves the motions and mixing. He paired with each participant and brought attention to key moments and opportunities during the process without talking down to anyone. Rather than doing it for them, as he expertly would during his day job, he coached them into greater competence and self-reliance.

I noticed his consummate skill in interpersonal interactions and asked him about it. He said that his love for his craft motivated him to help others to greater mastery. When I mentioned that I wasn’t in his core demographic (as a tea drinker), he was willing to tackle that problem as well, teaching me how to judge the heat of the water produced by an electronic kettle so that I could pair it with the various mixtures with more demanding brewing precision. Even I, an edge case, benefited from Joseph’s enthusiasm and understanding.

Now that’s a coaching experience to start your day off right.