Mentoring Viewpoints: The Coaching Tree
By Lt. Gen. Retired, Jack Hudson, Director of National Museum of the United States Air Force
/ Published June 22, 2018
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE Ohio -- Take a few minutes to think about and write down your personal “coaching tree”. Almost all Airmen, military and civilian, have one. The only exceptions I can think of are the very youngest of our Airmen who need more time to begin to grow their coaching tree!
The term coaching tree comes from the sports world, often football or basketball. One can easily find articles about a coach’s coaching tree, which often include the list of former assistants who have gone on to bigger and better coaching positions.
Your individual coaching tree counts more than you can imagine for our United States Air Force. When I first thought about my personal coaching tree and wrote it down, I was surprised at how many names I could think of: the many Airmen, military and civilian, who had worked for me along the way, or who I had been associated with, who had gone on to higher levels of responsibility in our USAF, or to a wide variety of positions in the private sector.
Each time I sat down and reviewed it, I thought of additional names I could add to my personal coaching tree. I know I could not claim full responsibility for their success; I also know that I could claim some role in their development and continued success. How did that happen? It was certainly due to the hard work and dedication of each of these people, but I believe that also it was positively influenced by things I tried to give them along the way: responsibilities, opportunities, second chances, empowerment, and an example set.
And so, along with thinking about and writing down your own personal coaching tree, I recommend you think about and write down the coaching trees you have been part of. Look back, and look around, earlier, and now, in your USAF career. Who were the people you worked for, who helped you out? Who were the people you worked with, who helped you out?
You will also think of people who worked for you, who helped you out. And so for all those people whose coaching trees you are part of: What were the job opportunities they gave you? What chances were taken with you when you were younger? What were the second chances they gave when you made mistakes? How were you empowered? How did this help you grow and develop and, in turn become a more successful coach and leader?
“Developing exceptional leaders” is one of the top five priorities of our Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Hopefully thoughts about your personal coaching tree, and the coaching trees you have been a part of, will help you do your part to develop tomorrow’s exceptional leaders!