Sean Connor: My 'lightbulb' moment and fine-tuning my craft as a football coach

“Physician heal thyself, teacher, teach thyself. Coach, coach thyself,” – these were the words that came into my mind after my latest one to one self-improvement session with Shauna Quigley, who has been working with me on her unique ‘Clearing Method’.

Sean Connor continues his coaching and personal development.
Sean Connor continues his coaching and personal development.

I have known Shauna for over six years, but it has only been in these last few months that I turned to her for professional mentoring and assistance with my personal development, as a coach, and a leader.

I have always believed that great coaches are not born, well maybe the desire to coach and lead comes from deep within one’s psyche. But I believe you need to work at your craft as a coach.

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I gained my UEFA Pro-Licence in 2007, and have constantly revalidated my credentials with continuous personal development by a mixture of I.F.A. promoted events and my own work.

This has included my time studying for my BSc in Sports Coaching and MSc in Sports and Exercise Psychology at Ulster University, and regular club visits to England, Scotland, and farther afield.

Add in the plethora of books I read on a regular basis, ranging from biographies, management and leadership, and even books of poetry and quotations.

During a conversation three months ago with Shauna, as we caught up over a coffee, I sought her advice on my interview style, as I prepare for my next job. Shauna highlighted, subtly, as only she can do, that it appeared that most of my development was more directed towards the technical aspects of coaching and leading as opposed to my own personal development.

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Now, as I do, I argued that I had indeed worked on personal aspects. As I had identified the softer skills in coaching, listening, observing and asking positive questions and developing the environment I wanted to work in. With great patience, kindness and directness when required, which I actually really respond to and appreciate.

I have always disliked it when people would ‘beat about the bush’ on a subject. ‘Get to the point’, my internal voice would scream!

Shauna began to highlight a number of key aspects of my personal development that I could enhance, and a few areas I could take the edge of.

I went away and reflected and looked at how I actually led myself. Was I actually following my own advice on how I interacted with the team around me and more importantly the team above me? This was my ‘lightbulb moment’. It became very obvious quickly to me how I needed to work on my emotional control and intelligence as a coach and a leader and finally and more importantly how I led myself.

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At last, I was working on my personal development on a human aspect and how I related to, interacted with, and connected with players, staff, fans, media and directors.

My focus at this moment now has shifted from my technical abilities as a coach, leader, to myself and how I react with the people I come into contact within my professional sphere.

True growth comes from within. I feel I am more than competent as a technical and tactical coach, I know the standards of behaviours that are required to compete at the elite level. They are all laid out in my personal coaching and leadership philosophy, ‘Harmony Towards Victory’, and my 32 page style of play document, ‘Take Vienna’.

For the moment I am focussing on my own standards of behaviours in all my personal interactions. I am leading my own change with the assistance of Shauna at wellness Seeker, as I attempt to adapt, and understand her ‘Cleaning

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Method’. I am learning to understand myself better, to understand others better.

I have always been a controller, wanting to make things go the way I see them, now in football management this is a very important trait. It means you are not easily distracted and remain focused on the big vision you have created. I have strong analytical skills, allowing me to understand and observe individual and group performance. But these skills along with my knowledge acquired over the years as I fine tuned my craft as a coach, are not enough in today’s modern world. I need to develop my emotional intelligence, to be more patient and accepting of others and their view of the vision I have created. I want to improve my ability to see the other side’s perspective. Can I see what they see?

As human beings we are all addicted to ‘yes’, we want others to see our point of view. There are three types of ‘yes’. A commitment, a confirmation, and finally the dangerous counterfeit ‘yes’. I want to develop my abilities to say ‘yes’ in a positive and supportive manner, whilst not getting away from my core principles or philosophy in leading and coaching. I want to say with confidence ‘yes’, I can see and understand where you are coming from.

How can we achieve what we both want together in harmony and towards a united victory?

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As Nelson Mandela said, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate a victory or nice things occur.

"You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership’’.

I am looking now to see how I can lead from behind in an emotionally supportive style, whilst still maintaining the ability to step forward and lead when danger is in the air, when my team really needs their leader to be big, bold, and brave.