To say that coaching is trending these days would be an understatement. There used to be a time when coaching was largely related to sports. But today, one can find a coach for just about anything imaginable. How did coaching evolve into such an enviable career path?
In his brilliant TED TALK on the importance of coaching (the official title: Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach), Harvard Medical School’s renowned cancer surgeon, Atui Gwande, poses this question: “How do professionals get better at what they do?” He points to two approaches to answering that question.
First, there’s what he called “the traditional pedagogical view” in which a person goes to school or college, studies really hard, graduates with a degree, finds a job, and figures out a way to be successful in their field. They become managers of their own success through rigorous discipline and hard work, which is how most professionals succeed and climb their way up the corporate ladder.
Second, there’s a contrasting view which comes out of sports. While the goal in the former view is to eventually wean professionals from their teachers when their time of learning is done, this view is based on the premise that one’s learning and growth is never done, which is why, as Gwande points out, “the greatest athlete in the world still has a coach.”
Convinced of the universal application of this principle, Gwande not only invited a retired professor into his surgical room to observe and critique him, but has led coaching experiments in India and other parts of the world where social and economic conditions stand in the way of the growth and improvement of medical professionals. And in both cases, the results have been nothing short than remarkable.
This bears Gwande’s point that everyone needs a coach. Why? We’re not at our best when we’re on our own. We need each other. Others see us better than we see ourselves, and they’re able to provide us with “a more accurate picture of our reality.” Without such input, we stop growing and improving. That’s why coaching is important, not only in terms of one’s professional development, but also in terms of getting better at doing life itself.
So what is coaching? It is empowering people to reach their highest potential by helping them get better at what they do. It is putting a handle on people’s dreams and aspirations so they can get a hold it them for themselves. It’s about achieving clarity regarding one’s calling and mission, developing self-awareness, and discovering options and new direction.
It’s been said that coaching grew up alongside the self-help industry and television shows such as Oprah and Dr. Phil which gives people both the permission to become the best version of themselves as well as the options and practical tools with which to do so. Thus, the concept of coaching blossomed and bloomed as people yearned to experience in their own lives the same transformative results they were seeing on television.
So whether looking for a coach or becoming one, or whether seeking help with professional improvement or just trying to do life better, coaching is a wonderful opportunity everyone should pay attention to.
Whaid Rose – Denver, NC – June 2019