“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates
“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
We can achieve a lot by striving alone, but there comes a point where we are constrained by the fact that we exist within ourselves. The point is fully accepted in the sports world, where every accomplished team and individual recognises the value of an external coaching perspective. Sports coaching was originally about physical skills, but these days is increasingly focused on the mental aspects of peak performance.
At a high level, coaching consists of two elements:
- observing, and feeding back information on, performance
- understanding how the performance is achieved, and seeking possibilities for further improvement
The emergence of coaching in business has been patchy, ironically because the first element doesn’t require much skill: any feedback, even poor quality feedback, can help improve performance. But for coaching to achieve its full potential, a lot of skill in the second element is required. Few business people appreciate this, and even fewer are able to determine whether a coach has the required competence.
Coaching is a skill that benefits from thinking systemically. Much like the electronic diagnosis and tuning systems used for modern cars, it actively uses the inherent inter-connectedness of our thinking to diagnose and improve performance.
There are three major ways in which adopting a coaching mindset can complement the contents of this book:
- All of the contents of this book can be implemented, to a degree, by someone acting alone. However, working with a friend to explore the mechanics we describe can be a revealing way to learn, and understand, how profoundly useful they are.
- When using the tools in a live business environment, hire an expert coach/facilitator. The coach can either use the tools directly or coach and teach an internal facilitator through the required mechanics.
- Decide to adopt the coach mindset personally, increasing in proficiency through reflection, informal practice and working with an expert coach.
The tools and processes of effective coaching are described in the Tools section of this book.