The concept of coaching has been around since the early 1800s, when it was used at Oxford University as a way of describing a tutor who “carried” a student through an exam (Wikipedia). Since then, it’s had a mixed reputation. It’s well established and respected in sport, where it’s acknowledged to give the edge in football, baseball, tennis, especially at the professional level. But often carries negative associations when it is mentioned in a workplace context. At best, it implies wasteful indulgence, along the lines of the original Oxford usage (“why can’t he or she figure that out for him/herself?”) and at worst it signals total incompetence (when HR are asked to coach an under-performer). So people tend to think coaching is for other people, not them.
People often confuse coaching and mentoring. They expect a coach to have a thorough understanding of the topic they are coaching on so that they can pass on handy tips. Timothy Gallwey, (Inner Game of Tennis, 1974) a semi-professional tennis player turned legendary coach, discovered that getting his students to concentrate on actions and not tasks (asking them to say ‘bounce’ when the ball bounced, for example) which allowed them to silence their unhelpful thoughts which led to them make amazing improvements in their performance. His methods were so impactful that he ended up coaching other sports that he was unfamiliar with, like skiing as well as performance coaching in large corporations in the US. He was surprised to find that the most successful coaches were often the ones who knew the least about the subject they were coaching.
Coaching, teaching, mentoring. They are very different tools for very different outcomes. Teaching is very appropriate where the learner doesn’t have enough knowledge to make an improvement on their own. Mentoring can be very helpful in giving information that might take a long time to be acquired naturally. Coaching facilitates insight which leads to improved performance, be that thinking or concentration or doing. Essentially, coaching is what you need when you have a sense of what you want (or in some cases, no longer want) but realise that something is getting in the way of achieving that.
At its simplest, coaching is a framework to help you make a plan to achieve a specific goal, be that getting a promotion, losing a stone or improving your serve. Sometimes, you can achieve that on your own. Coaching will help when you can’t. It’s for the times when you can’t figure out how to get something done. It works for a number of reasons:
I’ll leave you with a great definition of coaching, by John Whitmore, who is one of the key figures in modern coaching: “The coach is not a problem solver, a teacher, an advisor, an instructor, or even an expert; he or she is a sounding board, facilitator who...raises awareness and responsibility."
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The 8 Elements of Coaching, created by Mia Horrigan, sums up the skills an effective coach needs to have. Its a blend of directive and non-directive approaches that help individuals and team achieve optimal outcomes. In her article, she talks about her discovery that providing answers (i.e. being the 'scrum mum') may appear to help in the short term but makes teams less independent and resilient in the longer term.
Transformation is "a marked change in form, nature, or appearance: a sudden dramatic change, a metamorphosis or the induced or spontaneous change of one element into another".
Digital transformation cuts right across every part of a business: it challenges existing business models to build and maintain competitive advantage and it impacts operations, often demanding dramatic changes in processes. At its heart are the users' needs - internal and external, that must be acknowledged and met in order to achieve success.
It is driven by the external forces of consumer (user) expectation, market competition, which can change very quickly when disruptive startups join in the fray, empowered by technological advances. We live in fast paced times and its very easy to feel left behind.
Digitisation is a process not a milestone that an organisation reaches and can then consider to have been “achieved”.
And while each journey is tailored and unique, there are 4 phases of digitisation: the early efforts tend to be disjointed, ad hoc activities using technology to support manual tasks. Over time, automation is introduced so that some activities (i.e. forms) are digitised but all processes around them are manual. The third phase is where the technology is largely integrated but only operationally and not strategically. The fourth and most elusive phase is where technology and digital thinking are the lifeblood of the organisation and a fundamental part of the strategy
It often helps to have outsiders come in and act like catalysts to enable and support the organisation to reinvent itself. Change is hard and there is a strong pressure to revert to whats familiar, even if it has negative consequences.
User-centred. Digital Transformation. Coach.