A crutch in a crisis – my guide for better coaches

My son always prefixed a sentence with the phrase, “no disrespect but “ if he knew that what came next would be something I wouldn’t like. No disrespect but aren’t you a bit old for that Mum, was a classic. Another such prefix that you may have come across is, “I’m not rascist but…”. I mention these by way of introducing my rider for this article, “some of my best friends are coaches but…”

Actually, I may not need a get out clause at all as this is a re-write of my original thoughts which, on reflection were a bit of a rant about the poor quality of some coaches. So I’ve decided to reformulate those thoughts to create a plea for improvement rather than a critique of the poor work of some. So here goes.

Firstly, please don’t create a dependeance
Many coaches seem to thrive on being a constant support for their clients. We all need the help of a coach from time to time but coaches should be a crutch in a crisis not a walking stick for life, as The Samaritans say. Needing to permanently hold an clients hand is a sign of failure not of success. My theory is that it makes the coach feel better to the detriment of a client. Coaches should teach their clients to manage on their own and should learn that lesson themselves and not cling on so tightly.

Secondly, please make sure you learn your own lessons
I had a yoga teacher who sat at the end of each lesson and read beautifully from selected Sanskrit texts but even the most cursory examination of her behaviours revealed that she understood little of what she taught and the little she did know had minimal impact on her actions. And recently have been part of what should have been an open, inclusive, collaborative project which included several coaches who teach the benefits of collaborative working, which proved to be anything but, with those coaches deliberately and determinedly keeping information from others in the group. A plea for practicing what you preach, then.

Thirdly, please master your subject before you teach it.
I guess the best example here is the proliferation of NLP coaches. NLP is a perfectly sound technique for helping some people in some circumstances. It is not the cure for all ills and completing a day workshop and emerging as a cerified NLP practitioner is just nonsense. Enough said.

Fourthly, don’t steal anothers clothes.
Coaching across all disciplines tends to try and claim a scientific basis for the particular technique. This may, in certain circumstances, be a perfectly valid and reasonable thing to do. In practice what tends to happen is that every behavioural theory and coaching practice tries to assume the cloak of credibility by covering itself with scientific terminology. I have a good scientific understanding of chaos and the emergence of complexity and regularly see these theories mangled by coaches and behavioural psychologists …. and don’t get me started on the regular evocation of quantum theory to prove, show, demonstrate, corroborate all manner of quakery. So please just stop it!

Fifthly, there is the chinese whisper problem.
It is not possible to always learn at the feet of the master but the more often the original message is diluted from teacher to teacher the more the message gets diluted or mangled. So try to make sure that the person who is teaching you knows what they are talking about and that you have understood the lesson completely before you pass the learning on in your own coaching practice. Essentially, if you want to know about Eastern philosophy read the Bhagavad Gita not the Power of Now. Or at least read them both.

So there we are. My 5 point plan to improve the world of coaching.
Oh, one final thing…stop taking yourselves so seriuosly. There really is more to life than your next workshop.

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