Monday, April 28, 2014

Coaching: realizing potential through raising awareness and developing responsibility

John Whitmore in his book Coaching for Performance identifies 2 key elements in coaching.  These are raising awareness and developing responsibility.

Awareness involves focusing attention, or concentrating on something - becoming alert in the way you observe and interpret what you see, hear and feel, deciding what is relevant and being self-aware.  It's important for a coach to give up instructing, and to encourage the people s/he is coaching to be aware of what they are doing.  Being a coach does not involve showing or telling someone to do something the "right" way ( i.e. the way the coach does it).  While this can lead to short term benefits in performance, the focus is still on the coach rather than on the teacher who wants to improve - in coaching the personal attributes and preferences of the teacher are important whereas in the apprenticeship model these are suppressed and the teacher becomes dependent on the "expert" in order to improve.  True coaching raises the self-awareness of the teacher and boosts the teacher's confidence so that s/he feels he can improve without being dependent on the directions of the coach - the job of the coach is simply to raise and sustain the awareness of the teacher on the areas s/he wants to improve.

Responsibility is also really important -  a teacher needs to make choices and then commit to taking action.  When given a choice, the teacher "buys in" and performance improves.  This contrasts with the situation when someone is ordered to be responsible for his/her improvement - if the teacher does not choose this or fully accept it, then performance will not improve.

The coach doesn't have to be an expert.  However the coach does need to believe that the teacher has the potential to improve and that it is the teacher's own responsibility to do so.  Whitmore writes:
Our potential is realized by optimizing our own individuality and uniqueness, never by molding them to another's opinion of what constitutes best practice.
Photo Credit: All in One Training via Compfight cc

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