Do professionals really need coaches?

I recently wrote about how checklists are used in many professions as an antidote for forgetfulness, a tool to conquer complexity and a way to limit unforeseen occurrences and consequences. In this TED talk, the same surgeon who wrote The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande – looks at the effects of combining simple checklists for procedure and equipment with coaching for healthcare professionals in rural India*.

For me, this talk provides good evidence as to why business professionals benefit from coaching just as much as athletes, if not more. Working with a coaches can:
  • Help you see your own reality (where you are and what you face);
  • Encourage self-belief and a positive mindset (who you are and skills you already have);
  • Prompt reflection for self development (what you might stop, start and continue doing to work towards your desired future);
  • Guide and focus your vision / goal setting (help you establish the right target and how you might reach it);
  • Provide support for your action and activities (ask you hard questions, track progress, hold you accountable to your vision/goal).
Atul Gawande found that his clinical practice had reached a plateau. Concerned he was in danger of stagnating, he employed a former professor to assess his clinical practice in his operating theatre over a year. He found it difficult and uncomfortable, once receiving a whole page of feedback after what he thought was a near-perfect procedure. Ultimately, Gawande derived great benefit and insight from being observed and viewing his performance through another’s eyes, commenting that “it’s not how good you are now; it’s how good you’re going to be that really matters.”

How good are you now? And how good are you going to be in the year ahead?

*As pointed out in the video’s comments section, checklists and coaching are only a partial solution to the difficulties of delivering better healthcare outcomes in complex and challenging environments. That said, these soft skills and simple methodologies have their place alongside improved funding, infrastructure and facilities.

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