Throughout my lifetime I’ve attended or led probably several thousand short-term or weekend seminars, workshops and classes. I’ve concluded that most of them don’t make much (if any) lasting difference. Participants gather their notes and good intentions, return to their homes or places of work, get back into their routines. and don’t make any long-term behavioral changes. There is research to back this up. There also are exceptions. Changes last when participants have a plan for change before they leave the training and when they have a coach who helps them put their plans into action.
Last week the Annals of Medicine reprinted an article from the October 3, 2011 New Yorker Magazine . The writer, a surgeon named Atul Gawande, described how he kept improving during the first years of his career but then he “just stopped getting better,” so he hired a coach (a retired surgeon) who watched Dr. Gawande do surgery and coached him to do better. Fellow surgeons were surprised but many professionals have coaches. Tennis great Rafael Nadal has a coach as do most Olympic-level athletes. Best-seller writers have coaches. So does world-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman, soprano Renee Fleming, and a host of business leaders. Perhaps most of the best coaches have coaches for themselves
Why can’t coaches work with seminar participants after their training, patients after their treatment, professors after they get tenure, teachers in their classrooms, pastors in their ministries or anybody who has stopped getting better.” “Coaching done well [by trained coaches] may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance,” concludes Gawande. It’s really nothing new, but it has potential to keep us all learning and accountable.
So who is your coach? What has been your experience with coaching – especially coaching following a training seminar? Please comment.
To watch Dr. Gawande talk about the distinction between “teaching” and “coaching” – click here