Newsletter #463 – Fresh Perspectives on Coaching

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


  1. Teams need coaches too. Maybe more so. Like families, leadership teams have a disproportionate dysfunctionality potential.

    I coordinate a team of coaches who work with collaborative evangelism leadership teams in a variety of cities. We are in the midst of evaluating our coaching and embarking on a series of development sessions.


    1. Phil. Sometime let me/us know how this goes. I know team coaching is very effective but I confess I’ve never done it. As a coach I bet you will not let me get away with the excuse: “But I have a couple of books about team coaching and group coaching.”


  2. Gary, I love what you bring to the table. This is such a cogent, real life example of the productivity of having a coach as well as the reward of being a coach! I am just embarking on a change from counseling to coaching in my career and this is a wonderful resource. Thanks for all the good stuff you deliver in every newsletter.


    1. Thanks Donna. Here is a confession: Every week I wonder if my newsletter will have any relevance or if anybody will read it. Almost every week I am surprised and encouraged by the responses. Goes to show – a lot of this is a God thing (at least I hope it is) more than a Gary thing!


  3. I couldn’t agree with you more, Gary. For years during my professional preparation I was so privileged to have a supervisor-mentor-coach. In retrospect, I have realized how dramatic his seasoned and wise influence was to my professional development. Similarly, and coat-tailing your own experience over the years, I too have done many seminars that offered top-drawer and cutting-edge information to attendees. Over time, however, I realized that all those good intentions, mine and those of my attendees, screamed for routine “high touch” follow-up opportunities to help move them from mere information acquisition, through skill-building, and to proven competency. Consequently, I generally make it my plan to do seminars that include a plan to offer a “high-touch” quality of follow-up.


  4. Gary thanks for your latest post. You were my coach and it has had a lasting impact. In my work with corporations I will always couple together training and/or consulting services with coaching. In fact, I designed a coaching process that aligns the goals of the person being coached with the business goals of the organization. This has proved to be powerful and effective. This week alone I found out that tow of the people I have been coaching in an organization will both be promoted! coaching is powerful and training becomes more powerful when coupled with a focused coaching approach and process. Thanks for sharing this!


    1. Michael, I was so glad to hear from you and to get your update. Your post is a great example of what I am proposing. When I Teach a seminar or a class I try to encourage participants to follow up their learning with coaching. If the seminar is small enough I take on the coaching myself. It is so much more effective than sitting, taking notes going home, and changing nothing.
      One of these days. Michael, we need to get together. We did our coaching on the phone and I do not recall that we have ever met. We will make that happen.
      And thanks so much for your encouraging commments.


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