At the Agile Coaches Gathering I proposed a session exploring the reasons why we coach. Managing to gather a few people on the sunny lawn at Bletchley Park to explore this topic, we created a mind map looking at the positive and negative reasons for coaching.
The outcome can be summarised by the following three categories:
- Negative personal reasons
- Positve personal reasons
- The greater good
Negative Personal Reasons
Coaching to boost your ego was thought to be the primary thing to be avoided. Being seen as clever, important or the person with the answers should not be your goal. Closely related is hubris – overconfidence or arrogance. These items are represented in green in the diagram above.
Deferring decisions for too long can have a detrimental effect. Another area where a negative impact can be introduced is through lacking the courage to make decisions. We had quite a long chat about this in regard to when it is acceptable to help people improve versus when it is best to let them discover improvements. Most people agreed that making this call comes down to your experience of similar situations. Too much hand holding and you can become a crutch on which a team depends, too little and the team doesn’t see the benefit of you coaching them.
Positive Personal Reasons
Some of the positive experiences coaches have experienced include self development, learning, enjoyment and achievement. Some also expressed the feeling of coaching being what you are best at, or your vocation in life. We also coach because we enjoy the challenge of adapting, solving people problems, meta-problems and a better understanding of psychology.
Some of the reasons for coaching the group came up with are related to providing benefit for the ‘greater good’. These reasons include:
- Fulfilling peoples potential - Giving is better than receiving; people are amazing; everyone can excel.
- Social responsibility – People should be treated with dignity, helping avoid misery and frustration. Many of the people present mentioned that they felt a responsibility to change things that are broken or do not work.
- By teaching that accountability is good, people can start to own problems and therefore do something about them.
- People are genetically programmed to coach, especially children. Most people present had a parent or close relation who was involved in teaching. As a result there was a feeling that we coach because we ourselves have been coached well.
- Coaching can help bring about change. Change requires courage, patience and confidence.
I found this a very useful session and learnt a lot about what motivates people to coach others. We had a very free, open and honest discussion. Many thanks to those who contributed. An extra special thankyou to Rachel Davies and Mike Sutton for organising.