Doctor, I already cut open the patient, please complete the surgery

Doctor, I already cut open the patient, please complete the surgery

Imagine someone says this to a surgeon:

“Doctor, I ran some diagnostic tests, detected what needs attention. In the interest of efficiency, I just cut open the patient. Kindly complete the surgery and incidentally, I forgot the anesthesia. He might be in some pain.”

Might sound a bit weird, but in my experience as someone who has been helping set up and manage coaching relationships for many years, some of the recent requests for coaching support sound almost like this.

In talent development speak, this is what it translates into: “We have completed the assessments. We have done some quick debrief. We have arrived at the goals and development plans. Give us a set of coaches who will help implement what we already know quite well needs attention.

Unfortunately, that is not how coaching works. Coaching is not training. It is not intended to “fix” a specific “ailment” that you think you know and have already identified.

Coaching is about a helping relationship where two individuals explore and discover and then determine what needs attention and work on it in a way that is empowering and sustaining so the individuals learn how to help themselves. There is respect for the learner’s ability to determine what is important for that person, faith in that person’s ability to act in responsible ways and trust in the ability of the coach to navigate this exploratory journey in a holistic manner using professional know-how and an ethical foundation.

It is my plea that we approach coaching in a much more holistic manner, paying attention to outlining the context and the broad end states in professional development and leaving it to the coach and coachee to navigate from there on. The non-directive and empowering involvement of all stakeholders to support and offer inputs is what will help.

Remember – the process of discovering what needs attention is a process of taking ownership, having a sense of agency and being accountable. In our enthusiasm to be of assistance, lets not take it away. Also remember, when you assess and debrief a leader without a supporting resource at hand, you might be causing pain, like surgery without anesthesia.

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