What do you know about that?

This is what someone asked me recently. During this dinner conversation, it felt somewhat like I was under inquisition. My conversation partner was a judge, and he is used to interrogating people. He did it in a very efficient way, yet based on sincere interest to understand what is driving me. It could have felt uncomfortable, but it did not. His profound questions forced me to think about my answers.

After dinner, while driving back home, I pondered a bit more about it. Numerous questions came up: “What do I know about that?” “Do I need to know about the details to be an effective coach?” “What makes me effective?”

It made me realize that my conversation partner would make an excellent coach. Our conversation and his questions made me think about my effectiveness and where I could improve.

That one twenty-minute discussion gave me more to consider and work on than I’d had in the past five years.

This could have been my quote after this conversation. However, it is not: it is a quote from an article in The New Yorker by Atul Gawande. In this article, “The Coach in the Operating Room,” Atul writes about his quest into coaching. In particular, it describes his journey in finding a coach to get better at his work as a surgeon.  

Atul’s awareness that a coach can help him improve starts at a leisure tennis game. He finds no-one to play with and hires a club pro for a lesson. The club pro coaches him in his game, and he finds that, even after playing tennis for 25 years, he can get better with outside help.

In his article, he describes how he talks to musicians and sports coaches. He speaks to teachers who work with a coach. In every situation, he sees the benefits of having outside eyes and ears.

Atul started to look for a coach and asked a retired general surgeon to observe his work in the operating room. Afterward, they discussed. The first conversation was after a surgery well done. Still, his coach had suggestions for improvement. The article describes how the coaching relationship develops. Atul is also open in how he develops as a surgeon: his complication rate goes down.

If you are ever in doubt about the benefits of coaching, then take 10 minutes to read Atul’s article. It will help you understand why and how professional athletes, musicians, and surgeons too, see the benefits of coaching. Coaching can work for you too in many ways. For example, it can help you to improve your leadership style and effectiveness. It can also help you to get better in your alliances and partnerships.

As Atul says in the article “it will never be easy to submit to coaching, especially for those who are well along in their career.” He adds to that: “There was a moment in sports when employing a coach was unimaginable – and then came a time when not doing so was unimaginable.”

PS: When you have 45 minutes to spare and want to hear first-hand benefits of coaching, then watch this video: “What the President of the World Bank wants you to know about coaching.