Thursday, February 1, 2018

Let a doctor (and frequent speaker) explain why you need a coach

There's a great recent TED talk from physician, bestselling author, and frequent speaker Atul Gawande that makes a great case for getting a coach--and in the process of giving this talk, Gawande tackles directly a barrier I face when working with highly trained individuals: They think they've been taught everything they need to know to figure out on their own what they need to know.

In other words, they react poorly to the idea they need to be coached or taught new skills, particularly the ones they diminish by calling them "soft" skills. You know, like public speaking. Trouble is, few of them have ever learned the skills involved in public presentations and speechmaking.

As a physician, Gawande notes in his talk, he and his colleagues have been taught that "A professional is someone who is capable of managing their own improvement." But, he, notes, "Now, the contrasting view comes out of sports. And they say "You are never done, everybody needs a coach." Everyone. The greatest in the world needs a coach."

After thinking about his own work as a surgeon, Gawande concluded, "Turns out there are numerous problems in making it on your own. You don't recognize the issues that are standing in your way or if you do, you don't necessarily know how to fix them. And the result is that somewhere along the way, you stop improving." So he got a coach--a surgeon-as-coach. And he offers numerous other examples, from medicine and other fields, of situations that went well (or not) when coaching was applied (or not).

As a coach myself, I often reach for lessons from other coaches in many fields. That's why I'm reading basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's memoir, Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court. He recalls being at the White House ceremony to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom along with luminaries like Robert Redford, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Bruce Springsteen:
I looked down the line of the wonderfully successful people on either side of me and wondered if each of them had a Coach Wooden, who, to quote President Obama, "helped make me who I am." I hoped so, because without Coach, my life would have been so much less. Less joyous. Less meaningful. Less filled with love.
Jabbar notes that Coach Wooden focused players on the activity at hand, not the outcome. It's a great lesson for public speakers as well.

Take a look at Gawande's exploration of coaching, and if you want to improve your speaking skills, get in touch with me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com. Watch the video below or here:

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