Do professionals need coaches?

Last week at the first Icarus St. Louis session, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Adam Sachs, a St. Louis area coach. Our discussion about why people are so reluctant to hire coaches for non-athletic reasons for themselves, or for their kids, prompted me to revisit, and rework, some of my earlier thoughts on the question. Unfortunately, I still have only questions, no answers.
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A couple of years ago I was engaged in a discussion related to the question of work/life coaches, here is one of the responses:

Q: If you can’t afford a coach, what are you doing to support your professional growth?
A: I love (?) the assumptive nature of this question: that everyone needs a coach;…  Do professionals need coaches? No, certainly not.

“No, certainly not.” So definitive, as if the very question was insulting. And yet, if the question were adjusted just a little bit, to read, “Do professional athletes need coaches?”, I have a feeling the answer would be more along the lines of, “Of course they do.” I’ve often wondered why this is: why is it acceptable, expected even, that athletes have and need coaches but considered a luxury if someone has a work/life coach and actually a detriment – a sign of weakness – if someone wants or needs a work/life coach?

The answer I quote above was just one response in the discussion, but many (most?) of the answers tended to dismiss the idea that a professional coach is desirable or needed.  The alternatives range from talk with friends, study the success of others, and read and continue to develop your knowledge on the subject of your job.

Imagine if this approach were recommended to athletes, or to the owners of sports franchises. In most cases, such an approach would be a sure path to the loser’s circle, not to mention a quick way to get kicked out of the owner’s office for suggesting such a ridiculous idea.

If you ask a competitive athlete if they have / need a coach the answers will likely range from “Yes” to “Of course” to “Are you kidding?” More and more, if you ask a business executive the question, you will find that they believe a coach is worthwhile, possibly even necessary.

But if you ask the creative, the knowledge worker, the non-executive professional the same question the answers will likely range from “No” to “Huh?” to “Are you kidding?” (And the “Are you kidding” here means something completely different.)

What is it about our work as professionals in business that makes us so different from the work of professionals in sports that we don’t need a coach?

Is there a problem here?

Solving a problem that you know has a solution may require knowledge, but it is knowledge that already exists. Unfortunately – or, if you prefer, fortunately – many of the problems that are worth solving, that need to be solved, don’t come with that level of certainty.

In his book, How Life Imitates Chess (which, by the way, I highly recommend), Garry Kasparov has this to say about uncertainty:

Knowing a solution is at hand is a huge advantage; it’s like not having a “none of the above” option. Anyone with reasonable competence and adequate resources can solve a puzzle when it is presented as something to be solved. We can skip the subtle evaluations and move directly to plugging in possible solutions until we hit upon a promising one. Uncertainty is far more challenging. Instead of immediately looking for solutions to the crisis, we have to maintain a constant state of asking, “Is there a crisis* forming?”


Our causes can’t see their effects

Cynefin frameworkI’ve been interested in, and trying to understand, the Cynefin framework for many years. Without much success, I might add. However, I recently saw an Intro to Cynefin video from Dave Snowden at Cognitive Edge that has helped me put the final pieces of my understanding in place.

Actually, looking back at my first attempt to use the framework to look at an issue, back in a November 2008 look at the response to the global economic crisis, it looks like I may have understood it better than I thought I did. But then I started taking it places I don’t think it was ever meant to go. Continue reading

If the government were run like a business…

If the government were run like a business, what kind of business would it be? It’s easy enough to think of the President as CEO, and the Congress as the Board of Directors (kind of), but who would be the shareholders? The customers? How would this effect government employees? What would be the “product”?

Most importantly, where do citizens fit into this model?

Continue reading

Blogging, St. Louis style

On Monday (24 September), the Social Media Club St. Louis (@SMCSTL) hosted a panel of bloggers to discuss, what else, blogging. It has been many years since I first started blogging and the reasons and results of blogging, not to mention the tools, have evolved quite a bit. The panel shared some great insights into what motivates them to blog, and what they get out of blogging.   Continue reading

Learning s’more skills at Wordcamp St. Louis

Over the weekend I had the chance – the pleasure – to attend Wordcamp St. Louis 2012. I met some great people, doing incredible things with WordPress, and had a chance to learn and be inspired. Although the whole day was great, three of the talks stand out for me:

Most generally informative: Chris Miller (@iDoNotes) gave us the down and dirty on using WordPress as a podcasting/videocasting platform, blasting us with way more information than I thought could be squeezed into the 45 minute session. No doubt he had to leave some stuff out, but it was a comprehensive intro that put those interested on the right path for learning more. Especially if they remember to visit the resource bundle he put together for us.

Most specifically useful: Joshua Ray (@pdxOllo)  and Alex Rodriguez (@arod2634) presented Best Practices and Admin Customization, the latter which has been on my mind of late for a current project. Comprehensive coverage and plenty of code examples (I’ll post the links later, I seem to have misplaced them). Looking forward to digging in.

Most inspirational: Although the WordPress specific parts of Reshma Chamberlin’s (@reshmacc) talk on design were impressive themselves, what impressed – and inspired – me the most was her and her partner’s philosophy of design. And not just design, really, but how to chase your dreams, make a difference, and to do things right. (Sounds so easy, doesn’t it.) Check out the B&C Designers site to see for yourself. (And thanks, Reshma, for the book recommendation: Disciplined Dreaming is next up on my shelf!)