It always amazes me how life goes in cycles. A few weeks ago I was reading the New Yorker and saw an article about coaching in the medical profession. Anal Gawande (in Personal Best, October 3rd www.New Yorker.org) discussed his use of a coach while performing surgery in an operating theater in an attempt to reach his “personal best”. In 1983 when I started by business I introduced the term executive coach. I recall it was an uphill battle as the concept of coaching was only acceptable in professional sports. I had been accountable for developing managerial effectiveness across all tiers of management. Responsible for organization and management development and training in the Equitable’s Pension business, I’d consult with executives on how to be more effective managers, how to build teams and how to solve organizational and performance problems. I was accountable for strengthening the managerial effectiveness of existing management as well as developing programs for newly hired professional talent. I referred to it as consulting, which consisted of a series of one on one meetings with clients.
When I started my own firm I was looking to brand the business and distinguish it, and set me apart from other consultancies. An avid tennis buff I realized all professional athletes and most wannabes have individual coaches. Why not management? My emphasis was and continues to be the executive interested in reaching their peak potential. The individual who recognizes having an objective coach will accelerate reaching that pinnacle.
Since that time a whole new industry of coaching has emerged. Many people call themselves coaches. Certifying bodies have emerged. Coaches can be tactical, skill development oriented or strategic. Specialist coaches can prepare you for public speaking; help with writing projects and dealing with the media. Clients have to be clear on what they need.
Gawande approaches coaching from a personal skills best orientation by hiring another surgeon to observe him operating. This is an outstanding use of coaching. I’ve coached MD’s who suddenly find themselves in senior administrative roles not having any education or skill development in business or management. Designing a personalized executive development system conducted over a 4-6 month period is a unique solution. Combining intensive managerial knowledge building with skill development and coaching within a relatively short period of time results in significant professional development. It allows highly competent doctors to augment their professional skills set and get direct feedback so that they can be more effective managers.