When I trained as an IBM business coach-and-mentor in 1996, the training course I attended showed us a video demonstration. The video was going to show how someone was going to be helped to improve their performance of a particular task … without being told what to do.
WITHOUT being told what to do! I didn’t believe a word of it!! I believed that you HAVE to be told what to do in order to learn how, or to improve on how to do something.
The video included two examples: one of someone being told what to do, and one where the person was NOT told what to do. As I watched the video what I saw blew me away.
A Demonstration of Coaching versus Direction.
In the video, two presenters were going to take a different approach with two people. Both people, neither of whom had played golf before, were going to be asked to tee-off (to hit the ball with a golf club to drive the ball towards the hole).
First up was a demonstration of being told what to do (Direction). Second up was a demonstration of not telling the person what to do (Coaching).
(The trainer’s comments are in bold)
- “OK, hold the golf club” (the person struggled a bit)
- “No, hold it like this “(the person’s hands were placed along the club).
- “How hit the ball” (the person swung the golf club awkwardly… and missed).,
- “Right, what you’re doing wrong is this… and this…”
- “Now, do it again and use what I’ve told you “(the person swung the golf club, hit the ball and the ball sliced off in a harsh angle).
- “OK, well done, you hit the ball but you didn’t hit it at the right angle. What you’re doing wrong is this… and this…” (the trainer physically moved the person around)
- “So, try it again and this time try to stand… and look…” (the person hit the ball again and the ball went off in a better angle than before).
In this demonstration, the golfer’s swing and tee-off was improved by being told what to do. The golfer obeyed the instructions.
The demonstrator’s comments are in bold. The person being coached is in italics.
- “OK, what would you like to do?” “Oh, erm… (thinks)… I’d like to it the ball a long way towards the fairway.”
- “OK, sounds good, so take the club and have a go” (the person swings at the golf ball … and misses).
- “So what happened there?” “Well, I missed the ball!!”
- “And what do you think caused that?” (the person thinks for a while): “I think it’s because I can’t see the ball “
- “So what might help with that?” “(thinks)… maybe if I looked at the ball whilst I swung at it”
- “OK, have another go and try that idea” (Person swings at the golf ball whilst keeping the head down, hits the ball, but the ball slices off at a sharp angle).
- “Well, well done, you hit the ball, so what do you think of that?” “Well great that I hit the ball, but it’s going off in the wrong direction.”
- “… and what you’d like is…?” “to be able to hit the ball ahead of me..”
- “OK, have another go” (person tries again and the same thing happens)
- “So what’s going on?” “(Thinks) I think I’m stood awkwardly … and looking at the ball does seem to make things worse”
- “Do you have any ideas on what you might like to change” “(thinks) … Well, I could stand better … maybe like this…. and I could try …” etc.
In this demonstration, the golfer’s swing and tee-off was improved WITHOUT being told what to do… by being coached.
Read on to discover what’s happening in these examples…
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