Sunday, September 18, 2022

Coach? Consultant? Trainer?

Language is a funny thing.

As philosopher Wittgenstein said "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."1

Or, to take another angle, as Steve Young put it "Perception is reality" 2

Without wanting to re-iterate my whole earlier post, I would just like to shine a light to the fact that outside the agile realm the coach is much more prevalant in sports than in psychology (e.g. life-coaching).

And a sports coach acts quite differently from a life coach. Can you imagine a group of people who hire a coach because they want to become a soccer team and that coach would start by asking everyone how they think soccer should be played? If the distance of the goals is to their liking and whether a ball would be the best thing to play with?

If you can imagine this scenario, then I guess, it is either with a sarcastic glance at the way many agile coaches work today or you where reminded of some kind of comedy.

Life coaching, solution focused coaching, systemic coaching all have their places – even in soccer coaching – but usually not in the beginning when the players still are unaware of the rules of the game, not well versed in the moves and inexperienced.

And by the way: the oldest mention of a coach in what later came to be the agile realm was from eXtreme Programming (XP). To quote my aforementioned article and paraphrase from eXtreme Programming explained:

“... the [coache’s] job duties are as follows:

  • Be available as a development [programming] partner [...]
  • [make refactoring happen]
  • Help programmers with individual technical skills, like testing, formatting, and refactoring
  • Explain the process to upper-level managers.”

or – on a later page – “Sometimes, however, you must be direct, direct to the point of rudeness. [...] the only cure is plain speaking.” And also “[...]I am always in the position of teaching the skills [...] But once the skills are there my job is mostly reminding the team of the way they said they wanted to act in various situations. The role of the coach diminishes as the team matures.”(p 146)

So maybe – just maybe – it would helpful to be aware whether the team needs a sports coach or a therapeutic coach.

I find that both are appropriate at different points in time, but I have seen a lot of cases recently, where the client was looking for –and needed– a coach akin to the sports-coach metaphor, ended up with a coach conforming to the life-coaching metaphor and everyone just ended up really unhappy.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

  1. "Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt", – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico philosophicus, 5.6, 1922.↩︎

  2. "Perception is reality. If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that's the truth in people's minds." - Steve Young↩︎

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