We all know the one about the hare and the tortoise…if by any chance you have forgotten the story, let’s recap: The hare knows he’s the fastest of the forest animals and is pretty arrogant with it. So much so that when the reputedly, very slow, tortoise challenges him to a race, he KNOWS, without a shadow of a doubt that he is GOING TO WIN. And so, he treats himself to a much needed snooze halfway around the course, safe in the knowledge that there’s no way he’ll be beaten by the plodding old slowpoke. But lo and behold, when he wakes up, and races off to see the chequered flag being raised, the lowly tortoise is patiently waiting for him there. Imagine how he must have felt!
What if he’d had a coach? Chances are, based on his preferred way of working, he’d get extremely frustrated with the pace that he was made to work at, the endless searching questions and the lack of direction given as to how he could improve. The vast majority of modern businesses are made up of hares. Hares who run 10 races a day against all sorts of opponents and simply don’t have time to sit and navel gaze about the one race they lost.
And that’s what’s wrong with much of the coaching that goes on in modern business today. It’s just too slow paced, there are too many slow coaches.
I’ve spent the last 13 years of my career in fast moving consumer goods businesses. They’re not called fast moving for nothing and I believe I’ve worked for some of the fastest. I’ve worked in supply chain within those businesses and I have had to discover the root cause and the solutions to issues at lightning speed on a daily basis. Sometimes I’ve got it wrong, but not often, and I believe there’s a way to apply the same principles to coaching – to create insight at speed. Applied in a coaching setting, this insight and the resulting awareness can help the client to reach their own solutions far quicker.
My personal belief is that there are a great many coaches out there who simply cannot resist the temptation to prove how good a coach they are by demonstrating again and again just how much they can help the client understand about themselves. This in itself, though, can be hugely slowing. The client is flooded with information that, albeit interesting, is simply not helpful to the specific problem they are trying to solve.
Does this mean that I’m advocating a move away from the traditional notion of the client taking responsibility for his own objectives and actions? Not at all and I am certainly not suggesting a prescriptive action plan either. I am instead proposing that there is a more efficient way to work. With a fast thinking, intuitive coach helping you to make links between your goals and reality you are freed up to create options and an action plan that works for the context you operate within.
Let’s get back to the hare for a minute. The sort of coach I’m talking about would probably have told him not to bother running this race at all to be honest but bear with me. The hare’s objective is to win, and the reality is that he is somewhat conceited; enough to lose because of it. A traditional coach may see merit in understanding the influences and circumstance that have led to this high achieving nature – had the hare been casting a nasty shadow over the organisation he worked in then I would see merit in such reflective thinking too, but in this case the objective is to win the race.
A fast thinking coach would take the potentially slightly more polarising route of confronting him with his over-confidence having made his assessment very early on in the conversation, and having heard the nap plan of course. And assuming a modicum of intelligence, it’s not a huge leap to expect the hare, having been presented with this reality to work out for himself that his nap is probably better off left until after the race. Seem simple? It is – but it’s also effective, relevant and most importantly quick.
This first appeared as a guest post for The Caffeine Partnership - July 2016