6 min read ⌚
Nothing new on the program today: once again, we talk about coaching and mentoring.
Or, rather, the necessity of it.
However, this time we’ll leave the subject where it’s most safe: in the hands of a surgeon, Atul Gawande.
Unsurprisingly, he’s pretty precise and straightforward:
Who Should Read “Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach”? And Why?
Coaching is not only for the amateurs, Gawande says; it’s also for the experts.
So, “Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach” should function as a wakeup call for everyone who thinks that he/she has reached his/her peak.
In merely 15 minutes, we guarantee that Gawande will change your ways of thinking.
About Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande is an American surgeon and writer.
A professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, Gawande is also the executive director of Ariadne Labs and chairman of Lifebox.
He has authored few bestselling books: “Complications,” “Better,” “The Checklist Manifesto” and “Being Mortal.”
In 2010, he was listed among the 100 most influential people in the world in the annual list assembled by “Time” magazine.
“Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach PDF Summary”
There’s no such thing as reaching your peak.
So, if you believe that you are there – Atul Gawande says in his unassuming (and all the more brilliant for it) 2017 TED Talk “Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach” – you’re not seeing things objectively.
In other words: if you are at a stage where you can’t find any more room to improve, that doesn’t mean that you can’t; it only means that you can’t on your own.
It all boils down to this small, but extremely important distinction, which, in its less formal imperative version, sounds a bit Nazi:
Get a coach!
However, this, in Atul Gawande’s opinion, is the best advice you will ever get, and his conviction is deeply rooted in a continual interest for and personal strive for excellence, best summed up by his inspiring and thought-provoking credo:
It’s not how good you are now; it’s how good you’re going to be that really matters.
Now, Atul Gawande is a world-renowned surgeon who just recently – barely two weeks ago (June 20, 2018) – was named a CEO of a healthcare venture jointly owned by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase.
So, how much better can he get?
Or, to rephrase that: if he’s the best, then who’s better than him to coach him?
To answer this, Gawande starts by addressing one fundamental question: “How do professionals get better at what they do?”
And there are two views about this.
The first one is the pedagogical view.
According to it, expertise means not needing to be coached. That is: you know you’re good, when you can make it on your own.
In fact, you allow yourself to be coached (read: “you go to school, you study, you practice, you learn…”) so that you can reach a stage in which your know-how will make a coach obsolete:
A professional is someone who is capable of managing their own improvement.
There is practically no professional on this planet who hasn’t gone through this process.
Which is why, for the most of them (whether they are lawyers, scientists or musicians), it seems a bit shameful to ask someone else for help.
It basically means that you haven’t finished your training process; or even that you are admitting that the other guy knows more than you.
The opposing view comes out of sports.
According to this one, everybody needs a coach; in fact, in sports, coaching is an essential part of talent, no matter how talented you are.
And, as opposed to other fields of human endeavor, we are not at all surprised to see even the greatest basketball or chess players coached!
According to Gawande, this latter view is the right one – no matter what you are, or what you want to become.
Take him, for example!
As we said above, he’s one of the best surgeons in the world.
But, once he realized that he wasn’t improving anymore, Gawande decided to hire a coach, i.e., to ask a former professor of his (Bob Osteen) to observe him in his operating room.
I remember the first case,” notes Gawande. “It went beautifully. I didn’t think there would be anything much he’d have to say when we were done. Instead, he had a whole page dense with notes.
Because Bob could see Atul from a different perspective; and from where he was, Atul’s elbow was up in the air every once in a while, and the light had swung out of the wound.
Small things – but it’s them that matter in the long run.
Another great example would be Itzhak Perlman, one of the greatest violinists of our time.
His wife, Toby, who’s always in the audience at his performances, observing him and giving him feedback.
And why should Itzhak listen?
Because coaches perform three fundamental functions you can’t do (at least not as well) on your own.
First of all, they can be your external eyes and ears, providing a more accurate picture of reality – one that you can’t see from where your standing.
Next, they are capable of recognizing fundamentals and instilling positive thinking, i.e., they can motivate us and remind us of the things we might have forgotten.
Finally, they can break our actions down for us, and then, they can help us build them back up once again.
So, do you still think you are better off without a coach?
Well, think again!
Key Lessons from “Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach”
1. What Does It Mean to Be a Professional?
2. Two Views on Coaching
3. What Do Coaches Do? Three Benefits of Coaching
What Does It Mean to Be a Professional?
In the opinion of most people, a professional is someone who is capable of performing what he does independently.
And few – if anyone – can argue with this definition.
However, a professional is also someone who is constantly improving in his field.
Here’s the catch:
Can you improve unaided?
If you can – then what’s the deal with the education system?
Should we redefine the term “professional”?
Two Views on Coaching
There are two opposing views on coaching.
According to the pedagogical one, coaching is the process through which you need to go to become a professional. According to sports-related people, coaching is an essential part of being a professional.
In other words, the former think that once you learn your craft, you don’t need to be coached anymore; the latter believe that even if you are the best in the world – you still need a coach.
What Do Coaches Do? Three Benefits of Coaching
Why would a Tiger Woods or a Michael Jordan need a coach?
Well because coaches provide three benefits of utmost importance.
In the words of Gawande, they are
your external eyes and ears, providing a more accurate picture of your reality. They’re recognizing the fundamentals. They’re breaking your actions down and then helping you build them back up again.
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“Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach Quotes”
You don't recognize the issues that are standing in your way or if you do, you don't necessarily know how to fix them. And the result is that somewhere along the way, you stop improving. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
The main idea of Atul Gawande’s TED Talk is there in its title: “Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach.”
And, obviously, it’s not exactly an innovative one.
However, his argumentation, and the fact that he’s a surgeon and has successfully employed this advice in his own practice, makes all the difference.
Put differently, this TED Talk may finally help you realize the importance of coaches and even inspire you to get one.
No matter what you do.