No Matter How Accomplished You Are As a Speaker (or, in any Arena)… You Could Use Some Good Coaching

Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande

I’ve been a surgeon for eight years. For the past couple of them, my performance in the operating room has reached a plateau. I’d like to think it’s a good thing—I’ve arrived at my professional peak. But mainly it seems as if I’ve just stopped getting better.

This is how Atul Gawande started his terrific article, PERSONAL BEST:  Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you?

He goes on to explain how he hired a coach – a surgeon who watched him perform surgery, and gave him suggestions and gentle correctives. The point: no matter how accomplished you are, you can’t watch yourself carefully enough to catch what needs to be improved, and what needs to be changed. At least, not all of it.

Some of what he learned from his coach he had never thought of before. He truly “learned something” from his coach. (Read the article to learn about the specific lessons he learned from his coach).

But, some (most?) of what we all need to correct or change, we already “know” we need to change – we just have not gotten around to it. But, truthfully, we don’t want to go to the trouble of changing. (My theory – no one really likes to change – even the people who claim they like to change).

So, recently… I got a specific piece of feedback about my speaking. I needed to change something about my delivery. I sort of “knew” I needed to do this. But, I just kind of ignored it – over and over again.

But, I’m now working on it. Because, someone was gently “in my face” about the need. It was a negative, possibly hurting my effectiveness. It was time to tackle it. And it took a little coaching to get me to confront it.

I’m glad I got this feedback. Though I did not “like” it, I did appreciate it. So, I’m working on this – and, it’s going to require some real vigilance.

I wonder what else I am doing wrong? I don’t know. I’m too close to it. I need another pair of eyes to let me know. I need some occasional coaching.

My guess is, so do you. You really can’t see all that you are doing that could be a negative, hurting your effectiveness.

If the man who was chosen to lead the WHO Surgical Task Force (Dr. Gawande) needs a coach; if the best athletes in the world need a coach; then maybe you need some coaching yourself… I know it helped me.

Maybe Atul Gawande needs to add “use a coach” to his surgical checklist.  And maybe I need to add “use a coach” to my speaking checklist…

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