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Who needs a coach?

In a previous piece, I wrote about the often unseen force of coaching behind some sporting successes. To think that such people, literally at the top of their game, still see the need for a coach I find inspirational, even though these days it seems like it is essential. But the same is true in fields other than sport so here are some other names to consider.

Take Alan Mulally, already with a successful career behind him as President and CEO within Boeing, he joined the Ford Motor Company when it was on the verge of bankruptcy and brought it back from the brink after the late 2000s recession.

Jim Yong Kim, was president of the World Bank from 2012 to earlier this year. He was a somewhat controversial figure (Forbes' world's 50th most powerful person in 2013) as he tried to introduce wide reaching reforms into that organisation.

History will take a view on their achievements but the common denominator between these two is a coach called Marshall Goldsmith and what strikes me is that both Mulally and Kim, already successful and prominent leaders in their respective fields saw the need to bring someone alongside them to coach them. That takes real humility.

In the corporate world, I was often called upon to coach or mentor others, but sadly coaching and mentoring was a tool brought out of the box often as a last resort, too late to be effective, to address development needs or shortfalls in performance. How much better when coaching is viewed positively and proactively, as essential for high performance, rather than reactively, an intervention that gives the sense that if someone needs coaching, they must be in trouble and really need help! That's why I am a fan of the Yorkshire Accord model; it provides opportunities for individuals from all parts of an organisation to come forward because amongst other things, they want to be better. As coaches, we need to honour the humility that such a step demonstrates.

One final, and my favourite example: Atul Gawande, an author and well known American surgeon, credited with introducing the idea of checklists into operating theatres, a simple idea that has dramatically reduced infection and error rates around the world. Surgeons are not traditionally known for their humility so seeking out a coach to observe their performance in the operating theatre is noteworthy. You can watch his story in his TED Talk here and if you want to know more about this fascinating man, search out his Desert Island Discs.

So, who needs a coach? I guess the answer is anyone and everyone and if we want to become better coaches, that includes us!

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