A coach walks into a bar …

One day you are faced with a problem.  You succeed or fail in solving that problem.  It doesn’t matter.  Time passes.  You meet someone who paints a picture which has some parallels to what you experienced.  A few possible things can happen.


You tell them about your experience.  They listen. They ask questions, you answer, talk, listen, listen, talk …


You ask them a question.  They answer, question, answer, question, answer …


You chat.  It is not anything like your problem.  Chat, chat, chat …

Given each scenario above, when are you a coaching?  When are you being coached?

My view on coaching is simple.  We oscillate between knowing and not knowing so often that it doesn’t matter who is learning from whom.  It does not matter !!  In any given context, you are either a coach or being coached based on what you know.  You fluctuate between these extremes many times in a conversation, in an hour, in a day, in a lifetime.

This is part of my quest for balance through the work that I do.  “Coaching” feels one directional, a fabricated “us and them” labeling of people. That is an unbalanced state of being.  Learning is a balanced way of living.

And if you have not yet figured it out  … agility is about learning, learning is about living, living is about being in the present, being in the present is about embracing change, embracing change is about being agile.

3 thoughts on “A coach walks into a bar …

  1. Aslam,
    In my definition of coaching the coach helps the coachee to discover or unlock the solutions the coachee already has. The coach will often, but not only, use questions to achieve this. Both coach and coachee will learn in the process, but most probably different things. For example, the coachee may discover solutions to his/her problems and may learn more about his/her own abilities; the coach may get more in touch with his own strengths and weaknesses.
    In this voluntary transaction the coach is providing a service to the coachee, with (hopefully) observable learning benefits. However, the coach is also receiving intrinsic benefit through observing the growth of the coachee. So I do not see this as unbalanced.
    There are other things I sometimes do under the broader banner or being a Coach, but they are not the act of coaching. These include sharing my experiences and offering advice.
    Lastly, there is, of course, nothing against a dialogue between peers, from which both may learn. However this also does not fit into my definition of coaching.

  2. Hi Peter,
    I’m not saying that coaching is unbalanced. My point is that we oscillate between coach and coachee more than we realise. I think that the lack of balance is when we separate them out on a (semi)permanent basis. Is it beneficial or not to create this separation? I consider it not beneficial.
    I do agree, though, that some people are very good at encouraging/leading others to express themselves better than they would have alone. That is what you call ” discover or unlock the solutions the coachee already has”. This is still not a good enough reason create the separation of roles and titles.
    And thanks for a very good comment. Lots of food for thought.
    — Aslam

  3. Aslam, are you suggesting that we drop the ‘Coach’ label? I think deciding to do this is highly dependent on the dynamics in the environment.
    If you are acting as Coach in the long term, or basically for the foreseeable future, then in principle I agree with you as it may create unnecessary separation.
    But if you are coming into an environment for a short period of time to help a team make a particular transition, I think there is merit in keeping the label. It helps define your role in the team, which is to impart some knowledge in an area you happen to have experience in. So the label of Coach may make the team more open to listening to what you have to say while they have you around. That does not mean it can’t be a two-way process.
    So what I’m saying is, clearly defining your role is more important when you don’t have the luxury of time. If you do have the time, natural coaches will always emerge.

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