The hazards of doing too much in coaching and facilitation
Transcript of this video:
I’ve come here by the River Cam as it winds its way north out of Cambridge.
At certain times of the year and day it will be actually quite busy. It’s quiet at the moment but it’s often quite busy with rowing crews: ones, twos, fours, and eights practicing along the river which makes the view more interesting.
Another thing that makes the walk along the towpath that I’m making now more hazardous at those times is you’ll often find cyclists coming towards you and they’ll be wobbling because they typically only have one hand on the handlebar.
Their other hand is holding a megaphone and they’re not paying a lot of attention to where they’re going cos their gaze is directed mostly towards a rowing crew that they’re coaching.
I notice they spend a lot of their time shouting… shouting tips and instructions to the crew. And I’m not a rower, but I imagine that’s not quite as helpful as many of these coaches seem to think.
I wonder if they’d benefit from a, a piece of jargon I picked up from my nephew- in-law, Stu Field, who talks about “in-task silence”, which is to describe the phenomenon that if someone is coaching a sports person or a sports team, it’s actually quite powerful for them just to be there watching.
And for the sports people to know that they’re being watched: that alone is a powerful intervention. And I see these cyclists over-coaching their teams probably overwhelming them with information and preventing them from actually tuning in and noticing what’s actually going on in the boat.
I often think about this when I’m facilitating or when I’m training facilitators because I think a lot of the art of facilitation is not to over-coach. It’s to maintain in-task silence.
I know when I’m doing my job, especially if it’s with a group where the dynamics are quite challenging or tense, most of the time I’m having a whole series of thoughts of clever things I could say or practices I could do and, and basically going nah inside my head to, not all of them, but most of them so that I’m actually not doing too much and I have to risk the possibility that the group might look at me and think I’m not doing very much.
I get some solace from thinking of the wisdom of the great footballer Zinadine Zidane who is known for making an enormous contribution on the pitch without necessarily exhausting himself who says that the real magic is almost nothing.
And I’m not claiming that I’m magical, but to aim for the almost seems to me to be a really good practice.