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Strategic Discipline Blog

To Be Great – Hire A Coach

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Feb 26, 2018

Atul Gawande  Checklist Manifesto.jpg"It's not how good you are now; it's how good you're going to be that really matters,"

~ Atul Gawande, American surgeon, writer (Checklist Manifesto), public health researcher. General & Endocrine surgery, Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, MA

Change is here, it’s disruptively manifesting in every business.  If it’s not affected yours yet, it will.  We’ve been sharing Digital Disruption and the immediate and future impact it’s having on every business and industry.

Want to get great at something? Get a coach

Atul Gawande shared his ideas on “How to Get Great at Something – Get A Coach” in this Ted Talks 16:47 video.

As a professional Gawande struggled with this concept.  He felt professionals should be able to manage their improvement themselves. His view was, expertise means not needing to be coached. Over time, as he shares in the video he discovered how impactful coaching is on others, and specifically on himself.

Two quick stories from the videos about coaching.  In 1875 Yale and Harvard started playing America’s version of Football.  Yale hired a coach.  Over the next 30 games, Yale won 26, Harvard 4.  Harvard proceeded to hire a coach as well at that point. Coaching is a hallmark of all sports.

Gawande wondered is coaching necessary, does it transfer to other fields?

Itzhak Perlman.jpgHe decided to call American-Israeli violinist, Itzhak Perlman, to discover how he got to where he’s gotten.  IN the course of their two hour conversation, he wondered, why violinist don’t have coaches. (Go to the 6 minute mark on the video to hear Gawande speak about Perlman.)  When he asked Perlman this question, Itzhak replied, “I don’t know.”

Itzhak continued, “I’ve always had one!” 

Gawande responded, “You’ve always had a coach?”

A_04-Toby-Perlman,-Itzhak-Perlman.jpg“Oh yeah, my wife Toby, graduated together with Itzhak from Julliard, given up her job as a concert violinist, to be his coach, sitting in the audience observing him, and then giving him feedback,” Itzhak admitted

“It’s been crucial to everything I became,” he said.  (You can read Gawande’s New Yorker article: Personal Best Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you?)

Physician Coaches?

Gawande continues with his own experience with coaching.  He recognized in 2003 he had slowly quit improving.  Over the next 5 years he found his performance leveling out.  He asked one of his former instructors, now retired to observe his performance in the operating room.  The first time he was there, he felt the operation went particularly well.  He didn’t feel he would have much to offer after he was done.  Instead his newly hired coach had a full page dense with notes to share with Atul, how he could improve.  Just small things, he said, but as Atul notes, “it’s the small things that matter!” (Listen at about 8:30 on the video to hear some of his small but important observations)

For Gawande it provided a new level of awareness. It was fundamentally profound!

business_coach-resized-600.jpgGawande notes, “Coaches are your external eyes and ears, providing a more accurate picture of your reality. They recognize the fundamentals, break your actions down, then help you build them back up again.”

After just two months of coaching Gawande felt himself getting better again. After a year he found his complications drop down even further. It was painful, he didn’t like being observed, there were times he didn’t want to work on things, and he experienced times were he’d get worse before he got better.

Gawande recognized coaches are profoundly important.

Through this understanding he applied the coaching principle to his work in a health care innovation center working to improve Global Child Birth. One of the innovations they’ve created is a safe child birth checklist.  Gawande shares the contributions coaching has made to these efforts starting at 10:15

Reasons to hire a coach:

The Key’s Gawande offers: having a good coach to provide a more accurate picture of our reality, to instill positive habits of thinking, and to break our actions down and then help us build them back up again.

Personal Best Coach - Greg Thompson.jpgA good coach asks Questions, good questions.  It’s one reason ahead of the Scaling Up Summit in New Orleans, Gazelles coaches will be learning form a Coach Workshop with Gregg Thompson. See Be a Catalyst to Others, Gregg Thompson – St Louis Scale Up Summit and 8 Characteristics of Great Coaches - Gregg Thompson – St Louis Scale Up Summit to understand why we’ve elected to learn more.

When you hire a coach you are really asking for greater accountability. My job is to ensure you are accountable to your goals, particularly your One Thing.  What’s your priority?  That’s the question we discover for your business and for you as a leader.  The continuing steps to achieve your One Thing, your objectives, is to make you accountable toward achieving your dreams.

Growth demands Strategic Discipline.

Digital Disruption is here.  Your business requires a digital strategy. If you don’t have one , you are already behind.

Positioning Systems helps your business grow in the Four Decisions: People, Strategy, Execution, Cash.

Positioning Systems is uniquely qualified, through The Outthinker Process, to build your digital strategy.

Positioning Systems helps mid-sized ($5M - $250M) business Scale-UP. We help you align everyone in your business to focus on Your One Thing!  To achieve growth, you need to evolve in today’s rapidly changing economic environment.  Are you avoiding a conversation with yourself on how to can grow your business? Contact to Scale Up your business! Take our Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.

procrastination cartoon.jpgNEXT BLOG – The Cause of Procrastination

Are you aware there are two types of procrastination – Productive and Destructive?  Do you find yourself procrastinating, feeling guilty, and then still procrastinating?  Next Blog we’ll share what causes procrastination, how to overcome it, and finally when procrastination is good and when and how to avoid it.

Topics: Top Priority, Coach Advisor, Business Priorities, Goal Achievment, Coaching

Challenges of Scaling Up a Business 







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1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

2. Metrics: Develop measurable Key Performance Indicators. 

3. Meetings: Establish effective meeting rhythms. (Cadence of Accountability)  Compounding the value of your priority and metrics. 

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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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