Saturday 6 June 2015

Taking it literally...

One of the habits that Andrew Derrington is trying to break me of, in my writing, is issuing caveats and disclaimers, and writing tentatively and conditionally. As I have noted before, he likes an assert/justify style - and in broad terms, I agree. It makes for a clearer and more compelling text.

But I have been reminded of why I write like that as I read John Whitmore's famous and influential book Coaching for Performance.  Because he often writes as absolute statements things which I think are very debatable, and it puts me out of sympathy with his whole text.

It may be that I am just too literal and pedantic in my reading, but it does irritate me.

To give some examples: 
Real performance is going beyond what is expected; it is setting one's own highest standards, invariably standards that surpass what others demand or expect.
Whist I see what he means (and in many cases would agree), I have a real problem with it stated as a simple truth. From time to time, I work with people whose bosses set unreasonable standards - standards that require the individual to sacrifice leisure and domestic time, for example, in pursuit of organisational targets. If I were to see my job as a coach as encouraging them to set standards surpassing those demands, I would be contributing to their stress. Rather, I might help them to recognise that their own standards are different from their boss's, and help them to consider how to negotiate accordingly.

Or again:
 The underlying and ever-present goal of coaching is building the self-belief of others...
As before, one sees what he is getting at; but has he never met anyone so full of himself that a major goal of coaching is an appropriate dose of self-awareness leading to a modicum of humility?

Whitmore's book is riddled with such stuff, and with many assumptions and philosophical positions presented as truths, too, and it does detract from the many useful things he has to say. So just when Andrew was weaning me off the use of caveats and disclaimers, I am suddenly reminded of why I use them.  

Food for thought...

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