Sunday, October 31, 2010

Effecting a Coaching Culture of Collaboration

Most life related coaching is not about problem solving, per se, but an effective coaching relationship or initiative may indirectly resolve many problems. This may sound paradoxical. Guess what? It is and it isn’t. When one is seeking to directly solve personal, or even organizational and cultural problems; one or many can often make them worse. It’s like scratching an itch and making it itchier. Sometimes ignoring the itch and embarking on a more life affirming direction may not make the itch go away, but can certainly make it seem less annoying.

Assuming a more deliberate and positive mindset can lead to more significant forms of satisfaction than merely having an itch go away. Here the concern is not only to metaphorically scratch, or not to scratch, but rather to very briefly explore the efficacy of this macrocosmic coaching approach; versus the microcosmic approach of so-called rational problems solving. This discussion will be coupled with a glimpse at the accompanying implications for personal, and to a lesser degree, public health and socioeconomic well-being of these often oppositional points of view.

Of course, some crisis situations do require direct intervention. They are more like a life-threatening wound than an itch; where a surgeon’s scalpel, versus a coach’s compassion may be the only alternative. But in non-critical situations, the often critical and analytical mindset of problem solving can usher in a negative mindset, which can even lead to a negative, self fulfilling prophecy. When this happens, the negative mindset can become a bigger problem than the initial problem ever was. Moreover, like a virus, this negativity can rapidly spread; in some cases immobilizing the well being of the problem solver, the victim and the entire collective in the process.

Furthermore, the initiation and containment costs of this ever expanding problems solving approach, like in the spiraling costs of our healthcare system, entails a classic case of the law of diminishing returns of ill conceived, large capital outlays. This is not to say that advocating a return to a pre-scientific dark age is advisable either. Instead, finding a workable balance between the more simple and organic coaching and collaborative approaches and the state specific, sometimes myopic individualistic problem solving methodologies may provide optimum value.

The medical model of solving psychological problems often follows this course; as do overly reactive methods to control so-called financial panics and other instances of mass hysteria. Do these more traditional problems solving methods work? Sometimes yes, but often no. More troubling, such invasive measures usually offer only short term relief, focusing on symptoms, like scratching an itch, rather than underlying afflictions exemplified by psychopharmacological patients, with progressively debilitating side effects.

Conversely, coaching seeks to focus on possibilities rather than problems. Thus coaching embraces positivity rather than negativity, often focusing on dreams rather than nightmares with an emphasis on intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards. Coaching embraces strength based initiatives, hopeful attitudes and health rather than disease. In the often atomistic worldview of the medical model, all too often an itch is an itch, is an itch, ad nauseam.

Does coaching always succeed? Of course it doesn’t. That would imply an unrealistic mindset denying the critical nature of some acute afflictions in one’s physical and mental health and elsewhere. Also, not being facetious, sometimes success can only be seen through the eyes of the succeeder and coaching currently possesses very few scientifically verified success stories.

However, coaching is more concerned with the active process of becoming, rather than a rational analysis of being. Moreover, in coaching the difference between problem solving and positivity is that coaching embodies a more all encompassing holistic and meta-mindset. In turn, this meta-mindset characterizes that the best coaching practices can engender a more self empowering and self correcting process than the problem solving approach.

Yet, some feel that everything that is worthwhile requires struggle. However, these “no pain—no gain” approaches can take a toll on one’s physical and mental well being, and eventually for the survival of the “un-fittest”, as well as encourage dependencies and perpetuate chronic conditions.

Thus, my recommendation is to at least explore, and if advisable, follow the more positive path that coaching affords to realize your goals; rather than seeking out problem solving practitioners or philosophies. As I asserted initially, the pursuit of positive goals thru coaching often indirectly solves, or lessens the impact, of these problems as my itch analogy indicate.

Finally, a question that this brief discussion begs: In the long run, is the relative sustainability of a coaching culture of collaboration more effective, versus a rational culture built on top of the notion of rugged individualism?