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Coaching: A precision tool or a hammer?

My DIY skills are rudimentary at best.  Growing up living in a large family run business, our home flat maintenance was carried out by experienced traders.  I had few learning opportunities.  Consequently, when I had to start doing odd jobs myself, pre YouTube, so armed only with the Readers’ Digest DIY Manual, it was all rather messy.

My tool of choice was Steve’s Screwdriver … a dated, derogatory term meaning ‘a hammer’.  As well as hammering screws, my versatile Steve’s Screwdriver could act as an effective lever and stop all sorts of machine buzzing.  Occasionally Steve’s Screwdriver even worked for nails.  If not close to hand, it could be easily replaced by a boot heel.    

Today I work with a different set of tools, a range of interventions to support personal and team development.  These tools, which feature Coaching, Mentoring, Facilitating, Presenting, and Instructing, can be used individually or in combination to serve distinct purposes.

Much like selecting the best precision tool from a tack hammer, a sledgehammer, a mallet, or a claw hammer, I work with my clients to confirm the most appropriate approach for each individual and team intervention.  Because each client is an individual and each situation is different, I feel that it is important to be clear about which tools we are going to work with and why.  Distinguishing the approach and what we might achieve, also provides us with clarity about what working with each tool involves.  We can also be open to introducing different tools as we go along.  Best of all, we have the possibility of creating our own purpose-built tools.

Many of my clients are interested to go further.  For example, in Coaching, we may compare the different influences and likely outcomes from Positive Psychology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Neuroscience and other disciplines.

The term used in Coaching for this process of zooming in to more and more precise detail is ‘Chunking down’.  It describes an increasingly granular approach which is valued by clients who are looking for greater precision and accuracy.  Much like my progression to using a fuller toolbox, understanding exactly what combination of tools to use, and how it can be used to best effect is beneficial.

As I share my passion for Coaching, I think about Steve’ Screwdriver.  Like me using my boot heel, it is blinkered to believe that Coaching is the only approach and ignore better options; to cite Maslow: ‘if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’.  In the absence of fuller considerations to identify what the job involves, different ways to approach it, the potential for unintended consequences and how things might look once the job is compete, how much damage could we do if we only contemplate a Coaching Screwdriver for every job?

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