A man is sitting in a boat, fishing. After hours of waiting for something to bite, the fisherman encounters another man sailing by and asks, “What am I doing wrong? Am I using the wrong bait?” The man looks at the water, then points his finger behind the fisherman and says, “Look behind you. See that?” He pointed to factory in the horizon, a huge grey complex with three chimneys smoking thick vapor into the sky. “You came here to fish without knowing that the plant has killed off all the fish.”
The fisherman moved his boat a little further upstream. The other man in the boat had led him to consider that changing his path might point to a better location for fishing that night’s dinner. As he began taking his boat further ahead, the man once again spoke up and said, “Do you realize where you are going?” The fisherman shook his head and looked closer. “The river seems pick up quickly that way,” he concluded. “There must be a waterfall nearby.”
The fisherman had been spared a fateful error. Like any good coach, the man had asked strategic and powerful questions to unlock the power of understanding clues by paying attention. This time, he’d avoided eating fish fed on a factory-plant-based diet, or plummeting to his death.
Coaching, and learning how to, is one of the most essentials tools for any creative leader to master. Poisoned fish lurk everywhere; summits are alluring. A coach never pushes toward the coachee in a pre-determined direction. Here we go into advising. Advising differs from coaching by telling someone what to do, either explicitly or by giving recommendations through mapping scenarios, and giving direct opinions and perspectives. A good peer coaching session creates insight and reflection through listening and, most importantly, by asking the right questions. This can only be done through a structured and clear partnership, and learning and practicing with each other around a pre-designed structure.