An intriguing article in the October 3rd issue of the New Yorker describes Atul Gawande’s decision to hire a coach. Dr. Gawande, a surgeon, offers a smartly worded inside look at the benefits and risks of being coached.
Early on, Dr. Gawande makes the distinction between the medical understanding of expertise and that of the professional musician and the professional athlete:
The coaching model is different from the traditional conception of pedagogy, where there’s a presumption that, after a certain point, the student no longer needs instruction. You graduate. You’re done. You can go the rest of the way yourself…
Dr. Gawande discovers during the course of his exploration what those of us who have worked in the performing arts already know: coaching is a regular part of most professional performer’s lives. People who sing for a living work with vocal coaches throughout their career. Turns out even Itzhak Perlman has a coach. During the course of the article, Gawande explores coaching in musical, athletic, and educational settings as well as sharing his own journey working with a coach in the operating room.
After exploring the benefits of coaching for musicians, athletes, teachers, and the potential benefits for surgeons like himself, Dr. Gawande takes the distinction between pedagogy and coaching a step further:
Self-improvement has always found a ready market, and most of what’s on offer [as coaching] is simply one-on-one instruction to get amateurs through the essentials. It’s teaching with a trendier name. Coaching aimed at improving the performance of people who are already professionals is less usual. It’s also riskier: bad coaching can make people worse…
What extraordinary things are you responsible for? What could you achieve with the kind of guidance Dr. Gawande describes?
I'm interested in what keeps us engaged in our work, the world, and each other.