Some time ago, at a yearly screening, doctors found a very small cancer spot in the breast of a relative. Talking with her has encouraged me to write down my metaphor of a coach as a team doctor.

  1. She still feels healthy. She can not even feel the lump. The medical science has improved so much that they visualize issues before they actually become problems. For me that is similar to the visual management I use as a coach.
    Because they found the cancer at a very early stage, the doctors have a lot of hope of removing it before it becomes lethal. That is how information radiators encourages teams to solve problems proactively. (the difference is they surgically will remove the cancer, while a team has to take care of the problems themselves)
  2. You don’t need a doctor to live healthy. Even when you live healthy sometimes you get ill. (Like getting breast cancer.) Yes good teams also get in trouble.
  3. The way people use a coach and doctors is similar. Different people use doctors in different ways.
    1. Some people never go to a doctor even when they are very sick. When they are ill, they might check the internet what is wrong, take some pills and stay in bed. This is why self-help books sell so good. And yes my blog gets lots of google juice…
    2. Others go to a doctor from the moment they have a little fever.  I offer free life time support to my clients. Some of them call me for advice on very small things. I’m happy to help them as I can keep track of their progress. I see the bigger picture and once in a while we discover a larger problem very early.
    3. Most people go only to a doctor when they are sick. These are the clients that call me and urgently want a workshop to fix things. Recovering from a flu is easy, it only takes a while. Recovering from cancer is a lot harder and asks for advise from multiple experts. (I bring in other coaches for things outside of my expertise or to have second opinion) I keep slack in my agenda to help these clients.
  4. It takes a while before people accept they have cancer. And yet the doctors have good tools to prove they have it. As a coach I feel like a doctor in the middle ages. I know when I see a sick team. I don’t have the tools to prove it. (although I’m sure google is working on some)
  5. Luckily a team knows what kind of symptoms it has, similar to asking a patient where it hurts.
    (Which is more then a pediatrician (child doctor) has.)
    If I listen carefully the team will even propose a possible solution. In most cases my work is encourage the people to listen to themselves and give them the courage (and or permission) to try.
  6. Most doctors will advice you to do a yearly checkup. Doing such a check up does not help you when you live unhealthy. Actually people living healthy will do more checkups. (check with Hans)As a coach I’m saying the same.
    Saying you don’t need a coach checkup because you do retrospectives, is like saying you don’t need to see a doctor because you weight yourself every month and your BMI is fine. A doctor has better tools and will ask you the right questions.
    Powerful questions is my preferred tool in my toolbox.
  7. The older I get, the more I care about checkups. In Belgium we are advised to do more and more checkups the older we get. I would say the same thing about teams. When a team grows it becomes more mature (like humans). That mature team is also surrounded by more challenges. I encourage teams to have a yearly checkup with an expert outsider. (If I’m still coaching that team that should not be me)
  8. A coach can ask you the right questions to heal yourself. A coach can show you a mirror about the real state of your team health. That is similar to the kind of questions your doctor will ask you about your life style. The doctor will not solve your problem,as a coach I make sure I don’t become responsible for a teams problems. (If I would do that, I would be using the metaphor of a mother instead of a doctor.)
  9. In my work as a coach I help teams to become healthier, one step at the time.
    Doctors will also focus on the most urgent problems. And yes they will make some things worse (people becoming bold from x-raying) to save someones life.
  10. As a patient I like the service my dentist is offering: they call me once a year to make an appointment for a checkup. Its a service I think my clients will also appreciate.

Now you have to excuse me, I want to book a checkup with my doctor.

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