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Monday, 16 February 2015

Coaching and Facilitation

When I attended my first Leadership workshop more than 10 years ago, part of the module is Coaching.

And that's one module I struggled with a lot!

Took me a few years before I can internalise it. (You mean after attending one workshop you all can become instant gurus? No wonder I always feel I am the slowest in class...)

Anyway, the question was posed to me what is my understanding of coaching? 

The immediate word association that came into my head were the NBA games I've watched - Larry Bird from Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson from LA Lakers era - with the coaches shouting instructions and plays from the sidelines. Hence I answered accordingly.

I remember the instructor looking at me with a wry smile. I think he must be thinking this one may take more time... LOL! 


Coaching in paedagogy terms is the art and science of supporting the person answer or get the solution to his own question himself.  

I only attended school till 16. So I can only say there's little coaching involved in my first 10 years of academic studies. 

Those of you who went on to tertiary institutions - were there at least some coaching thrown to the mix with "wa kali gong" (I tell you so) so?

I don't know about you, but the local fresh graduates I've worked with have a tendency to wait for instructions compared to graduates from Western universities. 

Or maybe it has nothing to do with our academia.... It's more to do with our local milieu where we tend to expect big daddy to solve everything for us... My bad! 


Facilitating is akin to coaching; its just done in a bigger group environment.

You know what? Instead of me describing in words, why don't I provide an example? (Note: I never said good example OK?)

Take a look at previous post: Here's a question to Value Investors

"I tell you so" is writing a blog post on what I see are the common fallacies of Value Investing.

Instead of "control", I let it go.

I put my faith and trust in the readers to paint the canvas provided. 

Which also means I've no clue how the end result would look like? That's why most people are terrified of coaching. How the hell do I set goals and do planning now!? LOL!

I may only influence.

And how do I influence?

On one spectrum it's to provoke, poke, kick.

The other end can be cajole, encourage, compliment.

At the end of the day, we want the commenter to express what he/she really feels or thinks. And not hide behind "that's what they all say".....

Note again I never say "right" or "wrong" answers; our focus is what we really think or feel.

Very often, when we know what we really want, the answer or solution is quite self-evident. 



  1. Hi SMOL,

    Good sharing on coaching :)

    I learned how to teach/coach by trial and error. I remember my first years of being a tutor. When a student don't know the answers, I'm all ready to provide it by showing them how to do it. But I realised that I'm the one who is really doing it, not them. If the next question comes along, they likely won't be able to do it. So, over a number of years, that changed to two parts: First part is to do a "wa kali gong" routine, where I force feed them basic knowledge. Second part is to do questions and see if they can discover some things that I didn't tell them from the first part.

    This 2 part routine can be applied to all subjects. Some subjects require more imparting of knowledge, some require more discovery by doing. It also depends on students. Some students are very good at absorbing knowledge from the first part so I'll spend more effort in the first part. Others absorb almost nothing from the first part, but will learn a lot from actual doing. I talk and observe, they do I observe, and then observe more when they respond to my questions. We're all dancing to the music of learning. My most important role as a tutor is really just to observe.

    I also realised that two extremes are not good. If a teacher only do the first part, he'll alienate a portion of the people who learn by doing. It also deprives the student from discovering some of the things themselves. It's very different if I tell them and they discover themselves. Immediately you can see the sparks that flew and they literally shout 'OH' in that eureka moment. Very gratifying for them and for me. Socrates would have been proud.

    The other extreme is to let them discover everything themselves. A particular polytechnic loves doing this. But I think a certain level of knowledge needs to be in the student's mind before this can be done effectively. Basic knowledge is to be read/imparted by others so that we don't have to keep inventing the wheel. If only we have all the time in the world! People these days frown upon rote learning (aka memorizing), but I think it's an integral part of learning. Without knowing your alphabets from a to z, you cannot be creative. Without learning the rules that work, you cannot jump to discover when the rules do not work. Master the basics, THEN excel out of it.

    To summarise this very lengthy comment (I'm sure one day I'll get an award for the most detailed comment EVER), I'll ask a complimentary question and attempt to answer it.

    How does one be a good coach and facilitator?

    You ask open ended question and you observe the replies that follows. You have to be empathetic and open minded to the full range of response that may follow. You're not a judge, so don't be. You have to like the sound of silence - the most important note in music is the pause between notes, without which the music merely becomes a collection of cultivated noise. You have to imagine you're a listener to a radio station - you listen 95% of the time and when the DJ calls for listener to call in, you dial and make a comment for 1 min and continue listening.

    In that respect, SMOL, you are a good facilitator.

    (I'm beginning to learn how to kick and compliment in my teaching. For the past 2 years, I've been introducing a new emotional range, which is to be angry. Very effective when it needs to be. I also need to learn how to compliment. The engineer in me sees suggestions to perfection in solutions, but seldom recognises that when a solution works, it's usually good enough. Ah, good enough, the enemy of perfection. But not everyone needs perfection hoho)

    1. LP,

      Thanks! I had fun!

      I am so glad you brought it up that we need to match teaching and coaching with the right people - it's not an either/or black/white one size fits all for everyone.

      We can't do coaching on a white piece of paper.

      Like a chef, how we mix it up to bring out the flavours of the dishes is the secret sauce ;)

      And we also have to be mindful of the situation too.

      If there's a fire in the building, we don't want to be too cute and use coaching at the wrong moment.

      Times like these, we need to use a firm, calm, but authoritative voice: "People, we need to evacuate the building now. STOP what you are doing and follow me. COME!"

    2. haha are you sure or not!

      just becos you are teaching does not mean you know about building on fire. i'm not so stupid to follow you.

    3. coconut,


      No worries. I not a bleeding heart.

      If you want to stay, fine!

      Burn got smell, heat, and smoke one ;)

      I was fire warden in the office building. There was one year many did not take the fire drill seriously (yes, even the managers who still conducted their meetings), the Chief Rep was so furious that he made us go up and re-do the fire drill until we got it right.

      It's like this one. People don't take fire drills, first aid, safety precautions at work/home, retirement planning, etc; seriously.

      When something does happen, they will question how come the authorities can let such things happen? How come no warnings? No education?



    4. serve them right, never take fire drill seriously!

      but i still will not follow you, drill or real.

  2. SMOL,

    I was very often asked to coach...

    My answer is:
    Techniques are bullshit, it can only do so much.

    You must want to help the person, and they will feel it. Hopefully.

    Basketball coaching focused on weakness to drill.

    Real life coaching, you focus on the strength and the part of puzzle it will fit in the team. Otherwise u can coach all you want and realised why still like that.

    Btw, I am waiting for your new post to say this, nice 101 comments! Lucky number, new year sure huat!! Good luck!!

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      Thank you very much!

      We all stay healthy and safe :)

      With comrades like you to shoot the breeze together, what more can one ask?

      Family and friends :)

  3. Hi SMOL,

    In my job, I have to teach new hires in my department. Three batches a year. Been three years now. I am also expected to be a coach, a mentor and a role model.

    I realize the outcome is not necessarily dependent on my coaching style. The willingness of the student to learn is a heavy influencing factor. Some of the new hires turn out to be star performers. Those are the ones with an inquisitive attitude and are willing to go above and beyond what is required of them to do the job well. Conversely, some new hires have a laissez faire attitude, doing the bare minimum to scrap through the day. Some of the younger hires even expect to be 'spoon-fed'.

    Being a coach is not easy. Especially when your performance evaluation depends on their (new hires) feedback. Pamper them and you get good reviews, but end up with colleagues leeching on your time at work. Keep a stiff upper lip and you get poor reviews, and still colleagues who prefer to escalate customer's inquiries to more 'seasoned specialists' (like me).

    It is like being caught between a rock and a hard place. :(

    1. SRSI,

      Coaching is merely bringing out the potential in the candidate.

      We can't make a silk purse out of sow's ear ;)

      Yup, it's not easy being a manager or senior - we have to develop business AND develop people.

      Some people like to solve problems for everyone - they like others come to them for advice. Indian chiefs.

      Some are just not bleeding hearts. We expect others to pull their own weight. Eight immortals.


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