Friday, October 31, 2008

Internalising My Inner Game

A response to finishing Miles Downey’s book ‘Effective Coaching’.

This is a book I can see myself returning to again. It falls into a class of books that deliver their value accumulatively. With some books you get all you are every really going to learn on your first reading Other, more useful, books deliver most of their benefit from a staged engagement. You need to read them, put their recommendations and suggestions into practice as best as you can, make mistakes and learn from those errors, then become competent while still not becoming proficient. Eventually you plateau and realise that you will benefit from revisiting the book for a refresher. Second time around certain ideas that seemed opaque initially now slot logically into place and other ideas, that seemed so enlightening the first time around, now seem merely so obvious as to be almost prosaic. Which is a measure of how far your thinking has moved on.

David Allen’s book Getting Things Done’ falls into this category for me, giving some more every time I dip back into it. Likewise with ‘Effective Coaching’, there is a lot to be learned from this book, even if formal coaching is not something I think I shall ever do a huge amount of. Lots of Downey’s suggestions and ideas are useful and worth grappling with. His more advanced material I perceive as only coming into operation after you have successfully internalized the first tranche. Although I do not do much fully-formal coaching within my Design Director role, I am aware of the daily opportunities for informal coaching that benefit everyone. This book provides a great mental toolkit for thinking about optimising those encounters.

Downey writes authoritatively about self-awareness. Expounding on the topic far more than I expected given this volume’s subject material — which just shows what I knew. Obviously, such awareness is a prerequisite trait for becoming an effective coach. But more than that, as is so apparent from other readings and discussions on this MA programme, it is a compelling personal competitive advantage for achieving your goals. Without wanting to get all introspective, spending time getting your head around your own head seems to be time well spent. As a great poet once wrote ‘Know Thyself...’

As a parting shot (or parting backhand) I cannot let it go unsaid that this book claims the second-highest count of tennis metaphors of any book that I have ever read except for David Foster-Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’.

I realize that the majority of my postscripts are actually technically footnotes, but the unending-scroll format of the blog paradigm is not footnote-friendly. So the cranky Sub-Editor facet of my persona is going to have to live with that. Although who knows, when I get around to the required hard-copy edition of this learning log, I may manage to re-typeset all of these postscripts into proper numbered footnotes.