leanhealthcare_mutualcoaching-01In the world and work of healthcare improvement, we speak of how coaching aids both the development of the coachee and the transformation of the organization.  Businesses that are savvy and serious about becoming both high performing now and continuously improving for the future, focus on how leaders and internal consultants can support others through a coaching approach.  It is the “teach to fish” philosophy for growing an army of problem solvers who pull in concert to better meet customer needs and achieve the organization’s vision.  For many Lean practitioners, coaching others is seen as both a business necessity and an ethical imperative.

As I train leaders to be coaches, I remind them that the coachee is the center of the coaching universe.  Put another way, a wise colleague and executive coach said, “This isn’t about me. Coaching is striving to see the world through the coachee’s eyes while remaining objective and true to the goal of helping the coachee see their reality in a new way.”  This is servant leadership at its best.

Of late a new truth has been weighing on my mind.  Though I still believe that effectiveness of coaching demands focus on the other person, I have come to realize that we as coaches are also changed by the coaching experience.  In a quick survey of colleagues and clients I asked the question, “What have you learned or improved about yourself while you have focused on coaching others?”  A sampling of those responses follows.

Coaching others has taught me that true leadership comes from learning from others. This is a daily journey into the practice of humble inquiry and being curious.  I am by nature a “teller” so I am reminded daily that I need to ask and be curious. 

I am conscious of my own shortcomings – a measure of humility.  The coach is also learning. 

I’ve learned to be more mindful and to consider the perspective(s) of the coachee.

I have learned to be honest and direct about what the coachee needs to do better.

I have different knowledge than those on my team.  Coaching allows me to learn.

The biggest thing I’ve learned about myself is how often I respond with answers and tell people what and how to do something…thinking that is “coaching”.  This behavior is so unfair to the people who are developing their own skills.  It robs them from learning – thinking on their own and becoming skilled, empowered problem solvers. 

I’ve learned to deconstruct my own thinking and assumptions so that I can explain my own thought process.

I gain three core insights from the responses of these practicing coaches:

  1. We cannot effectively coach others without self-examination.
  2. No one of us can know everything. The role of coach does not require us to know everything.  In fact the role of coach requires us to be a voracious, curious, and humble learner standing alongside our coachee as we both find a path forward.
  3. In the act of coaching others, we are changed ourselves.

Coaching is not for the faint of heart.  It requires an openness, introspection, humility and willingness to learn.  It requires the vulnerability to say, “Let us learn together,” and to be personally changed by what we discover alongside the coachee.


Blair Nickle, Senior Manager for Lean Healthcare and Process Improvement at HPPToday’s blog was written by Blair Nickle, senior consulting director at HPP.

For more than 25 years, Blair has dedicated her career to the improvement of processes, quality, safety, patient satisfaction, employee engagement, physician satisfaction, and financial vitality in healthcare organizations.  Her content areas of expertise include instructional design, performance measurement and improvement methodologies, information systems implementation, strategic planning and deployment, project management, and human resource development.

Blair holds Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Library and Information Science degrees from the University of Tennessee.  Her undergraduate work was performed at Emory & Henry College.

Image by Freepik

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