On Friday morning the little experiment in co-coaching (for want of a better term) took place at a venue in London. The Chief Executive of a professional institution, the Technology Director of a major sporting association and I met up for a couple of hours of conversation and ideas.

I’m going to split my reflections over a couple of posts. In this one I’ll talk a bit about the experience, the approach taken, how it went and the next steps we are going to take. In a following post I’ll talk more about some of the themes around membership organisations in 2015 which might be of use to others in that sector.

The majority of challenges in business today are ones to which there are no knowable answers – yet organisations are besotted with the idea that they can get someone or something that can give them the “solution”, whether that’s in the form of the big strategic consulting organisations, a piece of software, industry “best practice” or the latest digital guru.

These tricky problems can’t be solved like a crossword puzzle. You need to interact with them and by interacting with them you change them and shape them. They are mysteries rather than puzzles.

Giving people support to plot their own paths through such mysteries is a powerful way in which to address such challenges. The whole drive behind the co-coaching experiment is how two sets of people from two different organisations that are facing similar challenges might be able to help each other to solve their own (rather than each others) problems.

The first stage, to bring two people, one from each organisation, together to explore the opportunities to work together depended on a few things:

  • first of all, their individual willingness to give it a go. Knowing them both a little, I figured that an email to them both back in January would be worth a shot.
  • secondly that there would be reasonable rapport between them quickly because otherwise there would be a very hard “so why are we here?” conversation that wouldn’t go anywhere in particular. Thankfully both involved on Friday are people who enjoy talking, but most importantly, like listening.
  • thirdly the ability to quite quickly frame the similarities in a way that would shape the conversation in a constructive way. I think I was able to do that (mostly through what I framed in the post from last week, but with the invaluable insight that Adi Gaskell shared about how professional organisations overlook that their central value lies in their networks).

We had a fantastic conversation between the three of us over the course of a couple of hours. By the end of it, there was consensus about the commonalities in the challenges the two organisations face, and that there could be greater value in exploring things further. The next steps will be to bring together a larger group (probably 3-4 from each side) to continue the conversations and start to look at whether working together more formally might be of benefit.

There’s a sales job that both of the attendees from Friday will need to do to get people from either side to see the point and be engaged in a session in the future. It’s probably going to be a slightly easier job for the professional association to sell the idea of meeting sports industry folk than the other way around, but one never quite knows.

The structure of this next session is what I now need to be working on. I’ve a few ideas, and the content on the next post will explore some of that thinking.

Stage one of the crazy experiment seems to have gone well. I will keep you posted…

2 thoughts on “Co-coaching – first reflections

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