We turn now to the so-called “hard” skills and knowledge of coaching. These competencies were highlighted in the report prepared by Campone and Awal (2011), based on the qualitative responses to the first Development of Coaches survey. Referencing the work of David Drake (2009, 2011) and Hawkins and Smith (2006), Campone and Awal noted that the survey results confirmed an emphasis placed by these other authors on the hard skills and knowledge of coaching. In concluding, their own report on the survey, Campone and Awal (2011, p. 13) suggested that: “formal coaching preparation which includes both theory and skills development can serve as the basis for informed decision-making by coaches and provides the ground for deepening professional reasoning and decision-making skills.”
Our analysis of data from both the first and second survey is certainly aligned with the conclusions reached by Campone and Awal. The challenge seems to be how to make this happen and how to identify what should be taught and learned and how mentors and supervisors might assist in this learning. The survey results suggest that this is not a simple challenge. When it comes to the “harder” side of coaching, there is more uncertainty in the self-perceptions of coaches about their development and competence–though this uncertainty is in relative terms–the coach respondents are still quite positive about their work as coaches and believe that the undergoing changes are all for the best.
At the immediate, moment-to-moment level, respondents indicate that they are competent as coaches, though their ratings on this item are among the lowest (8th and 9th) on both surveys for this second question (at the PRESENT time). Furthermore, this item yielded the highest variance on the second survey and 4th highest on the first survey. So, what does it mean when a coach is asked: “How well do you understand what happens moment by moment during coaching sessions?” We would propose that this item is calling for a self-assessment of tactical reasoning — what sometimes is called “meta-cognition” (thinking about one’s own thinking or reasoning about one’s own reasoning).
This moment-to-moment processing might also relate to the concept of fast thinking that has been offered by the Nobel-prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman (2011). As one of the founders of the rapidly growing field known as behavioral economics, Kahneman suggests that much of the important thinking and reasoning we do every day is engaged in a manner that is very quick, deeply-embedded – and often biased. For Kahneman, it is important that we balance off our fast thinking with a process that he calls slow thinking (to which we turn frequently in this summary report). It might be critical for professional coaches to be aware of their own fast-thinking, in part because they are being asked to respond quickly and with insight to their client’s own thinking and because they are often in the business of helping their clients uncover their own fast thinking patterns and biases.