Agile, Quality, Life, Career … everyone wants to be some sort coach these days.
I don’t like the term coach. I feel like it downplays the hard work that goes into teaching. I learn and I teach what I learn. I love teaching so much I often do it for free. During uni I volunteered with Robogals teaching kids programming through Lego Robotics workshops. I had my own community radio show where I interviewed Engineers to promote the field. I give presentations at conferences to teach other people my learnings. I volunteer with Sydney Testers to teach my community how to be better at testing.
Is Coaching just asking questions?
As I teach I’ll ask coaching like questions to help you to explore ideas further. I often do this when I play the dice gamed with other testers.
If you have an idea while playing the dice game with me I’ll prob you with questions to try to get you to explain your thinking. The dice game is a fun way to explore black box testing and critical thinking, I’ll be running these on a fortnightly basis. Keep an eye out on the Sydney Testers meetup page for more events like this.
“The coaching habit” book would have us believe that coaching is all about asking questions. Just 7 questions in total. Where as I believe the main function of a sports coach is to provide the fast feedback in the moment to help an athlete improve and perform at their best.
Coaching is having the knowledge to know when to ask probing questions, knowing what questions to ask and how to follow up on particular questions to gain more insights. I use these techniques to learn not to coach.
Mentoring vs Coaching vs Teaching
There might be different contexts where one might be applied over another but I use these terms almost interchangeable. On twitter recently I said I mentored a colleague in giving technical presentations:
And I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I love helping other people improve. I love this stuff so much, I do it for free. The mentoring wasn’t ongoing though, it was just a 1.5 hour session with the clear goal of improving 1 thing. So maybe I shouldn’t call it mentoring? Well I view it as a mentoring session, but I also taught content and asked coaching questions. All three; Mentoring, Coaching and Teaching were all involved in this situation.
Here’s the review of that session:
Teaching is Learning
But putting together a blog post, workshop or lecture I consolidate my own learning into key take aways. It helps me practice my communication and I learn to exchange ideas more effectively. The best teachers are constant learners.
Maybe I’m jaded because I had a bad experience where a job with the title “Quality Coach” didn’t quite work out for me but I don’t think there is much point in distinguishing the differences between teaching, coaching and mentoring. I’ll use it all to help you improve.