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You can’t polish plastic shoes: coaching doesn’t work if you don’t identify potential

Understanding and identifying potential is essential if coaching is to work

You cannot polish plastic shoes. Only when the surface material has the potential to receive the application of the correct polish, put on in a particular manner, will you get a lasting shine.

Metal is the same. Brass shines, silver shines but iron, it just doesn’t. Iron and plastic have their own uses, but you cannot shine them. Coaching is similar. The identification of potential is a serious precondition for coaching. Coaching without potential will not yield the desired results. Potential is critical for the future.

Coaching in the corporate world, albeit a late entrant, is today a rather common prescription. In the absence of proper understanding, it is now a default option. It is presumed to be a 'panacea' for all corporate performance shortcomings and behavioural deficits. But the effect of coaching in all situations is suspect.

Unless the raw material is really rich and potentially polishable, coaching will have slow and marginal effects. Talent needs to be observed at the ground level. Unless it holds a strong promise and has the potential, investment in coaching will not yield impressive performance results. In fact, it may reflect the Hawthorne effect - the tendency of some people to work harder and perform better when they are participants in an experiment – but in the long run, it will be like polishing plastic shoes.

Plastic has its own advantages but you cannot polish it to get a better shine. For that analogy to apply to coaching, real talent potential identification is absolutely necessary. Only if you invest coaching time on such high potential talent, will its yield really be worthwhile and desirable.

coaching and potential

Published 27 June 2018
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