Coaching, data and information

CoachHub · 13 May 2022 · 2 min read

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn by Sam Isaacson

Nancy Kline, evangelistic for high quality thinking fostered by an environment characterized by time and consciously-held space, makes the following observation:

We base our decisions on information all of the time. When the information is incorrect or limited, the quality of our thinking suffers. Whereas, accurate and full information provides the path to good independent thinking.

-Nancy Kline

This attitude is central to good coaching – part of its purpose is to elevate the awareness of those receiving the coaching. If they’re discovering truths about themselves, those they interact with, and the wider world, that’s a really good sign.

But it’s hard for that awareness to consistently stay outside the act of simply confirming false assumptions the coachee already holds.

Imagine a coachee wanting to break their social media addiction.

Sometimes, a question like “How much time do you actually spend on social media?” will lead to a new level of awareness. Perhaps it’s even more often than they realized, and noticing that is enough to catalyze a change in behavior. Or perhaps it actually isn’t that much, and their realisation helps them get back their sense of self-control.

Then again, at other times that same question will do nothing. The answer might be meaningless: “Oh, too much, I’m sure!” Or it might be highly tangible: “I’d say about an hour per day,” when the true answer is substantially different.

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Technology provides a solid solution.

Data – the basic unit from which information is generated – cannot lie. It’s entirely objective. That makes it quite heartless, and it also makes it deliciously non-directive. It doesn’t have an agenda, other than to report on whatever it has access to.

That question about social media can be quite simply answered through the digital wellbeing statistics available on most smartphones. Rather than the question being, truly, “How much time do you think or feel you spend on social media?” it becomes “For how many minutes and seconds did you have your social media app open today?” or “How many times did you open your social media app today?” both of which will present simple, unambiguous and unarguable numbers that can’t be ignored.

Excitingly (and not a little concerningly), a huge amount of what we do nowadays is captured somewhere as a data point, most of which is accessible to us. What could a coachee learn through being led in a self-reflection exercise on their calendar, email inbox, credit card activity, or internet search history?

And let’s not stop there!

Through wearable technology, we have access to live data feeds on unseen physiological activity no previous generation has been close to. What a wonderful coaching opportunity it would be to identify fluctuations in heart rate whenever a particular direct report’s name is mentioned, or to monitor the impact of a visualization exercise.

What sort of data do you have access to that your coachees would benefit from?

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