Columnist David Brooks often rattles my cage but seldom is it the coaching bars that get resonated. His May 20th column was entitled “What Our Words Tell Us” and coaching was precisely where the vibrations occurred.
He cited several studies that utilized the Google database of 5.2 million books published between 1500 and 2008. The authors traced the frequency of words in categories between 1960 and 2006. One study reported that “individualistic words and phrases increasingly overshadowed communal words and phrases.” Used more frequently were words and phrases such as personalized, self, I come first; receding in use were words and phrases such as community, share, united and common good. Another study found fewer moral terms related to virtue, decency and conscience and more use of ability to deliver, discipline, and words associated with fairness.
Brooks’ summary was this: “Over the past half-century, society has become more individualistic. As it has become more individualistic, it has also become less morally aware, because social and moral fabrics are inextricably linked…We write less about community bonds and obligations because they’re less central to our lives.”
This helps explain the rise of the coaching profession. More and more people are concerned with their individual development and see value in the assistance that a coach provides. This is consistent with declining church membership. Fewer and fewer people are concerned with development of community.
Those who would be content with ending at the previous paragraph miss the mark. Coaching for individual development alone is insufficient. Only when the developed individual contributes productively to the communities of which s/he belongs can the act of coaching be justified. No man is an island! Each of us is linked to others like it or not. Non-action is action and each person’s welfare is both product and predicate of others well being. No matter how healthy, who would claim to be risk free in the midst of a flu epidemic? No matter how ill, who would claim to be without blessing when loved and nurtured by caring family?
The justification for coaching, and the ultimate measure of its usefulness, rests with the difference made in the communities served by those who are coached.