This Is Why It’s the Most Effective Intervention for Human Performance

“Coaching done well may by the most effective intervention designed for human performance.”

– Atul Gawande MD

Writing for The New Yorker in 2011, Dr. Gawande makes a strong case for coaching as the best way for any professional to achieve peak performance.

Can you imagine an athlete winning Olympic gold without one?  Why should it be any different for his profession? Or yours for that matter.

But what does “coaching done well” look like?

For me, it begins and ends with one thing: Raising awareness.

I believe the most effective route to personal growth is through increased awareness about 1. Who you are 2. What drives you & 3. How you interact with others. Only then can you take deliberate action for real change. That is, if change is what you want.

I feel so strongly about it, in fact, that I see it as both the primary method and goal of coaching (done well).

This wasn’t always the case.  About ten years ago I took the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire (MBTI).  One thing that came out in one of the reports was my clear preference for harmony. 

“Can’t we all just get along?”

As a coach and facilitator, one of the constant realities of my job is conflict.  Conflict in the form of a roadblock in a team that wishes to increase trust, but needs to first address an underlying issue. Or, resistance in a coaching client that wishes to change a pattern but isn’t ready to look at the real situation.

However, for me to be effective in my job, there are times when I need to challenge a team or individual to address the conflict. 

With a strong preference for harmony, this is not easy.  In fact, it can be painful. 

Nevertheless, to be effective in my job I’ve had to reconcile these two polarities.

Ten years on, do you think my preference has changed? 


What has changed is my awareness of this paradox, and what it means to my professional reality. This was the first and most important step to resolution.


Looking back at a few things I’ve written over the last few years, here are three specific ways that increased awareness helps you:

On making better decisions:

“The most important thing (for me) to communicate at the start of a working relationship is my primary objective: To help raise their awareness about where they are, how they got there and how they wish to move forward.  Through increased awareness, I believe people can make better decisions and take deliberate action.  What happens after that is up to them, not me.”

For additional support, here are 3 pitfalls to avoid for better decisions.

“Not gonna fall for that one!”

On developing others:

Help them raise awareness through regular feedback exchanges.  Find out in what areas they’re motivated to develop and co-create a development plan – if you are open to their ideas they’ll be open to yours!”

By the way, getting feedback is not easy. But, it’s critical for your development. Therefore, if you really want to grow, you’ve got to get past your aversion for it.

On solving complex problems:

“No sweet without sour.”

“By recognizing a complex issue as a polarity to manage rather than as a problem to be solved, you open ‘the door to the possibility of resolution’.  Furthermore, awareness allows competing people to ‘become allies in the common search for a positive outcome, rather than uneasy opponents maintaining the split’.”

I told you about the polarities of harmony and conflict inside me that I had to resolve. What are two forces inside you that need balancing?


Needless to say, I strongly believe that “coaching done well” results in increased awareness. 

The reason why this is so important is two-fold –

  1. Previously unknown options become visible. 
  2. More options lead to more effective action.

And here’s why action is key: 

Every action leads to a result.  However, before you can take action that leads to a positive one, you’ve got to be aware of what’s happening inside and outside yourself.  That is, awareness of where you are right now and how you’re relating to the people and situations around you.

Increased awareness leads to action with a clear intention – deliberate action connected to your goals and priorities.  Moreover, increased awareness leads to previously hidden options and clears the way for positive change to emerge.

Coming from a place of increased clarity and heightened awareness, you “feel energized, connected and in the flow”.  This is exactly what you need to feel and perform at your best.

If you’re looking for some results right now, check out:

In case you’re wondering, I fully agree with the wise doctor.

What does “coaching done well” mean to you?

  • Hey Tim,
    Nice inspiration on how to explain one’s coaching approach and objectives.
    Thanks for that!
    Best regards

    • Thanks, Sven! I’d love to hear more about your approach if you’d like to share?

  • I totally agree with you!!!!
    Through my coaching journey what I found most difficult and at the same time most powerful is to get naked in front of myself!