Coaching lawyers to achieve and maintain peak performance can be about fine tuning or, for the brave, deliberate and substantial behavioural change.
Often, improvements in our work and our wider lives can come from the cumulative effect of small changes that are relatively easy to make.
Dave Brailsford, former Great Britain and current Team Sky cycling coach calls this the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ and this approach is credited with bringing about much of the success that Brailsford’s teams have achieved in the last few years – success which includes 17 gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and two Tour de France titles in two years.
The idea is that in a highly professional field like cycling, where there is little to choose between the leading riders and teams, there are no major advances left to make – or at least none that cannot also be made by all those competing. Therefore the focus is on making small gains and seeking small advantages wherever they can be identified. When aggregated, these can make sufficient difference to give a winning edge.
The parallel with business or legal practice is quite self-evident. This is therefore an approach we can use in our work lives to optimise our performance and seek to differentiate ourselves from the competition.
The key component of this approach is identifying the the areas in which productive gains might be made and then identifying the best approach to making the necessary changes. Often this requires external an objective assistance, which is where coaching comes in.
With this in mind, and remembering the wise words of mindfulness teacher John Kabat-Zinn that wherever we go we, there we are, lawyers in coaching are invited to consider all their life circumstances, both inside and outside work, to help them identify where marginal gains can be achieved.
There are many areas that can yield material to work with, from practical changes to working habits to subtle changes in the way that a lawyer thinks about particular challenges or difficulties that may arise.
But, in all cases, with careful questioning and guidance the lawyers are encouraged to find ways to bring about the necessary changes which align with the strengths and values of the lawyers themselves, the strategic goals of their organisation and the practical demands of the role they are in.
This question of alignment is an important one, because research evidence shows that where individuals set goals that generate a genuine sense of ownership (self-concordant goals), those goals are not only more likely to be achieved but, in turn, that achievement predicts greater self-concordance and even better goal attainment for future goals.
Sometimes the changes we need to make run deeper and we need to gain a thorough understanding of what might unconsciously be preventing us from making changes that we know are likely to benefit us.
One of the most effective processes for bringing about this kind of change is the “immunity to change” programme developed by Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey.
Coaching represents an ideal to way to work through this change programme. It can help you to identify the competing emotional interests and assumptions you have that may be blocking your path to progress. Then, through a planned approach to overcoming these obstructive ways of thinking, you can be guided towards bringing about the lasting change you want, and need, to make.
Contact me about coaching
I’m based in Australia but since coaching works effectively by telephone or video call, as well as face to face, I can work with clients from most places.
Email: enquiries @ lexecoach.com
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Sheldon, K. M., & Houser-Marko, L. (2001). Self-concordance, goal attainment, and the pursuit of happiness: Can there be an upward spiral? Journal of personality and social psychology, 80(1), 152.