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To Coach or Not to Coach

Messrs Sourav Ganguly (former Indian cricket captain) and Greg Chappell (former Australia test captain and erstwhile coach of India’s cricket team), have had their daggers drawn ever since the coach got the captain ousted from the team. Chappell, in his autobiography, has now given his perspective on the circumstances that led to the ouster.

Chappell suggests that Ganguly had “great batting and leadership talent, but never realized his potential because he was consumed by what he saw as threats around him.” This scathing criticism from a coach about his coachee has made headlines in cricket-crazy India.

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Without delving into the merits of Chappell’s case or that of Ganguly, I found in this an excellent example of a perennial dilemma that coaches undergo. In his blog, Marshall Goldsmith says: “Leadership coaching can be a very valuable process when the clients issues are behavioral, they are motivated to change and when they are given a fair chance. ” (Read the blog here)

But, did Ganguly really want to change? Chappell’s  comments further down the book suggests otherwise. He states, “He did not want a coach, or an agent of change. He wanted a political ally.” Therefore, as a coach, could he have helped him overcome issues of self-doubt fuelled by an all-consuming threat perception?

I do not want to answer this question as perceptions may vary. Some believe that it is difficult to make coaching interventions to cure a client’s paranoia while others may take up the challenge, provided the coachee is motivated to put in that extra effort to change.

As Goldsmith says, “it doesn’t make much sense to waste time with clients who are NOT going to improve.” So, if the then India captain was averse to change and merely sought an ally, should the coach have put in his papers there and then?

What intrigued me the most is the broader issue of cultural upbringing that Chappell points to by suggesting that Ganguly’s behavior mirrored an individual’s intrinsic distrust of someone expressing a contrary viewpoint. Is this an Indian trait, as Chappell suggests? Or is it common amongst all people (irrespective of their cultural upbringing)  who hold positions of authority? And, that includes the coach himself!

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