A vivid story on the essence of a coach’s work. Back from a trip Sophie Audubert-Todorovic cunningly writes about her vision of quality coaching.
The Palaver Tree
The African baobab tree is an incredible tree: when you have the chance to stop by its feet,you are first impressed by its stature, the association of its height and of its trunk width (it can exceed 25m height and 12m of circumference), which may encompass several ramifications, as if many trees were imbricated one in another.
It simply offers the shade of its branches, and its fruit look like an shell cherished for its seeds and pulp. During one of our excursions in northern Tanzania this summer, we spent a long moment at the bottom of a baobab tree, on the heights of the village of Mbo Wa Tu. Several village children accompanied us along as we all sat down at the bottom of trunk to enjoy the view, and I felt a rather peculiar emotion at the bottom of “the tree with palaver”: a mix of admiration, joy, serenity, a kind of communion with this nature full with experiment and wisdom.
After a few minutes of silent observation, a young boy spotted a rather ripe fruit, at the end of a branch, 4 meters high from the ground. His friend, prone to catch it, made an attempt at climbing which would have scared, to say the least, any European parents sensitive to taking risks. There was no parent in sight for them, and thus a whole freedom for after school games. Relentlessly collecting stones, the first boy, who had remained on the ground, aimed at the fruit with one of them. He did this without ever stopping, throw after throw, patiently, concentrated and laughing.
Encouraged by his friends who joyfully shouted each time he missed the fruit of a few inches, he continued for good ten minutes. We watched him each time adjusting his shots. We figured that he had acquired that precision after hours of training. When the fruit finally fell, we all were happy, together.
While going down the hill again, we crossed a splendid banana plantation full of water and with life. We were struck, as during our whole journey there, by the splendid smiles of the inhabitants of the country, by the numerous bursts of laughter which punctuate their daily conversations. This daily villager’s routine which would seem difficult to bear to us, for life there is hard and often requires many efforts and conviction.
We intervene regularly as coach in difficult situations, to allow our customers to find a certain form of balance and to favor the emergence of their own solutions. Our tools, methods of intervention, convictions, are numerous, according to our own sensitivity. One of the keys of the trade of coach resides for me in the quality of relation which we establish with our customer. Being a coach consist of course in expertise, to accompany with skill and perseverance, an in serenity.
Sometimes the fruitful solution lies in a small touch of madness, often of freedom and risks in the angle of problem solving. But more particularly, a smile, laughter, encouragements, enthusiasm, trust… the perfect fruit cocktail!