But still, I kept thinking, if the world’s best (or at least in the top five) needs coaching, what does that say about the whole concept of personal improvement. How does that apply to what testers do?
After thinking about this, I started to see some reasons why even the best in what they do need a coach, teacher, or mentor.
We all need someone who will tell us the truth, no matter how ugly it may be. And, they need to be able to do that from an external and unbiased perspective. True, a golfer can have a video camera and other ways to capture their golf swing, but it takes a lot of experience and insight to see the one little flaw that can increase a score.
Tiger probably has lots of people he can ask for opinions, and most of them will tell Tiger what they think he wants to hear. I find managers like this all the time. They can’t get the real story because so many people are either afraid to give bad news, or they are people-pleasers.
2. Broad context
Hank Haney has coached thousands of golfers, and also many golf pros. He has seen more bad swings than just about anyone. He has also seen the best. He knows what makes a difference because he has seen the techniques work in practice. Haney understands the mental aspect of golf as well.
If you want to improve at anything, you have to practice and take positive action. Things that are easy to do are also easy not to do. A coach or mentor can ask you if you are on track doing the things needed to improve. They can’t make you do things, but they can remind you of your goals.
Everyone needs encouragement. Encouragement is interesting because it comes from others. You can have affirmations and self-talk, but a little encouragement from someone does so much more than what you can muster up yourself.
The results of these things are motivation and improvement. You’ll notice that I didn’t include either of these in the list the coach brings. These must come from the one being coached. These are brought out by a good teacher or coach.
Likewise, desire and the choice to change must come from those wishing to improve.
Keep in mind that I’m not necessarily talking about large steps of improvement. Whether you’re at the top of the game or just starting out, one tiny change can make a world of difference.
What About Testing?
Since many of you who read this blog are software testers or involved in software quality in some way, here are some tie-ins to what testers do.
Objectivity – This is the value of independent testers. The reason testers are needed is that they have a fresh view of something. They can see defects that someone with a lot of familiarity may miss. However, some testers are fearful of giving the bad news. That’s why a good testing process with measurements and metrics is so important. The process can deliver the news, whether good or bad.
Broad context – Testers do best, I believe, when they have worked in different companies and on different types of projects. You may not have much control over this, but you can still explore and expose yourself to different things. You can read, attend conferences, and get training to broaden your horizon.
Accountability – Testers can ask probing questions like, “Has this code been reviewed?” or “Has the business user seen this requirements document?” If there are development and testing processes in place, testers can tell if those processes are being followed.
Encouragement – Testers can give more than the bad news of defects. They can also give credit for great work.
I’ve been sitting on this article for two months. I’ve wanted to write it, but for some reason just could not get off the dime. Perhaps it was my own lack of motivation.
Then, this week I happened to be flipping through my “300 channels of nothing” on TV and came across “The Haney Project” on the Golf Channel. I had no idea what this show was about, but soon saw that it tied everything together for me. In this episode, Hank Haney was teaching Rush Limbaugh how to improve his golf game.
A couple of things that stood out to me were that 1) he told Rush to only think about one thing during his swing, not twelve, and 2) Haney was very encouraging. At the end of the program, Limbaugh remarked about how impressed he was about working with Haney. Unlike other teachers who had been negative and overbearing, Limbaugh found Haney to be supportive and positive.
When I watch TV, I like to watch programs that show how people can improve. I found this program very interesting just watching Hank Haney’s coaching style in action.
Oh, and after watching Rush play golf, I'm thinking, "Hey, I can do at least that good!" So who knows? I may actually dust off my garage sale clubs and hit the links.
The big take-away for me in all this is that we all need people around us to help us improve, to encourage us and to bring accountability. I encourage you to find someone who can be that coach to you or your team. If you need help in that effort, let me know.
I would like to hear your comments on this topic!