A good coach seeks first to understand

Journeyman Jones, a journeyman carpenter is called upon to train a team of aspiring apprentice carpenters at Gable Gates. On the first day, Journeyman Jones sees that the apprentices are all striking nails with the broad-side of the head instead of the intended business end.


"What on earth are you doing?", exclaims Jones.

"What do you mean? We are framing a house.", replies one apprentice.

"Yes, but why are you using your hammer like that? It is wrong. No carpenter would ever do that."

"But this is how Master Smith taught us. He was passing through and showed us to hammer this way."

"Master Smith?", asks Jones incredulously. "Impossible. Master Smith is one of the finest master carpenters around. He did not tell you to do that."

"But, he did." insists the apprentice.

"No matter.", says Journeyman Jones, "Let me show you the right way."

And so he does.


Days later, Jones confirms that Master Smith had in fact visited the apprentices only weeks before. Maybe it is true. Maybe Smith did teach the apprentices the wrong way to use a hammer.

After considerable thought, Jones decides, "The old man must have gone crazy. I need to tell people about this."

The next day, he tells the apprentices of Gable Gates, "Master Smith has lost his way. He's forgotten the very basics of our trade. Should he pass here again, be polite, but do not listen to what he tells you. Smith is no longer fit to teach proper carpentry."


Many weeks later, while at a conference, Journeyman Jones happens an opportunity to speak with Master Smith.

"Master Smith, may I bother you with a question?"

"You just have.", replies Master Smith. "And I will grant you another." Smith smiles, indicating he isn't bothered in the least.

"I understand you taught the apprentices of Gable Gates."

"Yes. But only briefly. I was merely passing through."

"They insist you instructed them to strike nails with the broad-side of the hammer head. But I am sure that couldn't be so."

"I did instruct them to do just that.", Smith says in a matter-of-fact manner.

"But", stumbles Jones, shocked by the tone more than the confirmation, "I don't understand why you would do such a thing. With all due respect, that's just wrong."

"You see," says Master Smith, "when I first happened upon them, they were tying the framing together with twine. After some discussion, I understood they had quit using the hammer because it damaged the wood every time they missed the nail. Knowing you would be by only two weeks later, I showed them how to use the broad-side of the hammer head to increase the surface area, reduce the likelihood of a miss, and allow them to practice hammering. With two weeks of practice, they would be ready for your instruction. And were they?"

"Yes.", replies the journeyman, "They were. Thank you for setting them on the right path. And now I must ask your pardon, but I need to return to Gable Gates immediately. There is one more instruction I must give them."