Coaching to learn

Sharing what you do with others is a really great way of consolidating, reinforcing and refining your skills and expertise - especially when done in a structured, but collegiate way. That is what I have learnt over the past four months working with the team behind Ngakkan Nyaagu (NGNY).

John Saulo and Liam Ridgeway from NGNY, plus me (Elle Geraghty) at the Centre for Indigenous Excellence

John Saulo and Liam Ridgeway from NGNY, plus me (Elle Geraghty) at the Centre for Indigenous Excellence

Why work together?

I met the guys from NGNY, Liam Ridgeway and John Saulo, last year at Web Directions when they were manning the National Centre for Digital Excellence stand. I decided to say “Hi” and make an offer of working together. Getting better at explaining what I do, and spending more time with Indigenous Australians are two things I have been wanting to do for a long time. 

So I asked if they would like to work with me for a while - for me to share what I do and provide suggestions on how they can improve their content offer - and for them to share with me the ethos behind their one hundred per cent Indigenous owned digital business and other elements of Indigenous culture.

It was clear from our first chat that Liam and John are seasoned and polished digital and business professionals so the sessions also became an opportunity for cross pollination and learning for me in the digital and business area.

Coaching or mentoring?

My understanding is that coaching is an open, task focussed activity where mentoring is more structured and expertise based. For example, I might be able to coach an organic chemist (a discipline I know very little about) but I would not be able to mentor her. I am however able to mentor a content strategist or someone who is aspiring to improve their content offering. 

In this instance I feel like we have taken an hybrid approach. I share what I know about content strategy and digital communication, but I also ask more open ended questions about business strategy and digital entrepreneurship (areas I am learning about), with the intention of helping Liam and John refine their offering. Of course effective content strategy comes from a thorough understanding of business objectives so there is a synergy there.

How our sessions work

At the moment we are focussing on improving NGNY's digital content offering. We meet up every couple of weeks and talk about content strategy and content. We have completed a content prioritisation workshop where we established content priorities, a blog management plan, talked about how social can best compliment other channels and are now working on reviewing existing content and creating more.

Teaching is learning

When I was at Confab last year one of my favourite presentations was given by Norwegian team Netlife who shared a content valuing project centred around cancer awareness. It was a great presentation and memorable for me because presenter Ida Aalen shared that in Norwegian the words teach and learn are the same. That idea resonated with me at the time and I have kept thinking about it since. My hybrid coaching and mentoring experience is certainly teaching me a lot.

Anticipated coaching benefits

When I started out my objectives were clear. I wanted the following:

  • Learn more about Indigenous culture and people - something I wanted to do in person for a long time
  • Specifically learn more about Liam and John and who they are as people and professionals
  • Get better at crystallizing my thoughts and explaining what I do
  • Practise my coaching skills
  • Practise my mentoring skills
  • Learn more about digital projects
  • Generate internal satisfaction and fulfilment
  • Career and personal rejuvenation
  • Bragging rights - eg I am ‘coaching’ a couple of interesting and dynamic guys

My hope was that Liam and John might get the following benefits:

  • Learn more about content strategy and how to apply it to their business and with clients
  • Gain an insight into why content and communication is so important in any digital project
  • Practise clearly articulating what they excel in
  • Utilise a sounding board to discuss ideas
  • Get specific feedback and suggestions on projects they are working on
  • Get feedback on how they present themselves eg Linkedin profile
  • Get planning and process advice
  • Build confidence through discussion 
  • Gain networking opportunities
  • Gain promotion opportunities

Bonus coaching benefits

All my expectations have been met or exceeded. A bonus is that by focussing on the reasons why I chose to implement a particular content strategy process or methodology and getting into the nitty gritty, rather than either talking about it generally or actually executing it, I was forced to refine and reject some of my common practises. Having to explain why I chose to do something made me realise that some of my regular steps were redundant or in the wrong order. The process has more than helped me describe what I do, it has helped me clarify what I do.

I recommend you try it

Working with Liam and John continues to be an invigorating and rewarding experience. I recommend you try it out. Volunteer your expertise - it is a win, win situation. I would love to hear your experiences doing this. Please comment here or come along to the Sydney Content Strategy Meetup and share it with our group.