Coaches & Editors

I just returned home from a coaching session with the chief executive of a London charity.  (I accept assignments from the Cranfield Trust for pro bono assignments with charities which need help.  Cranfield Trust is, itself, a charity – originally associated with Cranfield Business School – and which maintains a roster of management consultants.  The Trust’s role is to match consultants with charities in need.)

Like a professional football coach, I am supposed to be more experienced than the players (charity managers) I coach, and I am supposed to see problems and solutions which the player (charity manager) didn’t see or hadn’t seen yet.


The chief executive I’m coaching has some difficult problems.  The charity he is running is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and his board of trustees see their role as asking a lot of questions, rather than taking difficult decisions.  Moreover, the trustees seem to be allergic to the idea of making a personal commitment to do something useful.  I am by no means a perfect trustee, but I am treasurer of another charity which was technically bankrupt, and which absolutely had to win a particular contract to survive.  The chairman and I put a lot of personal hours into helping the managing director prepare a proposal which brought in £1.5 million in revenue.

My chief executive coachee believes that one strategy might be to merge with a larger, related charity.  Such a merger would reduce overheads, and, with a larger activity, would make fund raising easier.  But the trustees seem to feel that the charity would lose its identity, and they are insisting on meeting with the charity’s employees to get their opinions.  I think it’s pretty obvious that most employees, being worried about job security, will oppose any merger.  Some of the trustees seem to be so emotionally wedded to the current identity of the charity that they are unable to see that there is a larger question: which is better: a charity that does things differently with a different identity or no charity at all?

The chief executive is struggling to keep the trustees from behaving like lemmings and diving, en mass, into the sea.  We want to keep the trustees moving toward a rational decision: talk to other charities about their views on a potential merger.  In the meetings that he and I have, we talk about the details of how to: instill a sense of urgency; keep things rational; obtain a decision, and often, in our discussions, I will suggest a tactic, or an approach that he hadn’t thought of.

So, I got to thinking about the similarities between a coach and a literary editor.  As you may know, I don’t have a literary editor, but I would really like to have one.  An editor would be someone who might say: “These couple of pages don’t really add anything to your theme.  Cut it down to one well-constructed paragraph” or “This character would be more interesting and would add emphasis to your theme if you exposed this trait in her character” or “This section here comes across as foggy; what are you trying to say?”

As it is, I have to rely on my own judgement, but like the chief executive, I may sometimes miss a crucial point or detail.  And, I’m sure my writing would benefit from having an editor.

My publisher doesn’t offer an editorial service.  There is a lady who reviews submissions and accepts or rejects them, as submitted, in their entirety.  Traditional publishers have assigned editors who read the entire manuscript carefully, and suggest changes before publication.

I realize that I could hire an editor to review my manuscript.  But apart from the fact that I, personally, would have to pay him/her, the editor wouldn’t be part of a publication team that knows the market and is working together to please readers and increase sales.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I, too, would like to have a coach, and that I haven’t given up on the idea of working with a traditional publisher.

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