These adverbs are not mutually exclusive; however, they can be in opposition, so let’s take a closer look at them in the context of coaching and teaching.

Erica Ariel Fox brought my attention to this tradeoff in her exceptional book Winning from Within. (learn more about how her framework relates to the foundational mental skills here)

Self-Awareness Check

Which of these adverbs do you identify with more? Under pressure, are you more likely to default to being more helpful or more thorough?


Helpful: Communicating the minimum effective dose that allows someone to immediately internalize and apply the knowledge you share.

Thorough: Communicating many layers of depth, detail, and background information that gives someone a more robust and rigorous understanding and experience.

My default has been to prioritize thorough at the expense of being helpful. However, after reflecting on this distinction, I have been able to better self-regulate and choose behaviors that will lead to being helpful FIRST. The problem with thoroughness that occurs too soon is that it can act as an obstacle to immediate application. As a teacher/coach, I believe that one of your primary objectives should be to affect someone’s confidence to take action. Thoroughness does offer a lot of value, but that value cannot be properly absorbed in lieu of time to incubate and, then, be experimented with.

What starts out as helpful can become thorough over time if you will it. What’s key is the order of operations.

Call to Action: Consider whether your tendency is to be more thorough or more helpful. If it’s more thorough, self-regulate to lead with more helpfulness, so that your desire to be thorough can more effectively be deployed over time. If it’s more helpful, self-regulate to ensure that your desire to be helpful still carries substance and seeks to further advance one’s depth of understanding AND transferability of knowledge.

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