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Beyond IQ: How Grit and Reflection Can Change the Way You Coach

Beyond IQ: How Grit and Reflection Can Change the Way You Coach

Dr. Cory Dobbs (7/29/21)      (3 to 4 minutes reading)


Angela Duckworth has been one of the leading researchers and voices on the topic of “grit” –something  she defines as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”  Duckworth has found that grit can be a powerful predictor of academic achievement and, of course, physical accomplishments.  She considers grit to be the behavioral and psychological ability of one to weather adversity and stay the course—willing to persevere in the short term for the longer term outcomes.  In her findings, she argues that achievement is not just a matter of raw intelligence or physical giftedness.  She suggests grit matters a great deal in all that we do. So the question arises can grit, through the practice of reflection, enhance coaching ability to reflect on events, relationships, and performance?


Several years ago a group of researchers were interested in understanding the importance of reflection to the processes of adult learning and leadership.  In their paper, Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance, the researchers reveal the importance of deliberate reflection to learning and leading through a series of experiments.


The researchers worked with small groups through a multi-week training program.  They broke the subjects into three groups.  First, they had a “reflection” group; they asked this group to spend the final 15 minutes of each day reflecting on what they had learned. The Second group was given the task of “sharing.”  This group spent 15 minutes reflecting, and then shared their thoughts with a peer for 5 minutes.  The third group, the control group, did not engage in any reflective activity.

The results aren’t surprising. The participants in the reflection group performed 22.8% better than the control group while the participants in the sharing group experienced a similar advantage over the control group participants. However, think for a moment about the work that you and your coaching staff do daily. What does the nitty-gritty look like?  Do you and your staff miss out on learning opportunities—those that will only emerge in the course of reflection?  Can you set aside 15-20 minutes for reflection and when possible include sharing in your coaching conversation?  Doing so will make your daily experience more productive and build confidence, individually and collectively, in learning by reflection.

Reflection is a powerful learning mechanism, so make time for deliberate conversation and reflection.  Reflection is an important coaching activity. Reflection is a skill that can be learned, developed, and practiced. If you want a sustainable advantage, take advantage of coupling learning by doing with intentional reflection.

New to the Second Edition of Coaching for Leadership!

We are pleased to announce a new chapter to the second edition of the best-selling Coaching for Leadership. The chapter, The Big Shift: Unlock Your Team’s Potential by Creating Player-Led Teambuilding, connects the previous edition of this book to its origin, as well as to the future of team sports.

The new chapter sets forth a practical and applicable agenda for change and improvement. The reader is introduced to seven vital elements of change; seven shifts of traditional mental models that lead to the new core principles necessary for creating a player-led team culture. Click here for more information about Coaching for Leadership

About Cory Dobbs, Ed.D.

Cory Dobbs is the founder of The Academy for Sport Leadership and a nationally recognized thought leader in the areas of leadership and team building.  Cory is an accomplished researcher of human experience. Cory engages in naturalistic inquiry seeking in-depth understanding of social phenomena within their natural setting.

A college basketball coach, Cory’s coaching background includes experience at the NCAA DII, NJCAA, and high school levels of competition.  After a decade of research and development Cory unleashed the groundbreaking Teamwork Intelligence program for student-athletics. Teamwork Intelligence illuminates the process of designing an elite team by using the 20 principles and concepts along with the 8 roles of a team player he’s uncovered while performing research.

Cory has worked with professional athletes, collegiate athletic programs, and high schools teaching leadership and team building as a part of the sports experience and education process.  As a consultant and trainer Dr. Dobbs has worked with Fortune 500 organizations such as American Express, Honeywell, and Avnet, as well as medium and small businesses. Dr. Dobbs taught leadership and organizational change at Northern Arizona University, Ohio University, and Grand Canyon University.