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The baby's name is Anshika.

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

It means "beautiful." And she is what's possible when we really understand how people get better at what they do.

"You are never done, everybody needs a coach. Everyone. The greatest in the world needs a coach." - This is how Anshika was born and Atul Gawande, Surgeon and public health professor, studied the question, "How do we improve in the face of complexity?"

In 1875, Harvard and Yale played one of the very first American-rules football games. Yale hired a head coach; Harvard did not. The results? Over the next three decades, Harvard won just four times. What did Harvard do? They hired a coach.

Atul entered his practice in 2003 and for the first several years had an upward improvement in his learning curve. His complication rates dropped from one year to the next. After about five years, they leveled out. And a few more years after that, he realized he wasn't getting any better anymore. And he thought: "Is this as good as I'm going to get?"

Atul then decided to try a coach. He asked a former professor to come into his operating room and observe him. After the first observation Atul felt the surgery went beautifully and didn't think there would be anything much his new coach would have to say. Instead, his coach had a whole page with dense notes. His coach did what great coaches do, and what they do is they are your external eyes and ears, providing a more accurate picture of your reality. They're recognizing the fundamentals. They're breaking your actions down and then helping you build them back up again.

After two months of coaching, Atul felt himself getting better again. And after a year, he saw his complications rates drop down even further.

With this profound realization of how coaching helps, Atul took coaching to a grander scale. He found some partners, including the government of India, where he ran a trial with 120 birth centers, in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state. Half of the centers received visits from coaches.

n the control group, with coaches, they could see the improvement in quality of services provided and an increase to greater than two-thirds of the practices being delivered.

They saw this across a whole range of centers, which showed that coaching could be a whole line of bringing value to how people can succeed.

Anshika is alive because of the coaching the center received. The nurse implemented all the strategies she gleaned from coaching. She then went straight through her set of checks and made sure she had everything she needed at the bedside. Upon delivery the baby was blue and floppy and not breathing. This nurse and baby would have been among the statistic of one-in-20 babies who don't survive delivery. But the nurse kept going with her checkpoints. She dried that baby with a clean towel. After a minute, when that didn't stimulate that baby, she ran to get the baby mask and within 20 seconds, she was clearing out that little girl's airways. And she got back a green, thick liquid, and within a minute of being able to do that and suctioning out over and over, that baby started to breathe.

Atul saw a team transformed because of coaching. And he saw at least one life saved because of it.

The baby's name is Anshika. It means "beautiful." And she is what's possible when we really understand how people get better at what they do.

Do you want to get better at what you do? Get a coach!

Listen to Atul's Ted Talk:

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