A Critical Friend

It’s nearly 2018 and between the feast of Christmas dinner and the New Year we can bask in the idea of resolutions without the guilt of them having got away from us in early Feb.

Earlier this year I had the please of attending an ‘unconference’ held in the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown. It was hosted by Keith Lyons. Keith is somewhat of a grandfather of performance analysis and was full of stories, from his 4 decades in Performance Analysis.

One of the stories Keith told was how he continues to be involved in the development of elite coaches in the UK. The term he used really struck a cord with me. Keith refereed to his role with this select group of coaches as a ‘Critical Friend’.

Wikipedia defines it as such;

A critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend. A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work.

When I started my company in 2005 I was encouraged to get someone to fulfill this role in my life. Life coaches, mentors and the like can have such a bad reputation but the function a good one can perform is priceless. I can pinpoint a few key meetings in the last 8 years with my critical friend that forced me down a path I simply wouldn’t have got to on my own.

At times we’ve had a row, I’ve left a meeting with him downright pissed off, thinking what the fuck would he know, to only a few weeks later, come around to his way of thinking. Of course you might have some of these people in your life, but I think there is a great benefit in formalizing something. A call a month. two coffees a year. Something that can hold you to account. Someone that will ask you a difficult question, push you to do something that doesn’t fee comfortable or right at the time.

It won’t always be one person, but the big advantage I’ve found is having someone that isn’t involved in your day to day life, someone who isn’t related and doesn’t come with bias built in.

I’m in a different place  personally and professionally because of the critical friend in my life. So my advice is add one to your 2018 resolution.


Update 3/1/2018 : Keith kindly sent me this bibliography of some of the critical friend material. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1u8FFvzlzqS_6vZ4b3d4nxDm1hM3ZP1enTbjojqjbpDw/



Rob Carroll. Founder of The Video Analyst.com Performance Analyst. Always learning.