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Increasing performance and safety

The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the Royal Navy embarked to train their internal trainers on a coaching style of leadership to help a team of 16 men win “the toughest team competition in the world”.

Image of a Royal Navy boat

The way we did it before, we had one brain, and sixteen bodies, now we use seventeen brains.”


Trainer, Fleet Air Arm’s competition team
Joe Gough

Our Approach

Joe Gough, the trainer for the Fleet Air Arm’s competition team, came to train in coaching skills with Performance Consultants. It seemed very soft compared to the military command-and-control leadership style he was used to.

Nevertheless, he saw potential in coaching for safety for his team during 9 weeks of getting ready for the competition.

  • Why Coaching for Safety Performance?

    The myth that a modern ‘person-centered’ coaching style of leadership exposes organizations to more risk than would an instructional approach was dispelled and Gough was provided with the evidence of huge safety coaching benefits derived from coaching in any field.

    The primary objective of coaching is to raise the awareness (of self and others) and the responsibility (for self and others) of the recipient.



  • Increasing awareness and responsibility

    Awareness increases the quality and the quantity of the immediate input received in any activity and thereby delivers greater clarity about the action and the emotional reaction to the situation. These two sources of information enable the person to manage his or her responses more appropriately and effectively.

    Responsibility is derived from the capacity to make the most inclusive and appropriate choices based upon the consequences of actions, as opposed to the more common indiscriminate fear reaction. Responsibility is developed because coaches ask questions that provoke thoughts and perceptions which inform decision-making but seldom prescribe actions. People who are unaccustomed to making decisions, and who seek instructions or affirmation, need to practice decision-making, starting, of course, with inconsequential ones and building to life-saving ones in the extreme.

  • Applying coaching fundamentals

    On the course, Gough was provided with the fundamentals of coaching and how to use these in a way that increased people’s awareness, increased responsibility, and created continuous improvements and a sustainable learning environment for the team during their complex and difficult Field Gun training.

The process of coaching defies the expectations of traditionalists who struggle to let go of old thinking and adopt new methods that defy their logic but are straightforward and obvious when understood.

co-founder Performance Consultants
Sir John Whitmore

The Results

Gough had the courage and conviction to bring his modern coaching leadership approach to the mix.

For the first time in the 100 years of the competition, Gough’s team of 16 men won all five cups, with almost no injuries during training and the competition – something that had been unheard of before. They repeated this achievement for the next two years!

The fact that a coaching style of leadership inspires better performance than an instructing, the controlling approach was also confirmed by what the team said:

“This was the first time that someone had asked our opinion and listened.”

“Joe was very approachable. He treated us like men”

“Instead of making excuses, there was a lot more honesty all round.”

After this event, Sir John Whitmore accepted an invitation to join the Army Training Advisory Board to help senior advisors in the military explore coaching for greater safety.