A skilled surgeon operates on many levels at once. She understands how to use each of the instruments and for what purpose. She has mastered certain basic techniques such as making an incision and suturing a wound. But she also needs to be able to see the big picture: What is the purpose of the operation? How do the individual skills and techniques need to fit together and in what order? She needs to know how to apply the right tool at the right time in order to accomplish the purpose of the operation.

Coaching is similar in this way—although granted, with a lot less required schooling.

A well-trained coach has mastered certain important skills, such as listening well and asking good, open-ended questions. He knows how to establish a coaching relationship and clarify expectations at the beginning. He knows how to dig deeper into certain key issues, and how to follow up on action points later. But he also needs to see the bigger picture in order to know when to use these skills, in what order, and toward what end. Quality coaching isn’t just about having the right tools, but about knowing how to apply the right tool at the right time.

If seeing the big picture is something you want to improve in, get a coach mentor.