Lessons from Dr. Watson

Dear Coach,

After reading your other columns, it strikes me that perhaps Dr. Watson was a coach for Sherlock Holmes. Do you agree?


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Dear Sir Arthur,

Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. You know, it reminds me of “The Sign of the Four,” where Sherlock Holmes affectionately refers to Dr. Watson as his “whetstone” for his mind.

Then there’s that reflective moment in “The Adventure of the Creeping Man,” when Watson ponders on his unique bond with Holmes. He says, “I stimulated him. He enjoyed thinking aloud in my company.… If my methodical slowness sometimes irritated him, it only served to make his flame-like intuitions and impressions flash up even more brightly and quickly. That was my modest contribution to our partnership.”

Despite Holmes being the luminary, the intellectual powerhouse, and the hero of the stories, his success wouldn’t have been possible without Watson’s support. And that, in a nutshell, is what coaching is all about. The coach may not be the star or the genius or even the hero. But it’s the coach who empowers the hero to reach their full potential and make a profound impact on others through meaningful interactions, active listening, and thought-provoking questions.

So here’s to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for giving us such a wonderful early model of effective coaching.

And let’s not forget Dr. Watson — a true hero in the eyes of us coaches!

Warmest regards,


Jathan Janove is a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Master Coach and Practice Leader. You can learn more about him here. If you have a question you’d like him to address, please email us at AsktheCoach@mgscc.net.


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