Tag Archives: Coach

What we can learn about Corporate Training Programs from The King’s Speech

The King had a speech deficiency.  He spoke poorly.  He stammered.  Badly.  He needed to speak well.  His people needed him to speak well.  And he took the steps (the many, many hours of steps!) to learn how to speak better.  And then, he spoke better.  Maybe not perfectly – but noticeably better.

The King and his Coach

Yes, I’m a little behind in my movie watching.  I just watched The King’s Speech.  Winner of four Oscars, including best picture and best actor, it is the touching story of one man’s bold and consistent attempts to overcome a speech deficiency.  The man happened to be the King.  And, after trying a plethora of speech therapists and speech coaches, his wife finally dragged him to a rather strange, but successful, speech therapist/coach.

But, notice the obvious.  The King did not go to one weekend seminar, or one month’s worth of classes, and then master this skill.  His new-found teacher, Lionel Logue, was at his side time and time and time again.  With drills, and rehearsals, and coaxing, and coaching, and encouraging, and correcting, over and over and over again.

And in the hour of his most important speech, at the beginning of the Second World War, the King ordered “Get me Logue.”

Yes, I read up on the facts behind the movie, and yes, the film makers took some dramatic liberties and truncated some of the chronology.  But the real story makes the same point:  Logue worked with, very closely with!, the King, for a long period of years – many years!

In other words, a weekend seminar has little chance (let’s make that practically no chance) to bring about the changes and learning needed for so many jobs.  Successful training is not a one-day-seminar thing.

I occasionally read an article that paints a pretty dismal picture of the value of corporate training – some form of the “training doesn’t work” argument.  But, we already all know this.  Deep in our hearts, we know that it takes a rare (very rare!) pupil to go to a seminar, or read a book, and then successfully implement all of its recommended job-improvement changes.  It takes reinforcement, repetition, constant reminding, refreshers, and one-on-one coaching for the mere mortals among us.

Oh, the weekend seminars, the day long workshops, can be great starting places.  And the good leader/manager can identify the ones who are “good targets” for the next steps by the way they “return” from such training opportunities.  But it is in the next steps that the needed improvement comes.

And those steps must be repeated, over a long haul.

Corporate training does not fail.  Corporate training without a lot – a whole lot! – of targeted follow-up fails.

The King had a speech deficiency.  He spoke poorly.  He stammered.  Badly.  He needed to speak well.  His people needed him to speak well.  And he took the steps (the many, many hours of steps!) to learn how to speak better.  And then, he spoke better.  Maybe not perfectly – but noticeably better.

It took many, many hours of coaching (years!) for the King to get better.  I suspect there are things we all need to work on for many, many hours — even years.  That’s one lesson I got from watching The King’s Speech.


As they introduced the Best Picture nominees, the Academy Awards played the words of the King’s speech behind the full montage.  Here it is.  A terrific montage!

One more word about coaching

Sara adds: What I am reading from both of you is a combination of “what is a coach” and “what does a coach do?”
Let me begin with “what is a coach?”  A little background – coaching is a relatively new industry (15 to 20 years old) and is still defining itself.  That’s one reason I believe that there are so many opinions.   I would reiterate the definition of coaching.  Its from the International Coach Federation, the premier (and largest) organization of coaches.  “The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole.”   That’s not what you may read in dictionaries because dictionaries are historically behind common usage of evolving  terminology.  And the ICF definition NOT what coaching has meant in the past – or how it is sometimes still used.
Let me offer some distinctions:  There are teachers, coaches and mentors.  There are commonalities among those professions but basic differences, as well.  As helping professions evolve, coaching has become more clearly defined, differentiated and valuable.
Randy, with that distinction in mind, let me address one other thought I read in your examples and perhaps shift your perspective.  You talked about discovering “weakness or deficiencies”  as a way for improvements.  The shift I suggest is to let go of judgement.  “Weakness and deficiencies” are negatively charged words  and frankly, are in the eye of the beholder.  Have you heard about Jim Furyk’s golf swing?  It is unconventional and some golf pro’s might describe it as a weakness – certainly a deficiency.  But it’s effective and he is a constant performer on the PGA tour.  My point is – what might be a “weakness or deficiency” in a golf coach’s eye is a highly effective swing.  It works for Furyk,  So it’s not a weakness.   That’s the shift.  In coaching it is about observing what is without judgement.  A person wants to move forward in their life.  A coach observes where they are, what they want and the impact they are having.  From there, they work on creating change – not based on some idealized view of how change MUST be (based on a model) rather on the client’s wants and the path they create with the help of the coach.  Notice the shift from “doing it right” to doing what is right to achieve a result.
Sports have been using the term “coach” longer than people in my line of work and many sports coaches often engage in determining what is wrong.  But not all.  One of the most successful tennis coaches in history is Tim Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis (and Skiing and Golf and Work)  He states, “the opponent within one’s own head is more formidable than the one the other side off the net.”   His revolutionary approach to coaching got the attention of the likes of BIlly Jean King and football coach, Pete Carroll.   Sir John Whitmore, author of Coaching for Performance stated, “…Gallwey had put his finger on the essence of coaching.  Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their performance.”  (The emphasis is mine)
That puts us in a very different place with coaching…it is not about finding fault.  It is about uncovering and encouraging potential.  And frankly, that’s why it’s gotten to be such a popular and often misused term.  People may not know what it is, but they certainly want some of it!!
Here are three things I would have you know about coaching – it is a learned profession with defined competencies and levels of proficiency.  That means I challenge anyone who says they are a coach to pass a test.  If you have to demonstrate competencies to be a CPA or a teacher I believe you must be willing to do no less to call yourself a coach.  By the way, people who hire coaches should demand nothing less.   Second, professional coaching has a clear code of ethics that address responsibility, accountability and confidentiality.  Finally, coaching has an international, professional organization that provides self governance, accreditation for schools that train coaches and credentialing for coaches .
Come to think about it, the Dallas Cowboys organization might want to talk to me about what REAL coaching really is and the potential it offers.  I wrote about a year ago (I was fairly “put out” at the time) about Jerry Jones and his Cowboys.  Jerry said they didn’t need leaders…they just need execution….getting a bunch of large men to do things right.    And how’s that working for them?
I have a dozen coaching clients I would hold up in comparison to Jones and company in terms of reaching their goals of success.  There is coaching and there is coaching and the ultimate measure is success.

“One Job of the Coach is to Correct,” says Randy – “I Don’t Agree,” says Cheryl… Time for Some Dialogue


a : a large usually closed four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage having doors in the sides and an elevated seat in front for the driver
a : a private tutor
b : one who instructs or trains <an acting coach>; especially : one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a competitive sport and directs team strategy <a football coach>

From Randy:
So, the other day at Take Your Brain to Lunch, I am in mid-presentation, and I say something like this:  “the purpose of a coach is to tell me what I am doing wrong.”  I referred to athletic coaches, people hired by the likes of Martina Navritilova and other “individual” stars.  I am convinced that such an athlete cannot watch himself/herself, and thus needs a coach to watch, find the flaws, and correct.  I used to play tennis (back in the days when rackets were made of wood, tennis balls were white, and the tiebreaker had not yet been adopted), and I know that’s what my coaches did for me.  They saw my flaws, pointed them out, and drilled correction into me.

And I got better. (I would have gotten much, much better if I had practiced they way my coach told me to.  But that’s another story).

Anyway, Cheryl Jensen, my blogging team member and the leader of Take Your Brain to Lunch, who is a personal coach, tells me I’m wrong.  She says that a coach should not look for areas to correct, but instead should… well, let her tell you.

By the way, I disagree with Cheryl.  Thus, this dialogue…

Cheryl, your turn.

From Cheryl:
As much as I try to avoid ever correcting people in public for fear of embarrassing them or damaging a relationship, I did indeed disagree publicly with Randy last week. When we traded time at the microphone, I offered a very different perspective. Randy is correct in that I am a professionally trained coach by The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and the International Coach Federation (ICF), the governing body of professional coaching. Our official definition of coaching is “Coaching is a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Another cornerstone idea from our CTI training is “People are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.” This means coaching is not about fixing what’s broken. It is about helping the client look and find what’s already within and then directing that talent, energy, and focus towards their goals. There are 3 main reasons I coach: to facilitate learning, create movement towards client goals so they can improve their performance and enjoyment from life which of course includes work. So the whole idea of looking for what’s broken and then offering advice is totally counter culture from professional coaching to me. Rather than offer answers, we offer questions for the client to explore their areas of interest. Rather than offer advice, we ask questions to create options the client wants to implement. Rather than assign responsibility, we offer opportunities that will facilitate additional learning and new insights.

Continue reading

From Roger Staubach to Title IX Babies – Athletic Endeavor Really Can Lead to Business Success

Roger Staubach: Super Bowl Winner in Football -- Super Bowl winner in Business (Real Estate)

Legendary is not a strong enough word.  Here in Dallas, whatever punch the word “legendary” carries, it is not enough to describe the name Roger Staubach.  The winner of two Super Bowls for the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach is simply the man.  And his success on the field carried over into a vast Real Estate success.  When I moved to Dallas in 1987, it seemed that the name Roger Staubach was always staring at me from one corner or another.

We have always known that athletic contests build some kind of inner something that carries over into life in ways that are almost too numerous to mention, or even fully grasp.  Now researchers are trying to find those ways.

And it is true for women as well as men.  In a fascinating article on the Daily Beast, Female Jocks Rule the World by Danielle Friedman, we learn quite a bit about this.  Here are a number of excerpts.  (I will follow with a few observations of my own).

Athletic women make more money and hold more upper-management positions than those who shun sports—and their numbers are growing. Danielle Friedman on why it pays to play.

But the young entrepreneurs have undoubtedly carried lessons from their days as varsity athletes into the boardroom, attributing many of their managerial skills to their sporty pasts.

“Our coach always had us write our goals on the back of our hands to be constantly reminded of them, to give one example,” says Jenny Carter Fleiss, who was captain of her track team in Riverdale, New York. “Today, I still keep a list of my personal goals posted right in front of me—and encourage everyone else at Rent the Runway to do this—as a constant reminder of the bigger-picture things we’re working on.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Carter Fleiss and Hyman are in good company. Former high school and college athletes of all abilities hold positions of power in an array of arenas, from Sarah Palin (basketball) to Ellen DeGeneres (tennis). Eight-two percent of executive businesswomen played organized sports after elementary school, according to a 2002 study by mutual fund company Oppenheimer, and evidence suggests that figure will likely rise over the next few decades, as more post-Title IX babies enter the workforce.

“There’s a whole lot of anecdotal evidence that disparities between women and men in the workplace are caused by a lack of athletic training and experience,” says Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College. “We’d now like to do the research to prove it.”

In addition to gaining valuable skills, women who played (or passionately follow, for that matter) sports gain unique access to “boys” networks that they’d otherwise be excluded from, experts say. Also compelling: The Oppenheimer study found that one in six adult women identify themselves as athletic—but the figure rises to almost half of women who make more than $75,000.

Stevenson found that ramping up girls’ participation in sports had a direct effect on their education and employment, explaining about 20 percent of the increase in education and about 40 percent of the rise in employment for women ages 25 to 34,

“It’s not just that the people who are going to do well in life play sports, but that sports help people do better in life,” Stevenson told Parker-Pope. “While I only show this for girls, it’s reasonable to believe it’s true for boys as well.”

…evidence suggests that participating in an organized sport can benefit nearly all women, deeply instilling lessons from the value of practice to teamwork, says Kolbert. It provides participants with a peer group, and a feeling of inclusion. And perhaps most importantly, it helps cultivate resilience.

My observations:
I was a tennis player.  (The operative word is “was”).  I was ranked fairly high in Texas my Senior year in high school, had a great, great experience on my tennis teams, both in high school and in college, and my college degree was substantially paid for by my tennis scholarship.  I was good – not anywhere near great (I could not challenge the best – and in my years, the best was Trinity University), but good.

To this day, when I run into an old tennis buddy or opponent, my heart beats faster, and the conversation just starts flying.

In my years studying business success, the wisdom of a good coach or athlete seems to lift the level of the thought and conversation.  On this blog, the single most viewed article we’ve ever had (fueled somewhat by his death) was about John Wooden – simply the greatest coach who ever lived.  (Here’s the article: Wisdom from Coach Wooden: “A coach is someone who can give correction without creating resentment”).  And blog posts about Peyton Manning, Coach Bear Bryant, Tony Dungy, John Madden, all have brought more than the average number of page views than articles about the other mere mortals in business seem to generate.

And in one area of business endeavor, the illustrations just seem to come in an avalanche:  the 10,000 hour rule, and the need for deliberate practice, is simply best explained by athletic discipline success stories (though music stories, dance stories, and many others, could certainly make the point in powerful ways also).  Though Malcolm Gladwell includes stories of Bill Gates and the Beatles in his discussion of the 10,000 hour rule in Outliers, he begins it with stories of Canadian Junior Hockey and international junior soccer competition.

And if you want to understand the impact of, the power of, work ethic and discipline and the need for constant improvement, you may as well just bow down to the legendary practices of such athletes as Michael Jordan and Jerry Rice and Peyton Manning and Nolan Ryan and…

And if you want the best cautionary tales, just check into stories of athletes who could have been great, but lacked those qualities that could have kept them on the path to such greatness.  (For one such cautionary tale, just consider the tale of one-game-wonder Clint Longley, the “mad bomber.”  A great quarterback that never was…)

The article I quoted above offers a lot to help us understand the power of such athletic undergirdings to business success.  But here’s something else to throw in the mix.  When I read about deliberate practice, the place/role of a good coach, the 10,000 hour rule, I do look back on my athletic successes, but my athletic failures and disappointments are what I really remember.  And in remembering those, I feel somewhat driven to do better at this chapter of my life.  Maybe the challenge of athletic disappointment drives us to do better at doing better later in life.

I guess all of this is my way of saying that I am not surprised at the evidence that athletic endeavor — practice, teamwork, competition, the role of a good coach — all help lead to success later in life.

And for women to rise as fast as they have after the adoption of Title IX — well, let’s just say we shouldn’t be surprised.

We Could All Use A Coach Or A Good Secretary (Or A Nagging Mother) – We Need All The Cajoling We Can Get

(You might call this post “a lament for the good old days.”)

Here’s an inescapable truth.  The really good athletes are that good because they have a coach yelling at them to stay focused, day after day after day after day…  Oh, there are a few exceptions:  Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan – athletes who would work even more, put in extra time, on their own.  But they were the exceptions.  The rest of us are mortals  – and probably need a coach to yell at us to stay focused.

Recently, Dan Weston (who is best known as the spokesman for The Scooter Store on all those commercials — but I know him as a loyal supporter of the First Friday Book Synopsis), told me about an early version of a personal coach.  He knew a woman who would go to the offices of insurance salesmen (at the time, it was almost all men), and help them manage their time better so that they could get more done.  Her primary job – helping with the “keeping up with clients” tasks.  You know, sending clients cards every year on their birthday – that kind of task.

He said her secret was simple – she nagged them until they mailed the cards.  Dan described this as “the nagging mother approach to time management.” He said the salesmen would hire her just to get her to nag them so that they would do what they should do anyway on their own.   And they were motivated by the desire to get her off of their case – even though they paid her to get on their case!

And it worked!

It got me to thinking about my old life.  This was nearly twenty years ago, the last time I worked in a nice, efficient, multiple worker office setting.  (This was in my full-time ministry days).  I had my own personal secretary.  And, yes, secretary was still the word we used back then.  I had a few such helpers through the years, and the last one I had was remarkable.  She would come in at the end of the day and straighten up my desk.  She would always magically know when I needed what supply/resource.  But what she was really good at was this – nagging.  You can choose some other word  — pestering harassing, cajoling, coaxing…  It always boiled down to this – she knew what I needed to do, when I needed to have it finished, and she made it her job to make sure I got it done.

It is amazing how efficient I was.  I wrote a monthly column for a national magazine, I prepared some five new presentations every week, I wrote two columns for the church bulletin/newsletter every week, and so much more.  She stayed on top of my schedule, got me out the door when I needed to leave, made sure I called/wrote the right people when I needed to.  But she was really attentive to those writing deadlines.  She had to cajole; nag; sometimes more than once; sometimes more than twice.  But I got it done.

She “protected” me from distractions.  And she dealt with my deficiencies, which were many.  I should have been more cooperative.  But…(yes, I could be difficult to work with at times, I’m sorry to report).

And, yes, at times I wanted her off of my case, just as some of those good athletes have moments when they would like to send their coaches on a one-way trip to the North Pole.

But here’s the thing: It was as an amazing period of productivity.

I have read books on time management (like David Allen’s excellent Getting Things Done).  I have presented synopses of such books.  These books present wonderful, clear principles, like….

Always know your “next action.”  Have a weekly meeting with yourself, to plan what you will do the next week.
Always know what to do, when to complete it, and what to do next.  Always.

I know the principles.  I try to follow such principles.

But I have difficulty.

Alas, we live in the age of administrative assistants, virtual assistants, all positions filled with good people, who do very good and valuable work.  But deep down, I suspect that for those of us who have such difficulty staying on task, saying no to distractions, carving out time for those weekly planning meetings with self – what we really need is a nagging mother or a really good cajoling secretary.

I’ve tried the tricks.  But I still remember her coming in and saying”

“I need this now – do nothing else until you finish this!”

I miss those words!

Thoughtful Leadership

Cheryl offers:  Sara and I teach a class at SMU titled “Leader as Coach” for MBA students.  Last night we had a guest speaker, Matt Doherty, head basketball coach for the school. When we asked Matt about coming to talk to the students about the value he has seen in being a coach-like leader, he jumped at the chance. You see, he is a student of leadership himself and recognized this was another opportunity to learn. Matt shared some incredibly insightful stories from his life and career, including his time as head coach at Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina. Both had many similarities and many major differences. What struck me about Matt’s comments were his authenticity, candor, and willingness to tell these young professionals what he has learned about leadership. Example: leaders need to take the time to get to know people, show a sincere desire to listen to their ideas, and learn to become self aware enough to make better decisions. He also acknowledged both the existence of the positive and dark sides to striving for achievement. The reading for this week’s class was the #1 HBR article in 2008, “Leadership Run Amok” co-authored by a friend of ours, Scott Spreier. As he acknowledged, “The drive to achieve is tough to resist.” He also, very thoughtfully, opened their eyes to the possibilities if they do not themselves learn to understand what drives them and how it affects others. For us, being a “coach-like” leader is not like being a sports coach unless the coach is one who values others, is willing to listen, is open to new ideas, invests time in developing others, and takes the time to be human. No one was ever more human than Matt Doherty last night.