Coach Not For the Glory

I remember the morning when a group of my colleagues and I were amidst a Coaching Skills workshop, and discussing our observations of a movie we’d seen together the past evening. The movie was The King’s Speech (2o12) and was shown to help us glean some perspective on the aspect of coaching, and people management.

The moment which seemed most poignant and symbolic to me was the last scene of the movie, when Colin Firth who plays King George VI, walks out of the room, with his wife, Queen Elizabeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter, with his head held high after a successful radio broadcast, and his coach, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, stands back and watches the King have his moment of honor and pride.

That scene held deep significance for me, because that epitomized the role of a coach, or a good manager.

Lack of trust within teams, complete disclosure between a manager and an individual, or even the idea of being vulnerable to probe into honest development areas are issues with which many organizations struggle. Although people management, coaching or even mentoring takes on a view of building necessary skill sets, I believe it is predominantly the mindset which produces an impact.

It is easy, and very human, to adopt a ‘superior’mindset when in the role of a coach or a manager. You often have more experience, better perspective and sometimes solutions to the problems the person in front of you perseveres to tackle. In all this, it is easy to watch success happen and say, “I did that” or think, ” That wouldn’t have happened if not for me”. I have been in many a talent management discussions where there are senior leaders, who often with pride, boast about rising individuals in the organization and say, “I taught him or her that!”

There is nothing wrong with pride, but when misplaced, it leaves little value to the deed. As a manager, a coach, a mentor, it is the role which demands you keep away your needs, demands and insecurities aside, to focus only on the person who has approached you. The role makes it a requisite for you to only be a facilitator, and not a champion or a cheerleader.

When you fill those shoes, you need to fill them like Lionel, who didn’t change his methods for the King and become partial, who didn’t let his lost dream of being a stage actor bitter the relationship with his ‘coachee’, who kept his identity and his trouble secret, even from his wife, to maintain trust, and who didn’t walk alongside the King and make it obvious  to the world he played a major role in making something remarkable. No, Lionel, like a good and true coach, stood behind and watched a man carry the legacy of his skill and dedication forward. He watched an outcome of a successful process, his focus and effort, and carried the satisfaction of knowing he’d made a difference.

Keeping aside one’s own needs, ego and pride to focus on helping another individual is not easy. But then, neither is being a coach or a good people manager. That choice, brings in the greatest distinction.


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