Recently a good friend of mine sent me a quote that defined, at least for one coach, what a coach is and does. The quote comes from Tom Landry, the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach during the team’s dominating performances in the 80’s and 90’s. Here’s what Landry said:
“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear so you can see what you don’t want to see so that you can become what you’ve always wanted to be.”
I have to confess I like the quote and the intent of Landry’s message, although I don’t believe that an executive coach’s role is necessarily to tell his or her clients what to do. Working the client’s agenda and uncovering “the big want” for the client is the central focus of a coach’s job in my judgment. Athletic teams are different—a little more of a command-and-control environment there.
But, Landry touched on something else that is important for coaches, and that is clearly identifying with the client what is blocking them from reaching their full potential or in Landry’s words “becoming what you always wanted to be”. Going to that place, to where your hidden or unrealized gifts reside, the backstairs of untapped or yet-to-be-unleashed genius—that takes courage. I’ve worked with folks who did not want to go there—at first. But eventually they gathered the nerve to face that fear and break through it, which is the first and toughest stage in catalyzing transformational change. I call this leaning in to fear, running towards it versus away from it—if you can’t get out of it, “it” being your current reality—get into it. What you will discover is that the fear is simply a story you’ve made up about yourself or your situation—it’s not truly real. Once you realize this, the path is much clearer and brighter because you can change the story and take definitive steps towards becoming what you always wanted to be.