Leadership & Success: At the Intersection of Coaching & Consulting
By: Tameka Bryant, Dion Gilliard, and Michelle Thomas-Dezonie
Coaching and consulting has become the cornerstone of effective leadership and is viewed as the most impactful way to drive individuals and organizations to success. Our western philosophies lead us to mistakenly believe that the best way to improve results is to mostly focus on outcome. We think about winning and success far more than the journey that leads to the desired results. However, the best way to impact results is to change ineffective behaviors. What if we examined the route as closely as we examined the destination? Finding the correct approach to self and organizational improvement would lead to the desired results.
The movies The Legend of Baggar Vance and Twelve Angry Men provide profound insights into the elements of the coaching and consulting process. The former is a movie about the impact a coach can have in helping one reach their full potential. Baggar Vance helps Junuh figure out that he wants to play golf again and supports him on the path to being at his personal best. Throughout their journey together he helps Junuh overcome obstacles, imparts personal knowledge, teaches new skills, builds confidence, gives advice, cheers success, lets him make mistakes, and lowers the pressure on what is at stake.
Baggar Vance talks about the “one perfect swing” that everybody has within them. A coach is someone who will support you on the quest for that “perfect swing” and help you jump into the game of life with a full commitment to discovering what you have within. They will help you to think critically about why and how you do things and determine if it is beneficial or detrimental. Ultimately, a coach will help you shift from the outside world to your own inner being which will result in you playing full out without reservation. In the movie golf is a metaphor for life and Baggar Vance symbolizes the inner strength and motivator that lives in all of us and appears when we need it most. There are times when our insecurities and personal baggage inhibit us from being the best version of ourselves. It is in these moments of struggle and discomfort that we grow and emerge from the ashes a stronger purer version of ourselves.
In the movie Twelve Angry Men a minority teenager is on trial for murdering his father with a knife. An all-white male jury has the ominous task of reaching a unanimous verdict which will determine if the teen is executed. The jury is comprised of a wide range of complex personalities and each man’s personal prejudices and biases clearly impact their beliefs. When one juror suggests that they take a public vote at the beginning of deliberations they are immediately angered when only juror # 8 votes not guilty. Although these men are strangers all but one initially conforms to the guilty verdict. Juror # 8 has the courage of his convictions and withstands the peer pressure in the room by simply expressing that the seriousness of the case deserves their scrutiny.
Initially, the deliberations are impeded by confirmation bias as 11 of the jurors only focus on evidence that supports their guilty vote. As the jurors deliberate, there is a lot of conflict and the more boisterous personalities try to bully the others. However, as they allow each person to have their say and start actively listening to one another they begin to shift from a groupthink mentality and become more aligned with the minority influence of juror # 8. In an organization a consultant’s role is aligned with juror #8. A consultant is usually hired during times of conflict or in high pressure situations and expected to help reach the desired results. Often, they are met with resistance and must deal with various personalities, the personal prejudices and biases that impact the organization and how it works. Most importantly, they must get the associates of an organization to let go of the past and be willing to embrace a new mindset and way of doing things.
Coaching and consulting have a definitive point of intersection when viewed through a skill based lens. Each requires the ability to actively listen, effectively question, and support the learning process. However, a coach helps an individual maximize their performance by helping them dial into their inner self to unlock their potential. Consulting encompasses coaching but it is done at a group or organizational level and requires interaction with multiple personalities and issues. Additionally, it is much more difficult to manage change at the organizational level.
Both movies impart strong examples of coaching and consulting and the impact they can have when done appropriately. Baggar Vance shows the importance of self-motivation for the individual being coached and the supportive, encouraging approach of the coach. Twelve Angry Men aptly shows the difficulty in gaining consensus amongst a disconnected group of people with their own personal agendas. A consultant must be able to navigate through many challenges and create an environment for open engaging dialogue so members of an organization feel understood and heard. In summation, a coach and a consultant desire similar outcomes but the nuance is in the approach.
As we discussed the implications of both movies we began to question how important winning is to the coaching and consulting process. In the world of coaching and consulting winning has a different meaning than in the world of sports. However, a good coach and consultant should never focus on “winning” because their primary commitment is to the process and not the outcome. It is possible that we could reach higher levels of success if we spent more time and energy on the journey instead of focusing on the finish line. If a coach or a consultant is only concerned with outcome, then they won’t be actively listening and engaged in the moments that matter and risk missing important information.
The aforementioned movies give the audience great insight into what coaching and consulting should accomplish. However, in the unscripted real world they are not so easily applied to individuals or organizations. As egotistical people we struggle to embrace the mental frame work required to be an impactful coach or consultant. It is much easier to give a solution or advice than to ask the right questions and get someone to think critically for themselves. That is where true empowerment and the journey to self or organizational improvement begins. Our thoughts and attitudes determine the results of our actions and ultimately our success or failure. Therefore, if we spend time improving our inner selves and achieve the shift in thought necessary to make a full commitment to discovering what we have within, we win anyway. A coach or consultant is like Red Bull, they should “give you wings.”
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