The Godfather of Coaching


The Godfather, iconic and critically acclaimed for many reasons, is considered one of the greatest and most influential films of all time. It was the highest grossing film of 1972, winning a record five Golden Globes (not to be surpassed until 2017), three Academy Awards, and surprisingly, not one for coaching.  Well, that’s a miss in my book!  Now I’m often accused of seeing coachable moments everywhere, so, yes, I actually found a coaching moment in this film. 

In the opening scene, a man, an undertaker by trade, narrates a story of woe.  His daughter has been beaten by two men and is now living a life of shame and disfigurement.  Her father wants justice.

The Godfather (played brilliantly by Marlon Brando) listens while the Undertaker makes disrespectful demands, wishing an unequal hand of justice for his daughter.  “I beg you, tell me, I’ll do anything you want me to do!” he says.  “What is that?” inquires the Godfather.  Then, the undertaker whispers in Godfather’s ear, asking for something we can only guess.  As a coach, I knew immediately that he wanted to have the Godfather solve the problem for him.  

“That I cannot do,” responds the Godfather.

And therein lies the rub with coaching and with coaches.  Clients want answers; many times they come to coaching expecting coaches to give them answers.  That’s not coaching, that’s consulting.  Coaches have challenges too: they desperately want to give answers.  With all their might, they have to hold them in, and make the client do the work.  The answers really do lie within all of us, we just have to look inside to find the courage to actually acknowledge them, be challenged by the coach to commit to take steps moving those answers forward and then hold ourselves accountable to the answers we find.  We coaches are there to witness our client’s journey along the way.  It’s what human beings want: to be noticed and, ultimately, to be held accountable (some might argue this in today’s social and cultural context).  It’s also true that the best coaching experiences come from this process and perspective.  

My coach/instructors are constantly challenging me to make clients do the work.  While it can be one of the most difficult things to learn and do, when applied correctly, it is the most rewarding experience for coach and client.

So, clients, when seeking a coach, know this: we coaches expect you to come to work, and do the work.  And we coaches commit to seeing that perspective honored for the duration.  It’s an offer you can’t refuse.  Trust me…

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