What Kind of Coach Are You? Coaching and LOTR? – Make that comparison for me

When you view your role as a coach, how do you see it?  I classify coaches like they were wizards in the Lord of the Rings (LOTR).  Those Wizards were known as the Istari.  I imagine Istari was the Elvish word for coaches, but it’s just a guess.  Five in number, the Istari demonstrated four different approaches to coaching.  In my opinion, coaches exist to help clients, or students, better fulfill their purpose, vision, and values (PVV).  The Istari came to Middle-earth to help the free peoples fight oppression and evil.  In other words, to help them better fulfill their PVV.  Let’s look at each type.


The first type is represented by Alatar and Pallando – the Blue Wizards.

They headed off into the lands of the enemy, and likely did great work, but were lost.  No tales of them are told; it is said.  In other words, they were the type of coaches that went wherever the work took them, and as a result, they were shaped by client need alone, which is ok, but they did not add to the field and their learning was not passed on.


The second type is represented by Radagast the Brown.

He remained fixed in one place. He ceased caring for the free peoples and instead focused on the well-being of animals.  As a result, he made no major contribution and was a rather silly character.  Radagast was the type of coach that worked on only the things he enjoyed.  As a result, he ultimately betrayed his purpose.  He did not make things worse but did not improve them much either.  He was a mediocre coach.


The third type is dramatized by Saruman the White.

He was a powerful player and a natural leader.  He, like Radagast, became fixed in one location, and you had to come to him to seek help or wisdom, but unlike Radagast, he enjoyed the trappings of power and authority.   He liked to rule over others and always thought he “knew” what was best for them.  It was his way or the highway.  He had no love for his clients and even showed a bit of disdain for them.  Although he could accomplish much, in the end, he betrayed his purpose and harmed rather than helped his clients.


The fourth type was Gandalf the Grey. 

Gandalf wandered, but his wandering was not idle.  He did not work on what he enjoyed working on, but rather on what needed to be worked on.  His travels took him always to the bottleneck, the crisis point, the point of opportunity or disaster.  He did not often intercede directly, like Saruman.  Instead, he worked through others, teaching, inspiring, and offering advice and counsel.  In this way, his clients became stronger, more independent, and more resilient.  Over the many long years of his career, Gandalf remained true to his purpose, kept his eye on the vision, did not violate his coaching principles, and led his clients to innovative and effective solutions.  In the end, he helped others make significant, long-lasting changes for good.  He is remembered as a valuable contributor.


What type of wizard, I mean coach, are you?

About the author – Dave Cahill currently serves as President of businessrunbetter.com, as Managing Partner of Avanulo, a global performance enhancement firm, and as Cohost of the TPL Show, a podcast about leadership (tplshow.org).  He has taught leadership, continuous improvement, and crisis resolution to thousands of people in ten countries.  Dave has served in line and staff positions for world-class organizations like Tenneco, Groupe Danone, Mead Johnson, and the US Army.  He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Russian and has lived and worked across the US, and in Mexico, Brazil, Europe, and the old Soviet Union.  He is married with eight children, four grandchildren, and eighteen foster children.  Dave currently resides in rural Ohio with his lovely wife, Andrea.

If you want to know more about how coaching, combined with the power of businessrunbetter.com can help your organization, call Dave at 419-202-4996, or write him at david.cahill@avanulo.com.

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