In India, cricket is not just a religion – it is also a metaphor for life. Surely, it would be apt to look at a cricketing analogy to understand the scope and extent of influence of a good ‘coach’.
Let’s roll back to early 2000. The hallowed Indian cricket team featured stalwarts – Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Sehwag, Laxman, Kumble & Harbhajan. BCCI decided to hire an international coach to maximize the collective talent of the Indian team. The following coaches were short-listed…
It seems like a fairly easy decision to make…In addition, if you consider that Coach A was from an illustrious family of cricketers and a prolific captain of one of the top teams in the world – it seems like a no-brainer. Experience, skills and everything else it takes to win; Coach A has to be the obvious choice!
Coach A is Greg Chappell and Coach B is John Wright. We all know how the story eventually panned out. Under Wright, India became the No. 1 Test side in the world and made it to the 2003 ICC World Cup finals. It was truly a ‘dream’ team. Soon after Chappell took over as coach, the ‘dream’ quickly turned into a nightmare. The atmosphere in the dressing room was toxic and it reflected on the performance. Who can forget the disastrous first-round exit in the 2007 World Cup!
But take a minute to ponder…Sachin Tendulkar, individually has more experience (200 Tests), more runs (15,921) and many more centuries (51) than both the coaches combined. They surely couldn’t add to his technical ‘know-how’ or skills. Infact, the common joke was that a coach could at best give inputs to Sachin on his man-of-the-match acceptance speech!
Yet, Sachin continues to speak highly of John Wright. He built a culture of bonhomie and trust and made the team believe in themselves. While Greg Chappell’s ‘divide and rule’ did take a heavy toll on the team, it took another ‘unassuming’ cricketer – Gary Kirsten to coach the Indian team to the pinnacle – ICC World Cup Champions in 2011. The team comprised diverse personalities with differentiated skill sets – natural flair (Sehwag), dogged determination (Gambhir), senior statesman (Tendulkar), young gun (Kohli), supremely gifted (Yuvraj) and the swashbuckler (Dhoni). Binding all of them with a common vision and yet ensuring they retain their individual strengths is what Gary achieved. Infact, Dhoni described Kirsten “as the best thing to happen to Indian cricket”.
Another example from the sporting arena to illustrate the moot point. Can you guess what is common to the 2011 World Cup winning Indian Cricket Squad, 2014 IPL Champions Kolkata Knight Riders and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Winners Germany? Heard of Mike Horn?
Mike Horn is a full-time adventure-junkie and a part-time motivational coach. He completed a journey around the equator without any motorized transport and a solo circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle. He uses his understanding of the human brain and extent of physical endurance of the human body to motivate champion teams into becoming an ‘unbeatable’ force. The German side was packed with world-beaters and were firm favourites to win for the last 2 decades. Yet, they could never cross the finish line. Horn took them on a sailing trip as part of his coaching process and the key takeaway for Lahm (German Captain) was “incredible what the human body can achieve”. And Germany did achieve the ultimate football honour!
Whether it is an intense sporting encounter or a tense boardroom battle – the key to winning is how you play the game in the space between your ears! And this is where a coach unlocks your untapped potential.
I have often seen senior leaders reject coaches if they are not from a similar professional background as them. The usual explanation goes – “what does he know about the kind of pressure we face?” Consider this, Silicon Valley’s most sought after coach was Bill Campbell. He was a coach to the maverick Steve Jobs and Google’s co-founder Larry Page. Campbell took pride in being non-technical and yet impacted the 2 most influential technology companies – Apple and Google. How?
A great coach might not have all the answers, but he has the insight to ask powerful questions. He focusses on your vision, not the drama. He listens to you for potential, not to colour your mind with his baggage. He aligns your strengths to your purpose and not to his beliefs. More importantly, he helps you shine as the best version of yourself, not a pale version of himself!
Go ahead, get yourself a life-coach! And it might be a good idea to not only look at his credentials (you might just be picking another Greg Chappell). Instead, try and gauge how much the coach believes in you and whether he is able to custom-create a blueprint that is ‘perfect’ for you by stretching you out of your comfort zone. After all, who doesn’t want to access the shortest and surest path to success, fulfilment and happiness!
Sorbojeet Chatterjee is a marketing consultant, media specialist, certified life coach, avid traveler and a doting dad. He is the Co-Founder of Happ Coach (an online platform for Life Coaches and Mentors). He tweets @sorbojeet