When you Coach, do you start from what still needs to be done or what already has been done?

Just so applicable to all of us who are coaching for leadership development. An absolutely invaluable lesson: appeal to the side that dreams.

picI was on a radio phone-in. A man phoned in and said: “Hi David. I’ve been sat here listening to you going on and on about success. Well let me tell you this. I have never achieved anything in my life. I can’t read or write. I’m one of the forgotten few. What do you say to me then?”

On live radio-cue heartbeat and perspiration!

I talked about choices being available to us all, how it is never too late to run to read or write and even if he did not do this, because interpersonal skills are more important these days, there were still plenty of dreams he could make happen. He was having none of it.

“What you don’t realize, David, is that it’s all very well for you sitting in your comfy studio, spouting off about this and that-what about people like me who have no hope, none?”

Part of me wanted to share my personal struggles and times of hardship. I didn’t; I changed tack.

“Ok, tell me, what would you like to achieve in your life? I know you don’t think you ever will, but please, tell me just one thing you would like to do’. After a pause, he softened and said, ‘I’d love to be a car mechanic.”

“Great”, I said.

I spoke too soon … because he then said: “And I don’t know anything about cars.”

Then I said the word. I don’t know where it came from, that I didn’t matter. I leaned slightly closer towards the microphone and simply said “Yet”.

He said: “What?”

And I repeated it, saying: “You don’t know anything about cars, yet”.

To which he simply said: “Thank you”, and rang off.

That was a year ago. Just a few days before I wrote this, I received a card in the post. It was a single business card. Nothing was written on the card- there was no need for that. Because the card was a business card for this man, who is now a successful car mechanic.

I called him straight away to say well done. He apologized for not writing anything in the card, saying to me: “I know a lot about cars, and they know a lot about me. And I couldn’t put anything on the card, because I haven’t learned to read or write. Yet.”