A Coaching Power Tool created by Jie (Jane) Chen
(Executive Coaching, CHINA)
I was inspired by a story quoted in John Maxwell’s article for leadership.
“The year was 1972 and fans packed Munich’s Olympic Stadium to witness the completion of the men’s marathon. By the time the race’s competitors reached the stadium, they would already have run 26 miles! Spectators waited in anticipation to see which contestant would arrive first and to cheer him to the finish line.
A roar from the crowd greeted the first runner to enter the stadium—German Norbert Sudhaus. Fans shouted encouragement and applauded wildly as he began the final, grueling lap of the race. However, cheers turned to gasps as, halfway around the track, Sudhaus was tackled by security guards. As it turns out, Norbert Sudhaus was an imposter. Wearing a blue track vest and yellow running shorts, he had snuck onto the race’s course just outside of Olympic Stadium and had tricked the crowd into thinking he was an actual contestant.
Moments later, when the real leader of the marathon (American Frank Shorter) ran into the stadium, he was dismayed to hear catcalls from the crowd. Shorter thought the boos were directed at him, oblivious that the spectators were still expressing outrage at Sudhaus’ hoax. Shorter would go on to win the marathon, and he remains the last American man to have won an Olympic gold medal in the event.”
It’s powerful because it elicits self-reflection “am I a true player or am I just a pretender?” and resonates with me on how to tell the two apart in real life and work. It’s reflective because it correlates well between the power tools learnt in ICA and the power tool of players vs pretenders.
- The players are true to themselves, understand their inner commitment, and their actions are aligned with their goals, while pretenders are trying as they are afraid of failure. Some of them may start as players, they go great for a few months/years, then begin to go through the motions and become pretenders. Self doubt is slipping in & this very doubt would lead to further doubt. (Commitment vs Trying)
- The players choose to take responsibility, freedom, and empowerment. They understand the power of making choice and focus on choosing the future. While pretenders are fearful to take responsibility in case things go wrong and they will then be blamed. They make the easy choices and they blame others for all of their problems instead of taking personal ownership. (Responsibility vs Blame)
- The players travel light and they know that the baggage of envy, jealousy, pride, and selfish ambition would eventually destroy them. While pretenders become significant as they bring their baggage to a situation. They value imagine instead of what’s under the surface and look outside of himself for recognition. (Lightness vs Significance)
The list of power tools can go on and on.
I always find it fascinating the correlation between success in sports and success in work and life. If we list out the attributes of any true players in each sport field, we are amazed to see how well they are correlating with those strong leaders in every organization.
- They may start out as competitors, but have evolved from competitor to personal achiever, or team player, or team builder.
- They see doubts or failure as moments to learn from and keep moving forward, thus they are tenacious and understand it takes persistence to win.
- They love what they do and finish well even if this means they have to go through the “aloneness” stages of their lives.
- They are mission-conscious and will give up a position to achieve a mission. The progress of the mission is much more important than their own place within it.
As an executive coach, I love asking questions. These questions are equally applicable in any forms of coaching.
- Am I a true “player” or am I just a pretender? If not, why?
- If I’m a “player” now, how can I ensure that I continue to be a “player” tomorrow?
- Why would being “player” be important to me and how would I know that I am indeed a “player”?
- As a leader, how do I make sure that my teams are determined to run the full 43 mile marathon rather than just wanting to take the glory from the last 400 meters?
- How do you define success? And what is the success meant to you?
- What are the major roadblocks for you to become a “player”? How do you like to overcome them?
- How do you feel when you are completely open, truthful, & honest to yourself (no more pretending)?
- What supporting structure do you have in place when you get tired of the fight?
Essential Leadership – John C. Maxwell: Players vs. Pretenders