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Masterful Coaching

Masterful Coaching

by Robert Hargrove

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When the first edition of Masterful Coaching was published, it quickly became the standard resource for anyone who was a coach, considering becoming a coach, or curious about being an extraordinary coach. In this completely revised third edition of his groundbreaking book, Hargrove presents his profound insights into the journey to of becoming a masterful coach


When the first edition of Masterful Coaching was published, it quickly became the standard resource for anyone who was a coach, considering becoming a coach, or curious about being an extraordinary coach. In this completely revised third edition of his groundbreaking book, Hargrove presents his profound insights into the journey to of becoming a masterful coach along with guiding ideas, tools, and methods.

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Masterful Coaching

By Robert Hargrove

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-6084-5

Chapter One


What Is Masterful Coaching?

Masterful Coaching involves expanding people's capacity to make a difference with individuals, their organizations, and their world. It involves impacting people's visions and values and offering them a powerful assist in reinventing who they are being, their thinking, and behavior that is consistent with achieving what they need to achieve.

Masterful Coaching involves challenging and supporting people to be extraordinary leaders, as well as to achieve extraordinary levels of performance. It starts with becoming clear on the goals and aspirations people passionately care about and offering them a powerful assist in calling forth who they need to be in the matter. It requires building new skills and capabilities so as to bring out the best in those around them. It means fostering not just individual excellence, but also creative collaboration.

Masterful Coaching is based on being completely committed to the person(s) you are coaching and engaging with them in conversations (or, actually, a network of conversations) that leave them inspired, empowered, and enabled with respect to their concerns. The acid test is that when you leave the presence of a Masterful Coach, you have "freedom to be" and you have new openings for possibility and action in areas where you were stuck and ineffective.


Masterful Coaching is a journey, not just a destination. Whether or not you will embark on the journey depends not on whether you are a leader, project manager, or individual contributor; it depends on whether you dare to see and meet the calling to make a difference, whether in the life of one person, a group, or an institution. We admire others who make a difference, who have an impact, who are effective.

Perhaps our inspiration to take the journey to Masterful Coaching comes from these people. Each of us can remember a handful, but only a handful, of coaches, teachers, and mentors who touched our lives with new possibilities we didn't see before, who enabled us to achieve results that we never dreamed of or dared to imagine. They were people who held up an honest mirror, one that led to a revelation of our own foolishness. They had conversations with us about the lessons we needed to learn about life, laced with a sense of humor.

The journey is driven by passion, commitment, and zeal. It calls for a hungry spirit, a person who not only has the desire to be a success but also to be a contribution. It calls for those who know that the true joy in life is to bring people together to create and invent the future, rather than just trying to predict it. It entices those who have achieved something splendid at some point only because they dared to believe that there was something inside them that was superior to circumstance and now they want to pass that on.

It calls for leaders who recognize that the highest leverage in the adventure of business (and living) is elevating their concerns to making an Impossible Future. This can only happen if people let go of being the hero and being in the center of the action and focus on developing the next generation of leaders in the process of getting the job done.

It involves recognizing that Masterful Coaching is a journey, not a destination. To be sure, the ideas, tools, and methods offered in this book will provide you with a roadmap and the necessary wherewithal to get you on your way. Yet, as with mastering anything, it can take a lifetime to develop the skills and capabilities. It involves dedicated study and practice, a continuous cycle of making progress, plateauing, striving, and reaching the next level-from individual to group, from group to organization.

While it takes a powerful commitment to become a Masterful Coach, there are different stages along the way and each must be valued:

1. Beginner (sometimes a nuisance);

2. Advanced Beginner (does okay with supervision);

3. Competent (capable);

4. Virtuoso (brilliant); and

5. Mastery (invents new rules, becomes a legend).

The Setting Is Today's Workplace

The setting for the journey we are making to Masterful Coaching begins not in sports or the performing arts, but in the workplace-government, business, schools, hospitals. The performance bar has been raised for all. There is a growing clamor to reinvent organizations for the 21st Century. In order for this to happen, executives and leaders at all levels must first reinvent themselves. Coaching makes it possible to dramatically accelerate this process, without stepping on landmines. The time to take the journey is now.

Every Global 1000 corporation needs coaches who can help people to set unreasonable expectations and stretch their definition of themselves and their business to reach them. Every legislative body needs skilled facilitators to assist them in moving beyond government gridlock to building common ground. Every school is facing a crisis in how to educate students that demands teachers be less enforcers of curriculum-directed learning and more enablers of learner-directed learning. The world as a complex social and biological system is presenting us with ever more pressing dilemmas, and to solve them, we need coaches who can help us think and work better together and accelerate the process by which we produce results.

This is the domain of Masterful Coaching. I invite you to hear the sounding of the tone ... to come to the tone ... and to join in sympathetic resonance with it.


To me, the lifelong journey toward Masterful Coaching is one of the highest expressions of what it is to be a human being, even though it is fraught with challenges. For at its very core, it means bringing people into alignment with their highest human goals and aspirations, while at the same time linking them to the needs of their organization. It involves taking a stand that it is possible to make a difference, even when the mountain is high, the winds strong, the climate cold, and the road lonely. It is a journey filled with joy and pain, comedy and tragedy-all the ironies of life.

A Masterful Coach is a leader who by nature is a vision builder and value shaper, not just a technician who manages people to reach their goals and plans through tips and techniques. To be able to do this requires that the coach discover his or her own humanness and humanity, while being a clearing for others to do the same. At the same time, Masterful Coaches know when to shift weight to the opposite foot and focus on expanding people's capacity to accomplish what they need to accomplish. Such coaches know that being extraordinary is the key to producing extraordinary results, and they consistently bring out the best in those around them.

Masterful Coaches are not only great human beings, but also "monsters of effectiveness." They have the ability to inspire people to declare an Impossible Future they passionately care about to be possible and then to make it a reality. It is by standing with people inside a nonnegotiable commitment to an Impossible Future that the coach sets the stage for breakthrough results and breakthroughs for people. People see that the limiting factor is their level of intention and imagination, not their level of staffing and resources.

A Masterful Coach enters into the learning system of the individual or group with the intent of producing breakthroughs for people and breakthroughs in results.

Masterful Coaches show people how to take mere possibilities and translate them into live opportunities by formulating concrete projects that have a beginning, middle, and end. Their presence on a team is felt as having objectives agreed on, doing inventive and effective planning, ironing out conflicts, and creating a rallying momentum. They look for new openings for possibility and action in places where people are stuck or ineffective, honestly acknowledging all breakdowns and providing what's missing that will make a difference.

Masterful Coaches possess within themselves a potent combination of toughness and compassion, which shows up as a "listening for people's greatness" and at the same time "speaking to penetrate illusions that get people in trouble." They encourage people to stretch their minds and skills in pursuing results that are beyond and out of the ordinary. They return people to themselves and their promises in the face of disappointment or upsets brought on by unintended results.

At the same time, while Masterful Coaches are effective, they are not just results machines. They have the generosity of spirit to step back from their own preoccupations on the front lines and give someone the gift of their presence. "Got a problem? Let's talk about it." Such a person always has a touch of what the Buddhists call "crazy wisdom" (being colorful, dramatic, shocking, and wise).

I am often asked, because all of this sounds like a tall order, "Just how does one become a Masterful Coach?" The following Compass Points map the territory to be crossed in this journey. They are the navigational aids for the voyage, the street signs that let us know whether or not we are in the right neighborhood. If you have at least some of the right makeup that we have been describing, by following these navigation points you will eventually get there.

The Compass Points that you will find here were discovered from the direct experience and hard-won lessons gained in coaching leaders; they are not just an intellectual exercise. For the most part, they take the form of rich stories that are full of many lessons, like hidden jewels for those who care to look for them. Some of the stories are based on extraordinary successes and others on failures and honest mistakes. That's the purpose of creating a map. By using it, you can greatly increase your changes of succeeding and avoid dangerous rocks.

The intent here is to guide the reader into a different world. At the same time, while there are no magic bullets, you will be provided with guiding ideas, methods, and tools that will help you develop as a coach and that can be put to practical and immediate use. The starting point is with the people you most want to work with and in those areas where you have the most control.

COMPASS POINT I. Coaching Is a Powerful Partnership

Augusta, Georgia-There were thousands upon thousands of golf fans at the Augusta National in May 2001 who would have killed for a moment of Tiger Woods' time. Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods' coach, had Tiger's undivided attention for well more than an hour on the putting green. Then Harmon jogged over to the caddie shack, pulled on the requisite white coveralls and, at Woods' request, carried his clubs in the Masters' rain-shortened par-3 tournament. One reporter said, "I actually had a guy in the gallery ask me-I swear this happened -if that fellow over there by Butch Harmon was Tiger Woods."

Butch and his prize pupil have been practically joined at the hip since 1997 when Woods dominated the field and won his first professional Gold Major at the Masters at the age of twenty. Tiger was sitting in his house studying the videotapes from his performance, blasting 300-yard drives, hitting crisp iron shots right at the pins, draining putts from everywhere. Yet something he was seeing wasn't sitting right with him. He called Harmon, a respected coach, and said, "My swing really sucks."

He knew he wasn't in the right position at various points in his golf swing and had won because "my timing was great." At the same time, he knew that his swing wouldn't hold up under pressure for the long haul, so he told Butch Harmon, who was the former golf coach to the King of Morocco, that he wanted to make serious changes in the way he struck the ball. Harmon concurred with this assessment, and told him that it would take months to groove a new swing, and that his game would get worse before it got better. This might lead some to say that Tiger's success at the Masters was a flash in the pan.

Like Tiger Woods, the real leaders in sports, the performing arts, and business aren't content to merely be good. They want to be great.

Tiger told Harmon that it didn't matter. He relayed something that his pal Michael Jordan had told him: "No matter how good they say you are, set incredibly high goals and keep working on your game." He told Harmon his goal was to eventually surpass his cherished idol Jack Nicklaus (eighteen golf majors), and that he was sure he couldn't get there on his own. He wanted to build a powerful partnership with Harmon, who had worked with him on and off since Tiger was seventeen. Harmon accepted.

Harmon began working with Woods day in and day out. He told Tiger he would have to pump more iron to get his forearms stronger. Tiger then went to work on a Kaizen sequence (Japanese for improvement) that could be described as "disciplined intensity":(1) pounding hundreds of practice balls a day; (2) reviewing tapes of the swing for hours so as to get meaningful feedback; (3) bringing Harmon with him to all his tournaments; and (4) repeating all of the above.

It's rare in golf when a top pro teacher like Harmon accompanies a player like Woods to a tournament and walks every fairway with him (as Harmon did in 1998), even carrying his bag during the practice round to get a bird's eye view of his swing under pressure, all the while giving some appropriately wise counsel. The fact is that most top professional golf teachers have egos about as big as the players do, and would consider such a thing to be beneath their station in life.

A powerful partnership is created when there is chemistry, lots at stake in shared goals, regular interaction, and disciplined intensity.

The reason Harmon did this was that he took the partnership with Woods seriously and became a celebrity in his own right as a result. Woods took it equally seriously, spending hundreds of hours practicing, with Harmon relentlessly giving him the same corrections. In golf, old habits die hard. In some practice rounds, Harmon would tell Woods the same correction fifty to one hundred times. "Here's the grip you need to have." Then holding the mirror up, "Tiger, you went back to your old grip position on that last swing." Or "Here is the position you want to be in at the top, Tiger." "No, you went over the top," and so on.

Harmon was wise enough to recognize the impatience of the twenty-year-old Woods. To make sure Woods mastered each piece of the swing, grip, stance, and swing plane, he only told him one piece at a time. Harmon didn't show him the next piece until he had completely integrated the previous one.

Eventually, it all paid off.


Excerpted from Masterful Coaching by Robert Hargrove Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Robert Hargrove's Masterful Coaching sets the context of the coach as steward rather than mere teacher, a critical agent in transforming organizational cultures and developing the skills and capabilities necessary for new cultures to be sustained."
— Peter Senge, author, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization

"Masterful Coaching will empower you to stand for an impossible future while acting boldly in the present to make it a reality."
— Richard W. Severance, president, Conoco, North American Downstream

"Masterful Coaching brings clarity, power, and velocity to producing extraordinary leaders and extraordinary results."
— Tom Kaiser, president, Zurich Financial Services

"The author's five-step 'transformationa' coaching model has been field-tested by thousands of managers worldwide."
— Accounting Today

"Finally, a book that helps release people's collective aspirations— almost non-existent in today's corporate environment— and links them to business goals. A treasure trove of 'take-action' tools!"
— Melanie Warren, vice-president, Fidelity Investments

"This is a great hands-on book. . . . Hargrove explains how to coach a person through one frame of reference (paradigm) to another or to coach groups of individuals into a cohesive, collaborative team."
Net Results

"Masterful Coaching provides thorough descriptions of the characteristics of a coach and thoughtful insights about becoming an effective coach."
Canadian HR Reporter

"If you are looking for some techniques to help your employees creatively meet your customers' needs, this is a must read."
The Business Resource

Meet the Author

Robert Hargrove is a worldfamous thought leader on executive coaching. He has trained over 30,000 people in transformational leadership. Coaching clients include a U.S.A. Under Secretary of Defense, a New York Stock Exchange chairman, and a European CEO of the Year. He is the author of Masterful Coaching and The Masterful Coaching Fieldbook, both from Pfeiffer, and Your Coach in a Book from Jossey-Bass.

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