Leadership and Winning?

"Why Athletic-Style Coaching Fails The Coach and The Client In Business"

In our society, at least the developed world, there is a lingering question about winning. I found this piece from Coachville's new leader Dave Buck on a declaration on coaching that is directed towards winning.

I'm going to use it to show you the contrast in leadership styles from Dave's winning style to my leadership philosophy: Generati.

I'm not doing this to show up Dave, although I'm not shirking from pointing out where I have serious differences with him. I'm doing this to help you understand that as long as we focus on the outcome, rather than the journey, we are dooming leadership to a cul de sac. [a road that leads to a dead end]

My comments are in blue.

I want to set this up in terms of context. Dave's declaration below comes from a new R&D effort led by Dave at Coachville and is probably not the final version, lest you find it here and realize there are other versions. By writing this muse I hope to influence those who to see the cul de sac Dave is constructing.

Years ago I gave up athletic-style "win-based" coaching, from which in large part Dave Buck seems to draw his motivation. The reason I walked away after having a pretty good collegiate football career with numerous coaching offers is that I had had enough of the "winning game."

Again, my remarks are in blue.

Dave's remarks are left in black.

You will also want to note that the context here is professional coaching, and not athletic-style coaching which more than likely influences Dave's writing I suspect.

-------------excerpted with permission

Coaches Declaration of Purpose...
Dear Player, I AM Your Coach

There is not "I AM" in coaching because it sets up immediately the wrong locus of control, that "I" the coach will be controlling the interactions. There is only "you" as that is where work is done on performance, change and transformation--transcendence if you like.

Warning: be skeptical when a coach starts out an interaction with "I".

Dear Player.
Thank you for hiring me as your coach. We have a lot of work to do!!

There is no "we" in coaching. The reason being is that it's all about them. It's not "our" responsibility to do work, other than to observe them, notice them, and to support their efforts to build capability. "We" coaching produces co-dependencies that are very difficult to unwind. There is a fine line between a professional coach and the client, but as fine as that line is, it's a big as the wall of china in reality.

Warning: question how much work your coach is going to do or how much responsibility they are willing to accept for your failure before starting one of these scenarios!

Please allow me to set the stage for our work together by sharing with you what I’m all about.

All stage setting should be done through a system of PAAR: power, accountability, authority and responsibility in the system. In other words, since coaches do not have PAAR over their clients--unless as Dave is doing here--putting their clients in a codependent mode; it's critical for "clients" to set the stage. Again, this is further validation that the coach (according to Dave) has "taken" the leadership role. This may work well with people who are "other-directed" and need someone to lead them, but the people that coaching will appeal to and be purchased by are those people who are struggling with other-direction and actually want something different than being told what to do.

These people are looking for a guide, who notices where they are, surfaces right action in an interaction with them and tests it for actionability. The don't want a third-party (manager) coming in and taking over--setting the stage? This is all about the coach and quite frankly folks, in my 19 years of practice as a coach...management can do a better, more efficient job for those people who need leadership in this manner, so why hire a much more expensive coach, who in the end, gets to "walk away" without accountability for results they helped create--or the failure to create results?

One word of experience here.

I have seen Dave's scenario produce significant successes, and almost always significant failures. I call this roller-coaster coaching. Here's why. Developmental research has shown that people function at least "one" developmental level higher (read more capable to function with broader perspective) in support, than they do on their own.

This speaks to the reason why it feels good to be with a coach, a cheerleader, an athletic coach so many of us remember who "inspired us" to many achievements...and why for the most part, those are just good memories and not reality any more. Even though you are able to perform in support at high levels, those levels are not actionable for you over time and you're going to come down, to meet your match.

I'm not saying, high performance is not worth striving for in life and business. But what I am saying, at what price? Are you making a memory or are you finding ways to become sustainably more happy in your life and work--a truly short and long-term approach in capability coaching.

Warning: be careful around anyone who wants to set a stage for your life or work!

My purpose
I have one purpose and one purpose only: I am here to help you win.

Unfortunately this is just the wrong approach in coaching, whether it be in athletics, drama, or professional life or business coaching. Winning is just a cul de sac that is not generative long term. It's completely unsustainable, uses significant levels of resources, alienates people who don't win--they are called losers, and most of all puts the wrong focus on action in a civilized society.

Along with a focus on greatness, I'm deeply disappointed that this malarky is being offered by someone who claims to lead a large coaching community. [Although most people should be aware of that this person did not build this community. It was build by Thomas Leonard and is a clear demonstration of an old axiom I tell people...when you have a list (database) [even if you didn't built it], you have capital to use.

Warning: watch with care when you hear people talking about having a single purpose, especially with the word "win" in it.

I will help you to play better and win more games. The games, the rules, the definition of winning, they are up to you. But no matter what, our objective together is for you to win. Everything else we will do – and we’ll do a LOT – is a byproduct of that single purpose.

Again, I step forward and voice my opposition to this purpose statement for coaching.

Clearly, this is not what professional coaching is about in my opinion. In fact, I'm angry with Dave Buck for taking a platform like this and profligating such blather on unsuspecting followers.

Did I mention the "we" thing? Clearly, professional coaching, like leadership is being able to foster capability where it can occur. This allows people to make and solve different kinds of problems, but more so than this principle, professional coaching needs to lead the way to sustainable ends, through efficient and effective means.

A focus on greatness or winning is the inefficient and ineffective means to unsustainable action by anyone.

Not only is teaching our children this modality when they are young and impressionable in their encounters with athletic coaches and programs driven to win at all costs...we spend the rest of our lives trying to live out these fantasies, which makes what Dave is saying resonate with us, even if it is blind ambition.

The purpose of professional coaching is to create a safe place for people to discover, disclose and accept them selves, while discovering others, disclosing to others and receiving disclosure (feedback) towards an engagement of developing our selves, our processes, our systems and our ecology towards sustainable conditions for all.

Will people win? Of course. Will people lose? Undoubtedly. Yet, how you play the game is far more important than whether you win. And what happens as a result of you playing the game is without question much more important than focusing on winning--which at best, only creates losers.

Let me make a statement here about Generati.

Over the years, I've tried to promote in my own life and work, the concept I coined called Generati; like digerati or literai, a culture dedicated to a specific purpose: through efficient, effective means create sustainable ends.

There is no question, this is not easy, either for me, it's inventor, or for others that come across it in practice. It is formed on the pursuit of rightaction™: the right people, doing the right things, in the right ways, in the right space, at the right time, for the right reasons to get the rightsresults™.

Warning: be careful of singling out a purpose and following it without considering all the ramifications of the games you're playing and not playing!

Playing to win is not a common thing
I honor you for your courage; for your willingness to step out onto the field and give everything you have to your cherished objective – this game you love. Playing a game that truly matters takes guts and heart. Most people choose to go through the motions in other peoples games. Not YOU! You want to play your game and you want to win. I admire you for that. It is not a common thing.

Locker room speeches aside. I prefer the common. To focus, instead of on winning, to doing the work on my own path and when that comes into contact with others, serving their growth on their path towards a sustainable set of results for all humanity, for the entire planet, rather than merely focusing on how much guts and heart it takes to win. It takes a lot more guts to get hold of your own ego needs and serve others--I admire you for that.

Warning: surrender to the drive to play games, instead work steadily on a path or unfolding your unique gifts and talents. Be common.

Winning requires courage
Winning takes courage because in order to win, there MUST be the possibility of losing. If you can’t lose, it’s not really a game worth playing. And losing is hard. The truth is, you will lose some games, maybe a lot of games. But I promise you that each game lost will teach us something about what we need to do to help you play to win the next game.

Not winning takes more courage.

While we do learn in failure, the focus on either/or disturbs me greatly. There is no--either you win or lose--there is the journey of service, of becoming who you are, learning about others and engaging people. When that is competition that is no reason to focus on who wins or loses--although every game has one of each in the old paradigm.

I'm for throwing out the old paradigm, let's celebrate how well we played, how capability we created, and how sustainable we have become?

Warning: look beyond either/or, winning and losing, greatness or not.

Winning is a responsibility – But it’s FUN
The funny thing is, that while winning is a thrill, it’s hard too! Winning requires dedication, a willingness to focus and to practice. It also requires that you make sure your that whole world is in harmony with you and your game; this takes some work But the biggest challenge is that becoming a winner puts you in a position of responsibility. Once you start winning, people will look up to you, they will count on you and expect more winning from you. But if you are willing to take the responsibility, it can be A LOT OF FUN!

Clearly, the responsibility lies in learning that focus and practice have new meaning when we throw out the need to win, or to keep from losing. Our ego struggle is all about winning and losing...and keeping score. What about play?

Isn't a focus on play, on contribution, on service to your fellow teammates more important than whether you win or lose?

By putting forward the concept of winning as the be all, do all, we are focusing on the wrong leverage point and we're going to continue to fragment, to separate, to live unsustainably and unhappily.

There is far more power, authority, accountability and responsibility (PAAR) in deciding to move beyond winning and losing, to see past the world as being equal and into the prism of who we are as a person and as a people living on a planet hurtling through space.

Warning: ultimately, the responsibility lies with each of us, not to win, but to play.

How do I do what I do?
Well I have a process, a method, a way of working that is designed to help you win.

I have written extensively about the focus that the biggest majority of coaching pundits have on coaching process, or effectiveness. Translated, that means, I do this and you get that--a quid pro quo mentality with it's roots in the paradigm of either/or, winning or losing.

It's not my method, my process, or my way of working with you that matters. It's what you decide as rightaction...the specific paradigm you choose to become what you must become to serve and contribute.

Warning: be careful of processes that work for other people, in most cases they WON'T work for you!

Essentially we’ll do five things:

Clarify your game
What game are you playing? Why are you playing it? What does winning look like? What are the rules of your game and how do you keep score. Basically, in this phase I’ll be asking you a lot of questions and you’ll be doing a lot of thinking.

When the coach is talking, whether it is asking a lot of questions, or making statements, or giving feedback, it is about the coach. As developmental coaches concerned about building capability, we are not concerned with questions. We are not concerned with answers. A developmental coach is concerned about connection: the ability to notice, to observe the client's capability to notice and to serve their growth in capability to notice.

All of the doing can be done much more economically with management and leadership in one's life, or in one's business.

Coaching must be done in triangulation: triangulated with one's purpose or right action and one's behavior, in a constant flow of experience, reflection, conceptualization and experimentation. When we are short on any of these, we create lopsided learning and slow growth and development.

While clarification is an essential competence of coaching, it's really about connection at all levels that makes coaching efficient, effective and sustainable.

More often, the real work is done with appropriate silence and respect, rather than questioning--interrogation to solve often less important problems.

For those of you who don't understand why I focus so much on efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability...it's because in order to identify what intervention method a client should select, we should be able to select from many, as it's a complex world.

To many in coaching, coaching is this catch-all consulting process that anyone can do with anyone else. This is and has been a major error preventing the growth of coaching into the mainstream. Because coaches who are arrogant enough to view themselves as the one-stop shop to all your problems are continuing to practice under this illusion, coaching itself will struggle for years to come to find it's place among the array of methods proven to be successful in many different kinds of circumstances.

Warning: knowing what to do when is an art and science few coaches really understand!

Personalized skills and strategy
We’ll work together on practices that improve your skills. As your coach I’ll help you practice well so that you play well. Then we’ll work on your overall strategy as well as your game plan for each game day.

I want to point out that life and work is not about skills or skill development, per se. And coaching shouldn't be either. It's lots more efficient and effective to do skill development in a training atmosphere, or an atmosphere of teaching, usually where many people are being taught at the same time, so you can share and serve others while you learn!

If you look into standardized HR (human resources) practices, you will find an equal focus on knowledge, skill and ability (KSAs).

To focus on skills is assuming we already know enough and have the ability, that it is just a matter of skills development? In most cases, it will NOT be a skills issue. Again, you have to understand Dave's context as a soccer coach and how he is confused about what professional life and business coaching really is about.

Even with an understanding of KSAs, we know that life seldom revolves around KSAs. What my experience and more than 100 years of research has shown is that our lives revolve around our motivational ends. Skill acquisition actually is a byproduct of our motivation.

So, here's a coaching shortcut.

You find out what skills you're missing and I'll show you why you're not motivated to develop them...and that by developing those skills you've entered the realm of unsustainabilitiy. Find out what skills you have and put yourself in a position to use those over and over again, save your money that you would have spent on Dave's coaching and invest it in the areas where you currently have skills and make them better. Then make sure you look for a place that needs those.

Warning: before you work on skills, make sure it's skills that are the issue...it could be you're completely out of alignment with what you need to do or be.

Expand your awareness of the “inside game”
The simple truth about playing to win is this: the more you can see, the better you will play. This is where the “inside game” comes into the picture. If your thoughts or feelings or emotions are mixed up – and you are not aware of it – it will take you out of your game. We can’t have that. We need you to be all there at game time.

There is something in that paragraph that I can agree with.

The more you see...the more you see.

Now, how you are with that is what matters to you. Learn that you can't separate out your thoughts and feelings, that they are intersubjective, which means thoughts are not ever without feeling, that emotions are never separate from sensation, from knowing. Learn to play "with" your thoughts and feelings active...learn to notice what it means when thoughts and feelings come and go. Learn to recognize sensation and cognition of those feelings, emotions and motivations.

The game I agree is an internal game, but only in so far as you forget about the need to win, or the fear of losses.

Warning: focus on the full range of experience, noting where there are opportunities to consider how you sense, feel, react and are motivated.

Design your winning environment
My ultimate job with you is to help you design the world around you so that your game comes to life. Once your game comes to life the rest is easy. We’ll work on getting your friends and family into your game in a supportive way. We’ll organize your home and office so that there are no obstacles that prevent you from playing well. We’ll create a support team to take care of the things that help you win. And we’ll make sure that there are people around you who challenge you and inspire you.

I don't disagree with the subject here, it's one I wrote an entire book about a few years ago. The key is that if you notice closely this is about the coach figuring all of this out. What's more (and the main disagreement between myself and Thomas Leonard's clean sweep assessment that many coaches use in one form or another) is the nature of standardization. In everything I see in coaching, including all of the industry organizations is the "need" to standardize people.

in my view, each of us is different. We may not need family and friends around us to have an appropriate design. We may not need an organized home or office, or even for that matter to remove our "tolerations" (a favorite pet peeve of mine), even it was prudent to do so. Life is not about design, the design is about life. If you understand the subtlety here, you'll realize the first place to begin working is NOT on your design, but your own self-knowing.

Until self-knowledge is used to understand why and how we play, we will end up producing very inefficient, and effective, almost always unsustainable designs. Coaching is not a matter of spending a few weeks with an interior designer, or an organizational specialist?

Coaching has to do with creating capability to transcend design, to become resilient regardless of what life tosses at you. The only standard for resilience is self-knowledge and I've not seen that word, or paradigm offered here?

Warning: if anyone approaches you with a standarization method be wary--choose from among alternatives!

Evaluate wins and losses and learn from them
On a regular basis we will evaluate your progress. How are you doing? What have we learned from recent games? If we need to take a different course, this is where we will do it.

As long as it requires a coach for you to evaluate progress of success and failure, you have a co-dependency. Which in most cases prevents "on the ground" in the moment learning. This entire approach is directive and dominant on the person who is being coached, depending on coaching effectiveness, rather than client effectiveness.

Warning: learn to self-evaluate, self-correct and self-direct!

How is coaching unique?

You will notice that Dave doesn't take the time to show you that coaching has many facets, at least 5 major practice areas: personal, business, executive, career and organizational coaching, with many more sub-areas and branches. Until we distinguish these areas clearly in coaching, along with the major modalities of coaching: prescriptive (Dave's brand), developmental and most likely ontological, we can't really be clear on how we set ourselves a part from other professions.

Warning: coaching is not where coaches are everything to everyone!

Often players wonder what distinguishes a coach from some of the other wonderful helping professionals available. This is a BIG question. Here are a few quick thoughts to create a basic understanding…

A consultant will help you understand a situation and share expertise and knowledge;

I’ll share with you everything I know if and when you need it. If I don’t have some expertise you need, I will help you find it.

This statement is confusing. Dave basically has outlined above nothing more than a personal consulting paradigm. Therefore, his definition of a consultant qualifies his methods as consulting.

Although I do believe that Dave's methods fit best under what I would term loosely--prescriptive coaching--he seems to ride on all sides of the fence; showing you that his methods are consulting by his definition, and second, that if he's not good at what he is hired for, he'll help you hire other consultants?

Warning: be cynical about people who can't define what they do and how they specifically do it...people who are jack of all trades, are jack of all trades and not coaches in my opinion. Remember, there is no legal protection for either, beware of the snake oil people.

A counselor will share wisdom and help you make decisions

When you are troubled it is very hard to play well. I’ll do this whenever your trouble is related to the game we are playing. If it is outside the game, I’ll help if I can. If not, we’ll find you someone who can help.

This particular statement now has Dave indicating that his method is not only consulting, but counseling. I'm sure all the trained counselors out there would take offense to someone coming in and indicating that they will try to counsel you, and after they can't help you, they will find you someone. Does this not depend on the coach's skill at counseling to know when the person needs help?

If you think this is dangerous to people and the profession, read on!

Warning: refuse to work with people who claim things like this.

A therapist will help you heal wounds from the past

I have some skills in this area. But if the wound is too deep and we need a professional, I’ll help you find someone to help you. Then when you are ready, we’ll get you back into the game.

What in the world is too deep and who is deciding that?

Quite frankly folks, if you buy what he's said so far, you'll find yourself in deep doodoo, if you keep following this unprofessional advice! The ONLY people who should be working with people in any kind of therapy is a trained and licensed therapist. [period]

Stay away, completely away from dealing with these areas...but if you're not convinced, that the Dave Buck method is completely flawed, read the next one.

Warning: hire a coach who is NOT a therapist, or claims to be.

A psychologist will help you understand your behavior

Well, everyone knows that a coach is a part time psychologist because the mental game is so important to winning. But if we can’t figure out where you are blocked, we’ll call in an expert.

Don't you dare call me a part-time psychologist Dave Buck. I take offense at this notion. I am not, nor do I wish to be a psychologist.

psy·chol·o·gist [ sī kóll o jist ] (plural psy·chol·o·gists)


1. professional in psychology: a professional who studies behavior and experience, and who is licensed to provide therapeutic services or to work in an academic setting

Warning: psychologists don't make really good coaches unless they are "re-trained" and eliminate pathology-paradigms they are inculcated into during their psychology indoctrination--at least that is my experience with training them as coaches.

*Developmental Coach Training DOES improve their psychological work I have found, but they are not first a coach, but a psychologist coaching--while subtle, the difference is significant.

A trainer will teach you new skills

This is one of my main jobs as a coach. I’ll teach you the skills you need to win and I’ll design it just for you based on your situation. If we need to find you a specialist for some skill that you really need that I can’t teach you, we’ll do it.

Why hire an expensive coach when you can hire a trainer for 1/3 the cost? If you want to spend more money, you'll get a person who actually has been trained as a trainer and is a practicing trainer, a person who does it full time, instead of a pop trainer, pop psychologist, pop therapist, I think you get my drift here.

Remember what I've said guides you as a coach?

Efficient, effectiveness and sustainability.

Let trainers, train, therapists do therapy, psychologists do their thing and STOP before hiring a coaches that says they do all of this!

If you've ever played or watch major college or professional sports, you'll realize that the head coach these days doesn't do any real training, skill-building, or teaching. They focus on strategic direction, issues that are essentially beyond the behavior of individuals to the behavior of the system. I believe if you were going to take a lesson from athletics, this is the one to grab and leave most of the rest.

Warning: do not confuse coaching with training!

A Coach
As your coach, I’ll do any and all of those things when you need me to. But only when they will help you play better and win more games!

Many professionals are trained to stay uninvolved; to maintain a cool, professional detachment. And for most professions that is wise. But I am not like most other professionals. I am YOUR coach.

So… Will I be involved? Do I care about the outcome? Do I have a stake in it all?

Your damn right I’ll be involved! I want you to win. I want you to play well. I want you to be the best player you can be AND I want your life to be great at the same time.

I DO have a stake in the outcome. If you win, that helps me attract more great players who also want to win. THAT’S MY GAME; To coach great players in BIG games. By helping you win, that helps me win.

I promise to always keep my agenda clear and on the table AND I will never put my agenda before yours. But I do have an agenda: I want you to win.

I will console you when you lose. But it you don’t play well, I won’t be happy; I won’t say “It’s OK”. It’s NOT OK! Get your game together and get back out there!

I will maintain objectivity, though. I won’t get caught up in the swirl of your emotions; I won’t internalize your situation. If I did that I’d be of no use to you when the game gets tough. But I WILL BE INVOLVED. I do CARE. I WILL LOSE SLEEP if it’s not going well for you. And I will dance with joy when you win. WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER.


Keep Playing!

Your Coach.


This statement of purpose is in it's early stages but feel free to use any part of it in your work, conversations, web copy etc. (We do NOT request attribution on this, you are free to use it)

Share your thoughts via email to dave@coachville.com

Keep playing!
Coach Dave Buck

-------End Excerpt

This declaration is just an unfortunate and naive. It is not a well thought-through set of statements. While a disclaimer exists below, to me, it is unprofessional to make statements like this and put them into the generally confused public, more over to try to convince new coaches that this is the way to go is a disservice.

Professional coaching needs to break away from the prescriptive nature of athletic-coaching. Athletic coaching deals with individuals engaged in being taught a sport.

Unfortunately, athletic coaches could learn a lot from professional coaching about the nature of working with people outside of purely prescriptive, directive or cheerleading means.

Dave indicates that he has little knowledge of the vast array of tools that are available to professional coaches and like he says, he's interested in quid pro quo...you win so he wins.

To me, I've had enough of this world.

I will continue to teach the coaches that come into contact with me, that what Dave is saying is nothing more than a cul de sac--a very dangerous one, to coach, to client and to the industry.

Coaches SHOULD NOT try to practice beyond their immediate expertise.

Coaches SHOULD learn as much as they can about how to interact with clients without assuming any PAAR over their outcomes.

And finally, if coaches like Dave Buck are so arrogant to think that it is "their" coaching which has produced success with clients, instead of the client's effectiveness and most likely timing, then the coaching industry is in a sad state of affairs.

I have written extensively about coaching and all the items that I mentioned above. If you wish to read more intensively about any of the topics I mentioned, feel free to visit my personal website, or join us at Leadership University for coach training.


Until then,

Still time to reach my inner circle….

Purchase my new book in private launch: http://www.cprforthesoul.com/private