David C. Logan and John King believe that a real leader at any
level is also a coach. The key to problem solving is identifying
the right problem from the beginning and saying what you'll do
about it. In this two-part interview to be published in the March
and April issues of ASTD Links, they describe the values-driven
approach they have used with their consulting clients, including
Virgin Megastores, IBM, Genentech, Cisco, and Intel.
Q. What qualities make a solution brilliantly
John King: We like a solution that is really a
solution not simply a Band-Aid. The solution should have a broad
cultural impact, which is ubiquitous. For example, after conducting
a needs analysis and cultural research that involves interviews
with key personnel, we might work with the client and their team to
develop an individual and team core values-driven strategy. Next,
we might support them to implement those strategies. I think it was
Marcus Aurelius who said, "A question well framed is half the
answer." This is the heart of the matter in coaching - working with
the client so that they can actually, effectively, eloquently, and
contextually frame their problem, their issue, and their concern.
David Logan: If you keep listening to the client
and you keep inquiring, and you keep framing, the solution usually
resides inside this framing process. The coach and client work
together to pull the solution out from that discussion.
Consequently, how well you coach is often a function of how well
you listen and hear what was actually said. What is said, however,
is not always expressed in words. Rather, it might be expressed
indirectly in the attention paid to something or it might be inside
of the values behind the words. What is driving this person? What
mechanisms can be created to help them operate in a way that this
driver is trued up to some sort of dream vision or noble cause that
they are invested in? How do we cause a train wreck between their
values and the noble cause so that their passions collide with the
particular project they we are working on?
Q. As a coach, how do you determine what drives a
person? Is it a coach's job to motivate people in
the service of a noble cause?
DL: No, coaches don't teach motivation per se. As
a coach, I'm not so much interested in motivating you. Rather, I'm
much more interested in WHAT motivates you. What are the values
that light your fire? How do I get you organized around living your
life with some sort of correlation to those values? You'll motivate
yourself once you are focused on your core values.
Q. What does it feel like to craft a brilliantly simple
DL: It feels great. You know immediately that you
have contributed something of value to the client.
Q. How do you know you've discovered a brilliant
DL: The issues involved tangibly shift from one of
entanglement to one of clarity and harmony. You can now see the
forest and the trees and the way through the forest at the same
Q. How did you originally develop your coaching
DL: We developed our theories in conversations
with each other, and the smartest people that we knew, or could get
to. We alpha tested it on MBA students; beta tested it for two
years on a high-power, world-class health provider. Next, we
cleaned, corrected, and trued the model up. Finally, we customized
the product for various clients. In fact, we developed most of the
model five years before we wrote this book.
Q. As you developed your model of coaching, who were your
most significant influences?
JK: We are influenced by the cool stuff going with
the really cool thinkers out there. For example, the John Kotters,
the Peter Senges, and other "hot thinkers" influence our work. The
classical thinkers - the Aristotles, the Platos and the Socrates of
the old world - heavily inform us. Dave and I are both humanists.
We both have a liberal education and are heavily informed by that
tradition. Dave's specialty is organizational communication theory.
He is familiar with all of the people who are around that and
fields that are associated with that, such as cultural anthropology
and sociology. I am heavily influenced by quantum mechanics and
chaos theory. I'm not interested in quantum mechanics from a
physics point of view. Rather, I am intrigued by how chaos theory
applies to people. When Dave and I sat down and had a critical mass
of Starbuck's lattes in us, we began to talk and the models began
DL: We developed a series of coaching models for
business, which we found have implications for how we live our
lives. Most significantly, we are not interested in protecting the
exclusive intellectual property represented in our models. This
approach might work if you have the formula for Coke. In contrast,
we developed our models by involving our clients as partners in the
development of the material. In essence, we are committed to
positively impacting a company and less committed to seeing our
name on the bottom of each and every handout that mentions our
Q. How can others use your methods to construct their own
brilliantly simple solutions?
DL: Our method is not a big mystery. To construct
effective, elegant solutions, people need to learn to think
strategically. The problem, however, is that most of us have not
been trained to think that way. More often than not, our education
system trained us to respond tactically. While useful, a tactical
approach is insufficient when one needs to construct brilliantly
To learn to think strategically, you must be immersed in, think
from, and operate in, a new domain that you have not been trained
in. The literal experience would be something like a good
basketball player being asked to operate effectively as a brain
surgeon. He has all of the physical abilities, and even the
intelligence - he has simply not had the training. After all,
basketball and brain surgery are two different domains. As a coach,
you want to take someone who can score, and then train them to
operate in a very delicate area of people's brains - the
environment that strategy ultimately works in. The good news is
that it is not that hard, once you sort yourself out around your
tactical education and begin to take on a strategic education.
Learning how to think strategically is, in fact, fun for most
Q. Although corporations need their key people to become
world class, many companies seldom get beyond a class or training
model that assumes people don't need individual attention. Why is
the traditional classroom-training model still so widely used if it
is so inadequate?
DL: The classroom-training model was designed over
a century ago as a solution to a particular problem. The problem
was that children were running around in factories, getting hurt,
maimed and even killed. The solution designed at the time was to
warehouse the children in factory-model schools, where they were
taught rudimentary skills until they went to work in the factory.
The children were trained to come up with answers, rather than to
think for themselves. They were taught to be patient, to be loyal
to the school, and then to the company. Unfortunately, we forgot
that this solution was merely a solution to a past problem and not
a detailed template for education in a broader sense. As our
culture transitioned from a manufacturing economy to an information
economy, we did not match our educational model to our new societal
objectives, which are to train people to be effective in an
information and service economy. In other words, regarding our
educational model, we are asleep at the wheel.
JK: I would add to that the classroom-training
model is the easiest, cheapest way for people in human resources
and other fields to prove that they are developing people. Trainers
who employ the classroom-training model take absolutely no risk.
For example, no one ever got fired for running a situational
leadership-training seminar (that you can deliver to 60 people at a
pop) even if it was ineffective or off the mark. Students - all of
us - were originally trained to learn new things through the
comparison and contrast method. When something new is presented to
students, for example, it is often presented inside a comparison
and contrast framework (which is what the classroom model uses). In
a comparison and contrast framework, we have been trained to say,
"I've got it. I've learned it. I know that." In fact, however, this
is not always the case.
DL: Why would someone say, "I've got it. I've
learned it." when they really have not? Education has three
components: comparison, contrast, and experience. Education is
inherently experiential. A subject matter is not understood until
you can apply what you absorbed from comparison and contrast
experientially, which is the hard lesson most college graduates
find out after they leave college. Although they might have
successfully mastered learning based on comparison and contrast in
the classroom, in the workspace they discover that they don't know
anything - until they can actually apply it experientially. Real
learning, real application of the learning, then, doesn't start
until you experience it. The classroom almost never provides that
experience, but the people in the classroom actually believe that
they have learned when they haven't. The classroom-training model
is primarily effective if what you are teaching is rudimentary
When it comes to refining what people can do, however, and trying
to make them world class, the classroom-training model is totally
inadequate. For example, can you imagine running a class for the
people who are going to go try to win gold for the United States in
the next Olympics? A class for U.S. gold metal athletes makes no
sense at all. I guarantee you that every single one of those
world-class athletes has their own coach.
Q. Olympians competing for the gold are all unique people,
uniquely driven champions. They already know what they need to do;
they just need help focusing.
DL: They also need to see where their blind spots
JK: No one really appreciates what he is truly
capable of. Almost everyone thinks that they have gone 100 percent,
when a coach looks at them and says, "You know what? You've gone 30
percent." I think for a lot of people that is their blind spot -
they are blind to their true potential. In our consulting practice,
we often find that many people are blind to their raw ability -
they simply underestimate themselves. Or, sadly, some people think
that they are capable of much more than they really are, which is
another type of blind spot. Coaching, then, is all about focusing
on the blind spots.
ASTD Field Editor George Hall teaches in the College of Business
Administration at the University of Phoenix;
Dave Logan is co-founder and senior partner of CultureSync, a
management consulting firm specializing in cultural change,
strategy, and negotiation. Currently, he teaches leadership and
negotiation in the University of Southern California's Executive
MBA program and is on faculty at the Center for Medical Excellence
in Portland and the International Center for Leadership In Finance
in Kuala Lumpur, endowed by the former prime minister of Malaysia;
John King is a founding partner and president of CultureSync. King
is part of the leadership development team at Sierra Health
Foundation and is on faculty at Collier's University, CB Richard
Ellis University, and The California Leadership Institute. He is
also a frequent guest lecturer in the Marshall School of Business
and the School of Public Policy, Planning, and Development at the
University of Southern California; firstname.lastname@example.org.
2010 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.