The King’s Speech – A coaching story worth the Oscar

Many of you have most probably watched the movie “The King’s speech”. This movie is a coaching story that every single coach must absolutely watch.

Geoffrey Rush (playing Lionel Louge, a speech therapist) uses coaching in treating severe speech disorder of Colin Firth (playing King George V). In hard times, when entire world is slowly slipping into war, a state needs a trustworthy and reliable king. The king that is able to keep the nation’s spirits up in the darkest of times. The stakes are very high.

As the King’s therapist, while working on his voice Lionel is also paying close attention to his complete personality, especially deeply rooted beliefs that couldn’t have been handled by traditional means. Lionel’s method is extraordinary and as a coach he:

  • Insists on an authentic relationship, not allowing the role of the King to fully determine it. Lionel talks to an ordinary man, even referring to him as His Royal Highness Bertie. The roles we have in life provide us with the sense of identity that makes us feel safe and makes our world predictable. Increased identification with the roles is often making personal change very difficult. In this coaching story, it is the task of a coach to counter all the negative and limiting assumptions regarding the role in order to make his client behave in a different way than usual.
  • Doesn’t allow ego to interfere while working with such a famous client. When he heard who the client was for the first time, we were able to see that he answered the call shortly. After that, he went back to his routine immediately, insisting that even the Duke of York must come to his place and ask for help personally.
  • Has positive attitude, constantly believes in change and shows strong belief that the King is able to learn to speak properly. The coach believes in his client even when the client is not able to see all of his potentials on his own.
  • Raises the bar very high in order to achieve success. For example, working with King can turn out to be successful only if it is done on a daily basis in Lionel’s office. The coach must insist on conducting the coaching process in a way that is the most suitable for his client. If the process is adjusted now and then in order to meet some instant wishes of a client, there will be no required results.
  • Involves entire body into the process by asking from George to even roll around the floor, shake his body and release himself from his old patterns and beliefs by doing so. Bad habits are also rooted in our body: playing, dancing and making your body move might lead to discovering new possibilities.
  • Makes the king question himself. Lionel confronts George with the reality of his stammering not being as unbeatable as he has always thought. Moments in which he reveals that he is perfectly capable of even reading Shakespeare fascinate him, as well as the moments in which Lionel makes him angry. These moments are opening new possibilities for him, they show him that permanent change is possible, and they strengthen his dedication to the entire process. When we detect cracks in our beliefs, we are then able to see and expand our expectations about building something new.
  • Insists that George regularly practices new habits and ways in his behavior. Eccentric Lionel knows from his experience what methods work and he makes the King do his part well.
  • Practicing is the essence of creating sustainable change and growth. Neuroplasticity (a term Lionel has never heard of) enables changing even deeply rooted behavior and patterns of thinking. It’s all about practicing.

After all, everything that we learn in this coaching story must be applied in practice. We will now quote Yoda, who says: ‘Do. Or do not. There is no try.’ It’s that moment in which our desires and tendencies face reality. The moment in which the ideal confronts the real.

Brilliant last scene in which King George addresses the nation (the third of the entire world’s population at that time) is filled with tension, but the King’s capacity to surpass the old ways is also there, being put on a test in an amazing moment.

There’s so much to be noticed in this movie. In the case you have already watched it, watch it again with everything previously written in your mind. In the case you still haven’t, make it your priority since you will be able to recognize coaching in it, although the term of coaching did not exist at that time.

What are the things from this movie that could be used in coaching? In what way can you become even more supportive to your client? Are you ready to make some very big demands for your client regarding the conditions, in order to improve the quality of coaching?

What are some of the elements of coaching that you have noticed from Lionel, that we could use as well?

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