Finally got to see The King’s Speech last night, a great film and no doubt this weekend Colin Firth will add the Oscar to the Bafta he has already won for the role.
I thought Geoffrey Rush was also brilliant in his role as the King’s Speech Therapist and he has also been nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
As well as being a good film I also found it interesting to watch the techniques employed by Rush’s character to help Bertie (Firth) overcome his stammer. We had already seen a variety of “leading experts” try to help him, all with no success. The one we saw in the film spoke with great authority and tried a number of techniques to help solve his problem but only seemed to manage to increase Bertie’s frustration. In the clips we saw there seemed to be a complete lack of empathy with the Prince (as Bertie was then)
Enter Lionel (Rush) with a completely different approach. The first thing he did was demonstrate that Bertie could actually talk without stammering, thus proving to Bertie that this was a mental issue and not a physical one. Lionel had a number of exercises, techniques and “tricks” to use to improve the situation Bertie faced, but the main emphasis for his method was to try and encourage Bertie to identify what had actually caused Bertie to start stammering in the first place. As he pointed out babies didn’t start talking with a stammer, instead it was something they learned to do as a reaction to an event in their lives. If Bertie could understand what caused the stutter he would be taking the first steps to overcoming the problem.
All too often in coaching and training situations people tend to focus on dealing with the effects of a situation rather than examining the cause and trying to resolve this instead. Training on the effects can be done but only tends to be a short term solution. If you want to invoke long lasting change it is critical to gain an understanding of and then deal with the cause. The better someone can understand the triggers that lead to a particular type of behaviour or thinking, the better placed they are to modify that behaviour to meet the desired goals.
I have been doing some work with a group of managers recently to show them how coaching techniques can be used to improve performance. One of the main factors in this is to understand that it is not enough to simply use the techniques with their people. They need to combine this with a greater understanding of what makes their people tick and how best to motivate them. This will then improve the effectiveness of the training provided, and increase the ownership of the outcomes with the individuals involved.
This is something that Lionel does very well in The Kings Speech. It takes him a while to break Bertie down, but he uses a laid back style with a humorous approach to relax Bertie, thus helping reduce the stress that Bertie feels and is only adding to the pressure of the situations Bertie finds himself in. Once Bertie has accepted Lionel’s approach and the manner in which he challenges him he is far more receptive to trying different methods and techniques.
The question to ask yourself when dealing with a training/coaching issue is to ask yourself what is causing this behaviour/action/result? If you can attribute it to something else, then you are dealing with an effect.
e.g. A financial institution I am familiar with has just introduced a CRM system for their workforce. Their goal is to ensure that customers are contacted on a regular basis about the various products that they might be interested in. If the employee doesn’t talk about the relevant products in the correct time frame it will throw up a warning flag (assuming the employee fills in the information correctly!). It’s a good system and offers many benefits to employees and customers alike. However the system is merely dealing with the effect of not enough sales in particular areas. What they also need to do is gain a better understanding of why the sales aren’t already happening. Is it a lack of skills (the ability to sell the product) or knowledge (knowledge about the product and the process) or is it an attitude (desire to sell) issue? Having a flag on a system telling you this is the week to mention x product to a,b,c customers isn’t necessarily going to increase sales, having the aptitude or confidence to maximise on the opportunities presented will. As yet, the company concerned do not appear to have plans in place to reinforce the knowledge, skiils and attitude required to improve performance.
If you haven’t already seen it (and hopefully I haven’t given too mch of the plot away!) The King’s Speech is well worth watching. Another film good for demonstrating the difference between a good coaching technique and a poor one is My Fair Lady. Rex Harrison plays Henry Higgins, another Speech Therapist, and he also shows how important it is to have an understanding and belief in the person being coached in order for them to achieve specific goals.
Is an Oscar an effect of great acting?
If people change their perception of you when you win an Oscar, is the Oscar the cause?
What other films/TV shows are out there that show coaching in action?