Reality Coaching – Real Coaching – A Case Study

leadership competence discussion appraisalIntroduction

Have you noticed that over the past few years the use of the word ‘coaching’ has been increasing within the business environment?  What started this trend? Was it that coaching really works or was it that companies started to outsource their training departments and as a consequence it was more cost effective to ‘train’ one on one?

What ever the reason the reality is that coaching is here and it is here to stay.

So what makes a good (or great) coach – well that is the easy one – results.  How you determine success however is not always as straight forward as it should be.

In this series of short articles I will outline my unique approach and talk you through some of the methods and approaches I use for success.

So who is Mike Morrison?

I started out as an engineer and ‘fell ‘into people development almost by accident some 20 years ago, and has never looked back since.  I have undertaken a wide range of coaching training with several ‘schools’ and found them all to add valuable ingredients.  Like cooking, the success of coaching is adaptability rather than a fixed formula.

Over the years I have worked with Olympic athletes, sports people, TV & media personalities as well as a wide range of successful leaders, managers and entrepreneurs from the public and private sectors.

Methods and tools used in coaching:

Unlike many coaches, I do not use just one methodology or ‘school of thinking’, I adapt my approach to the client, their needs and expectations. Often mixing methods from different disciplines provides the blend required for success.   Let’s explore one particular ‘client’

Introduction to the case study

I received a phone call asking for a coach for a Racing Driver.  At the time he was described as being very good in his class but overall always second and just missing the top slot.  The driver recognised the need for some assistance to change.  It was half way through the season and the team were hoping for enough changes to impact the season’s scores.  Personality and relationship between coach and client is critical for success at this level, so after a brief telephone discussion an introductory meeting was set up to see if the chemistry would or would not work.  Let’s call him ‘Jerry’.

The first meeting

We met with the purpose of each other starting to learn and understand each others motivation. The discussion was loose and fluid, exploring likes and dislikes, turn-on’s and offs as well as a range of common ground discussions.  After about 1 hour, I turned the discussion to Jerry and his aspirations in driving for the short and long term.  I asked lots of probing questions testing for depth of thought and included the “five why” technique.  Just what was it that Jerry Really wanted?  How much did he want it and how much (emotionally) was Jerry prepared to invest.  I checked and rechecked Jerry’s goals from different perspectives.

During this conversation I calibrated the relationship in terms of NLP based Meta programmes and modalities**, as well as started to understand Jerry’s motives for success.

At this point I believed that Jerry wants to achieve the stated goals, is prepared to invest time and effort.  And critically I believed that I could work with Jerry.  This is an important decision and from experience of colleagues, I believe that coaching often fails because the coaching relationship is ‘too professional’ or ‘too causal’.  It must be based upon trust and respect.  It is not in my experience about working with any client – well not at this level.

Then comes the crunch question “Jerry on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is very comfortable and 1 is really not sure about this, how do you feel about working with me?”  After some consideration and a lot of head nodding “7 … I think this will be tough”.  This is the answer I need needs to continue.

The next day I called the manager and agreed to take Jerry on.  The structure for the initial agreement is set and agreed.   In an ideal situation the first session would be to clarify desired results, time scales, preferred frequency and duration of sessions.  In this case the need was urgent and reactionary so this pre planning and diagnosis phase would have to happen after the first coaching session – not an ideal place to start from.  I also prefer a lot more face to face time than was going to be possible with this assignment.

The first coaching meeting

Time was short before Jerry’s next race, so I proposed a telephone session.  It’s the evening before the next race.  After checking that Jerry was in a quiet place away from distractions I knew I could begin:


“Ok Jerry what is it that you would like to get out of this session this evening”


I’m not really sure


Ok what would make our time today seem like its been worth spending g the time


Me winning tomorrow


Let’s start with that, Can you imagine yourself winning tomorrow?


In the qualifying laps yes


What about the races themselves (there would be 2)


No – something always goes wrong in the race


In what way?


Well the car does not perform, mechanical problems


What is interesting to me is that you can see yourself doing well in qualifiers but not in the races


Yes! – I generally do well in the qualifying but do not seem to be able to carry it through to the races themselves


Can you imagine a time in the near future when you can see yourself winning?


No not really…

The above dialogue is an example only not a true record of the session.

The discussion went on, I kept using encouraging language with Jerry to find the reasons why he saw barriers to his success, reflected back to times in the past when Jerry had been successful during races.

This was a slow and difficult process, as Jerry was tending to focus on the performance of the vehicle and his competitors – he did not appear to realise that he was creating excuses why he was not performing consistently.  But this was not the time to raise these issues.

Some goals were set to take each part of the race day as it come with jerry being asked to focus on what could go right.  The following day I spoke to Jerry in between races, to check how he was reacting to what he was experiencing.

Meeting Number 2

Now we had some common experiences to work with.  The next race was 2 weeks away, and on a track that Jerry was not very familiar with.  I asked Jerry what sort of preparation he did for each race, his reply was – “well I prepare the car, go to the gym, look after my diet and fitness”

But no mental preparation.  We started with agreeing for Jerry to have the goal of getting hold of a copy of the track layout and imagining that he was driving around the circuit.  Jerry said he would do this.  I also did some visioning work around his attitude to the race day itself, and to start setting goals for the day, and ‘rehearsing’ how the races would go and how he would feel.

The night before the next day of racing.

We agreed a telephone session and I called at the allotted time.  After checking that Jerry was in a ‘comfortable and private place I did a recap of the goal setting and discussed how the ‘mental preparation’ has gone.  Jerry said that he was feeling good and positive.  The remainder of the 2 hour telephone session focused on expecting success and focusing on what Jerry can control and influence.

A phone call from Jerry’s manager in the evening following the racing asks “what did you do? He won both races; he appears much more relaxed and confident.

I thought that was the easy part – sustaining the performance now that was going to be the challenge.

The subsequent sessions focused on what Jerry could control and on practicing mentally rehearsing the race.  Race results were mixed with Jerry either winning or going out because of significant technical malfunctions.

As time went on I noted that Jerry was not putting the effort into the mental preparation before racing, it was easier for Jerry to concentrate on the ‘faults or actions of others’ or on the fact that his competitors were better than him.

Jerry really could not get into the habit of believing his abilities.

At the end of the season I decided that the relationship had gone as far as practicable.  The manager was disappointed as she was happy that significant progress had been made and wanted to continue.  A new coach was found.

Key gains for the client (as stated by his manager)

  • More confident attitude to racing
  • More confident in his self belief
  • Less focused upon events outside his control
  • Less likely to blame others

Further learning opportunities (as proposed by the coach)

  • To practice visualising success more often – building the habit
  • Taking mental development and preparation as seriously as physical

** NLP methods

This article is © Mike Morrison 2006-2009 All rights reserved. If you wish to circulate this article please contact the author via this site – no reasonable request refused. The Names of people times and places have been changed to protect my clients.

Management and Leadership development are importent to you and of course to the team here at RapidBI. We hope you find this information valuable, if you do please tweet or facebook like this page. Thanks

Check Out Mike Morrison's Book on Organizational Development - Theory and Practice, for tools and tips on developing organizations, managers and leaders on Amazon and Kindle

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About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.


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