The King’s Speech : Rupture & Repair in Coaching

We are delighted this week to feature another guest blogger, Fi Macmillan. If you would like to blog on a theme related to Challenging Coaching then please get in touch. Here is Fi’s brilliant analysis of Lionel Logue’s challenging coaching role in the film ‘The King’s Speech:-

Observing Lionel Logue’s virtuoso performance in creating a high support, high challenge coaching relationship in the film, ‘The King’s Speech’ I started to wonder  how the strength of such a relationship is built?  How can a relationship endure such high levels of rupture and repair?  Research shows that better outcomes result when the cycle of rupture and repair occur[1] than if it is absent.

The King and Logue’s relationship sustained three cycles of rupture and repair before the King could overcome the ‘impossible’, his speech defect, and address his subjects, a quarter of the world’s population, at the outset of World War II.  Coaching stakes don’t get much tougher than that! So what do we have to learn from how Logue sets about it?

  • Clarity from the coach about what he needs to do his work well

Crashing through the barriers of social etiquette, and professional convention, Logue sets the parameters from the beginning.  ‘My castle, my turf, my rules’.  Effectively, you come to my practice rooms, I call you by your first name, you come every day and we are equals.  Logue brings authority, challenge and confidence to the relationship from the start. 

  • Absolute belief in his ability to create success

Logue does not have the qualifications.  His successful method comes from practice, reflection and improved practice, building in a virtuous circle.  ‘I can cure your husband if he wants to be cured’, he says to Bertie’s wife. 

  • Masterful rapport building

In an elegant dance of challenge, humour and encouragement, Logue builds the connection with Bertie.  If Bertie doesn’t want to meet the challenge, Logue presents it differently.   He holds his boundaries with such love and clarity that Bertie has no choice but to face the work that Logue knows needs to be done.   This challenge involves rupture in the relationship – in the first meeting, pre-abdication and pre-coronation.  Yet Bertie reconnects with Logue because he is being emotionally ‘held’ and so each rupture in the relationship is followed by repair. 

  • Keeping the client on their learning edge

Logue knows his field.  Bertie is deeply challenged by the circumstances of his relationship with Logue – familiarity, talking about personal matters, facing that he has to speak publically.  Yet he is held to this challenge by Logue as he is coached towards change – speech practice, physical toning, inquiry into the roots of his stammer, facing the implications of constitutional crisis, asserting himself against the establishment.  With Logue’s unwavering affection and support for Bertie, his confidence builds.

What I notice about all of this is that there are some unconventional threads in this model that give me pause for thought about how I practice in my own coaching work:-

  • What do I need to practice at my best, and to what extent is that negotiable?
  • What do I know about how I create success best with my clients?
  • What is the necessary challenge for this client, even if it creates rupture?

Logue did not set out to create rupture.  He set out to create success.  Holding a necessary challenge with Bertie created rupture.  And the loving relationship allowed repair.  Rupture and repair together created the equity for a transformative relationship from uncertain beginnings.

Please add your thoughts and comments via our LinkedIn challenging coaching group

Fi Macmillan is an executive coach, member of EMCC, and is contactable at fi@withflyingcolours.com.


[1] De Haan, E.  Relational Coaching, p151.  UK, John Wiley & Sons.

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