How Life Coaches Can Learn From the Movie The King’s Speech

I’m a big fan of using movies and their prevalent themes to demonstrate valuable lessons we can integrate into our own lives. The King’s Speech is one I refer to often. This remarkable movie stars Geoffrey Rush (Shine, Quills) as Lionel Logue, Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Great Expectations) as Queen Elizabeth II, and Colin Firth (Pride and Prejudice, Love Actually) as Albert, “Bertie”, the Duke of York, the stammering noble who would come to stir the confidence of a war-torn nation as King George VI.

Plan First, Then Take Action

When the Duke of York arrives at Lionel’s office for the first time, he is greeted by a young boy – another of Lionel’s clients – who struggles endearingly through a rehearsed greeting. We see the Duke is obviously moved by this, though he remains silent as the young lad works his way to the final word. Those of us who have witnessed how sweet and tender the Duke is with his own daughters have to wonder if he is thinking of his children, or his own childhood.

Whether this brief exchange is intentionally staged for the sake of the Duke, or simply another exercise with one of his clients, is unknown to the viewer, but Lionel immediately sets the tone for the potential success he can experience if he chooses to work with yet another expert. After all, when that young boy started with Lionel he couldn’t speak a word. Watching Lionel confidently demonstrate the sort of success the Duke can expect, without being boastful or obvious, is a thing of beauty.

Boosting Confidence Requires Confidence

Doubts are bound to happen, for client and coach alike, and we see this happen to Lionel as well. The pressure seems sometimes insurmountable as Lionel comes to realize the great man “Bertie” could become if he ascends to the throne. Yet Lionel remains attentive to the needs of his client first, as a human struggling to exorcise a lifetime of hurt, not as the would-be king who could stir a Nation with his voice.

The lesson to take away from this is Lionel never gives up, and more importantly, never doubts the chance for the Duke’s success. Lionel knows that Bertie can overcome his challenges because he’s worked with others who have been equally bad off, or worse. Each individual moves at their own pace, remain attentive to the journey and have faith you can reach the destination.

6 Coaching Insights to Glean From The King’s Speech

· Set a level playing field– Lionel sets the tone straight away by insisting that meetings take place in his office, and they call one another by familiar first names, no matter how lofty the title or protocol which might demand otherwise. Lionel’s simple comment of “my castle, my rules” demonstrates Bertie will need to step outside his comfort zone to achieve success. When an imbalance of power exists between a coach and client it’s difficult to achieve the necessary environment of comfort and peace.

· There’s no “I” in Team – Bertie’s supportive wife played an equally invaluable role in Bertie’s coaching as Lionel’s sometimes-whacky methods of training. Though Lionel doesn’t reveal the identity of his client to his family, we see that Lionel enjoys his own support circle as well Lionel is committed to Bertie’s success, and works intensively with him, but not at the risk of his own need to grounded, objective, and centered. A good coach recognizes that a strong support system equals a springboard to success and invites these trusted people to be involved in the journey.

· Be Human – No matter one’s levels of degrees, birthright, or status, at the end of the day we are all just people trying to do our best. Lionel and Bertie established a long working relationship built upon mutual trust and acceptance, something which was established early on when Lionel insisted they not only meet in his shabby office, but they also address one another on a first name basis. Even though your clients will seek you out as a source of strength and guidance, it’s important to relate on a level of one person to another, no more, no less.

· Learn From Experience– Nothing worth having ever comes easy. Lionel’s thirty years of experience was the very thing Bertie needed when riddled with the sorts of doubts and flares of temper which are natural to all healing experiences. When most novice coaches would cut and run in the face of verbal abuse and heightened emotion, Lionel provides a blend of tough love and unflappable calm, the likes of which can only come from years of working with others.

· Be Flexible and Innovative – Lionel’s methods of working are kooky, even counter to the suggestions of Bertie’s physician (smoking relaxes the larynx – ha!), but he approaches each task with the comfortable ease of one who knows his stuff. A great coach recognizes that not every client is the same and what works for one may not work for another.

· Take the Risk of an All or Nothing Approach –Perhaps what makes Lionel so admirable is the way in which he engages fully with Bertie. While most individuals in Bertie’s environment bow and supplicate to the Duke in some fashion, Lionel speaks to him as an equal, in sometimes brutally direct terms. The sort of trust required for this sort of difficult communication can only be built over time, through being completely open and authentic.

There is No Substitute for Hard Work

In the course of just a few hours we witness Bertie’s transformation from the stammering Duke Albert, to the poised and eloquent King George VI. The truth of the matter is Lionel and Bertie worked together for a decade before delivering the speech upon which this wonderful movie is based. They also continued to work together as coach and friends for many years after. We often hear that people enter our lives for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. Though your clients seek you for a reason, and may only last a season, be ready to work with them for a lifetime.