The Music of Coaching

March 2005

I love music. Country, rock, jazz, classical..there is nothing like music to make a day complete. This week I was listening to our Baltimore NPR station interview Joe Bonamassa, a blues and rock musician. The cuts the station played of his music were riveting in their power and artistry. As I listened to Mr. Bonamassa talk about the blues and his guitar playing, I thought of the analogies to our coaching work.

Mr. Bonamassa stressed that playing blues/jazz guitar takes years of daily practice to bring his music to the level of mastery he has achieved. We’re talking plain hard work, hours-long practice sessions, sore hands and calloused fingers. He also studies different music genres and other gifted musicians to perfect his own craft. In our coaching work, we often spend a lot of time on skill development. Your homework may involve practicing the skills we identify as necessary for success in your career. I try to design each client’s coaching to meet their unique needs, and to build on skills and strengths that are already present while introducing new ones. You may also study other role models (or even the competition) who possess skills that you want to emulate. I endeavor to make our work fun, while grounded in good old-fashioned hard work.

After this discussion of how he gains the requisite skills to play an electric guitar, Mr. Bonamassa surprised me by saying “chords are simple.” There are, apparently, only a handful of chords that the musician plays in a blues piece. What gives music depth and complexity is the musician’s inflection, coupled with the unmistakable influence of his or her heart and soul. Our work, in my opinion, is much like that; most of us can master the skills required to run a business or a department. What sets you apart is the ability to breathe life into your work by bringing yourself into it on many levels. One of the ways you do this is to come to a clear understanding of your values or guiding principles. Another is to identify what you are passion about, and how you can reflect that in your work. Sometimes, it is merely a matter of giving yourself permission to bring more of who you really are into your work.

This month, I hope that your world is filled with music, and that you affirm in yourself both your growing skills and that which makes you and your contribution unique.

Sharon Keys Seal

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