Continuing the series on the Coaching Proficiencies, drawing on my notes of the Certified Coach Intensive in Sydney, 2003, run by the late – and great – Thomas Leonard.

As the learning notes on this proficiency state, the key distinction here is greatness vs. success.

It was a real flash of awareness for me when Thomas Leonard spoke about this proficiency in Sydney in 2003, and said that (as the learning notes say, but I paid more attention to what was said than what I read 🙂 ) greatness is a natural state and anyone can enter this state. A coach is often the catalyst for this event and Thomas observed that the key word here is “elicits” (not pushes, not teaches, but elicits) – shades of Socrates method of teaching.

Examples of eliciting greatness are:

  • Asking for higher standards
  • Asking for “absence of” something (as in, “What would your life be like without those things that are holding you back?”)
  • Asking for a much bigger game

I was quite inspired when I heard Thomas say that “greatness affords a lifetime of achievement”.

Sometimes, explaining to friends and colleagues what it is that I most love about coaching I tell them that this proficiency is my driving objective and what gives me satisfaction – eliciting greatness in clients.

And what about these observations, courtesy Thomas again, we could make to a client (or to ourselves!):

“Maybe your life purpose is just to be great”

“Maybe it’s time for the rest of your life just to be great”

In fact, Thomas himself wrestled for years with trying to identify his “life purpose” and finally decided to let go of the burden of that struggle and began simply “to be great” – as in greatness without the ego.

At the Certified Coach Intensive in Sydney, when he put out an invitation for a volunteer for a demo coaching practice, Thomas asked “Who is ready for a leap in greatness?”.

Thomas spoke about the idea of “gapping the game” – make it larger, for example, instead of aiming to increase revenue by 10%, double it. And putting it another way, “perfect something”, for example perfect a relationship, rather than just improving it.

And here’s a question that could work for any situation in any kind of coaching, to elicit greatness – ask: “To be great in this situation what change is to be called for?”

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).