Coaching 101: Not a Mouse, but a Question

January 10th 2019 in Uncategorized
Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Above my office desk is a picture of Walt Disney and his creation, Mickey Mouse, that is inscribed with his famous quote:

“I hope we never lose sight of one thing – it was all started by a mouse”

While it is an actual quote, it’s only half the story from a coach’s perspective. Walt’s empire of Imagination and Storytelling was NOT started by a mouse. It actually started with a single Question:

“What the heck am I going to do now?”

The story goes that Walt came up with the idea for Mickey on an eventful trip back from New York City, where he learned not only had he lost control of his most valuable asset, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but most of his animators as well. He was facing down bankruptcy yet again. So he had to ask himself what he was going to do to change that.

The rest of the story you probably already know, but there a parts you might not know. He came up with his Mouse alright- ‘Mortimer Mouse’. His wife Lillian changed his name to Mickey. His loyal friend Ub Iwerks helped him finalize the look (Walt wasn’t the best artist in the world). His older brother Roy would, as usual, make the money work.

His future was saved by asking a simple question: What to do now?

That’s where coaching starts, too. Simple questions that not only reveal our needs and wants but show us the way forward:

What are you trying to do?

What do you need?

How are you going to get there? 

A coach asks these questions because they’re not in the business of directing people where to go (that’s management) or creating visions for people to follow (that’s leadership). Coaching is about finding out what drives a person and helping them find the courage to follow through on the actions needed to accomplish a goal.

Why do we do it that way? It’s because answers someone gives you are cheap. Answers we earn through hard questions are some of the most valuable things we ever receive.

Walt Disney was, by all accounts, a courageous risk-taker who was frequently certain his ideas would work out. For most of us though, we’re not courageous risk-takers by temperament or education. We have to be taught how to risk and be bold. That’s where a coach comes in because it’s what we live to do. Getting our clients to do that, much like Walt’s dream, starts with a question and goes on from there.

Walt figured out several things on that train trip from one QUESTION:
He needed to come up with a new character.
He needed Ub to give this Mourse the sparkle he wanted.
He needed Roy to help figure out how to fund all this.
He needed Lilian to give an opinion because he trusted her.
And more importantly, he needed to take ACTION…

….but we’ll talk more about action next time

~ Jason

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