Blog Post: Coaching Lessons from Billy Joel

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Cruising my news feeds recently, a story caught my eye. The musician Billy Joel’s name was in the headline and, although I wouldn’t call myself a raving fan, I appreciate his gift. It made me stop and read the story.

Apparently Joel was riding his motorcycle (I ride a motorcycle!) through Long Island, NY and happened to notice an old piano sitting on the curb, waiting to be hauled away to the dump. So he pulls over and starts playing the discarded piano! Motorcycle helmet still on, courier bag draped across his body, fingers dancing across the keys with a ragtime tune. Someone pulls out their phone and does a classic bad job of recording the scene.

You can watch what happens here.

What captivated me was Billy Joel’s commentary while he is playing the discarded piano:

The action is good. It just needs tuning. And the finish is beat.

Its a perfectly good piano.

“It’s a shame to throw it out.”

These are laminated keys, the pedals work, the action is great.”

The mechanics are perfect.

These are the reflections of someone devoted to his craft. When Billy Joel drove down that street on his motorcycle he didn’t see something for the dump, he saw opportunity. And he couldn’t help but engage with it.

At CAM we have prepared for you a tool to help you keep moving forward in your coaching called The Coaching Journey. In your coaching journey there are three mental shifts that are required.

  • The first is the shift of being informed – You begin to understand what coaching is and isn’t, what the skillset is and the mindset necessary.
  • The second shift is identity – You’re not somebody who does some coaching, you see yourself as a coach. You’re effective and you make a difference as a coach. It is who you are.
  • The third shift is impact – You create an identity and framework that moves your coaching from effective to flourishing. It is the integration of your experience, passion and training to create a unique coaching product that resonates with a particular audience.

In this chance encounter between Billy Joel and a piano I see a perfect illustration of the third mindset shift.

Moving From Being A Coach To Making An Impact

You see the opportunities wherever they are.

Esther 4:14 is the perfect verse for your coaching in this season. “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” There is a huge cultural crisis Esther finds herself in the midst of but God has gone in advance to prepare Esther to be his representative. She just has to rise to the challenge. Mordecai reminds her of why she is where she is.

People desperately need the skills and thinking of coaching in these times. This is the opportunity you have been training for. There are all kinds of discarded plans, dreams and hopes sitting on the curb. They need someone who can see them for what they could be – they need a coach. Will you step up?

You approach things with curiosity.

Curiosity is the currency of coaching. Not just curiosity about the issues clients bring up, but curiosity about the client themselves and what got them to where they are, what will get them to where they want to go. Your coaching curiosity awakens the curiosity of the client. Billy Joel’s curiosity awakened the curiosity for alternatives amongst those who gathered around him. You have a gift to give as a coach. Will you steward your gift well?

You know how to play the instrument.

Knowing what to look for and what questions to ask comes from training and experience. That training and experience opens up your eyes to the possibilities. Billy Joel’s lifetime of experience allowed him to quickly discern what was good (the mechanics, action and pedals) and what needed work (out of tune, external finish beat up). The video clip is 1 minute in length. That’s a quick assessment but he knew what he was looking at and looking for. Your experience (the amount of coaching you do) and your training (the amount and quality of education you engage in) are training you to quickly help your client move in the right direction. Where do you need to get better – experience or training? And know this – every coach can and should be getting better.

You inspire the awareness of what could be.

My mother is an excellent pianist. She would inspire others as well if she played this piano on the street. Although I took a few years of piano lessons, a mean version of Mary Had A Little Lamb is the extent of my abilities. I’m not inspiring anyone when it comes to playing a piano or rescuing a castoff. Although I don’t know what happened to this piano, I’m pretty sure it didn’t stay on the curb and get hauled to the dump. Only because one person who saw it inspired others as to what it could be. A coach creates the sacred space for others to define, design and pursue their best self, to awaken what could be for themselves, their organization, their world. People who inspire others to their best self are people who change the world. Who are you inspiring?

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