Coaching Lessons From 'The King's Speech'

Everyone loves a great film and ‘The King's Speech’ deserved every Oscar and Bafta it won.

As a coaching company though I thought it would be useful to share with you this insightful article that my colleague Martin wrote, picking up on the many Coaching Lessons he spotted on his first viewing of ‘The King's Speech’ back in January.


If the movie 'The Kings Speech doesn't win a bucket load of Oscars then there really is no justice

It’s a great piece of film making; full of wit, charm and wisdom. The fact that it’s based on a piece of documented history makes it all the more interesting and enjoyable. From my point of view as a professional coach it is much more than just a great piece of entertainment; it’s a demonstration of what effective coaching can do for someone who doesn’t think anyone, or anything, can help with a problem that seems insurmountable.

If you haven’t seen it yet then you should, not simply because it’s a really good film, but because it might just change your life

It tells the tale of Albert, Duke of York who suffered from a severe stammer, thus making it difficult for him to speak publicly. In an attempt to overcome this impediment he seeks help, eventually finding a speech therapist (a coach); someone very different from the physicians he’s seen up until then. Eventually his brother Edward takes the Throne and then promptly abdicates to be with the infamous Mrs Wallace Simpson, leaving his brother Albert to become King. All of this happens of course just as war breaks out, thus requiring the now King George (Albert being perceived as far too Germanic to use), to make a stirring radio speech to the nation and the empire.

The King's Speech is the best advert yet that I’ve seen for coaching. I don’t think anyone could watch that movie and both remain unmoved or unconvinced that there exist coaches who can help people change even the most difficult issues. In this instance it’s a vocal coach specialising in speech therapy; yet he makes it clear from the outset that there are two aspects to achieving the desired change: The first is the mechanical, and the second, and far more important, is that of motivation and belief. Without tackling the latter, the former is at best a sticking plaster, and at worst, a waste of time.

Who is the real hero?

First and foremost I believe Lionel Logue (the coach) is the hero of the film. Well, I would say that wouldn't I! That's because it is the coach who both recognises the true potential for great change and who keeps the faith even when his client doubts it. Of course it’s not Lionel that has to make the change. It's Albert who has to work like blazes to apply what he learns. Yet while Lionel may be presented as a therapist, his real role is that of a personal development coach: He established with his client a set of personal goals and then applied his craft to support the client in making them happen.

What makes for a successful coach like Lionel?

To succeed where others had failed Lionel needed to be certain of his ability to facilitate the required outcome; he had to be congruent in the way he presented himself and went about his task; he had to know his own limitations while at the same time recognising his potential; he had to genuinely care about the client and invest some emotion; he had to be creative and flexible, utilising everything and anything that appeared; he had to demonstrate humility, consistency and let go of his own ego, remaining outcome focused; he had to keep things grounded and real; he had to find ways of using the latest technology; he had to break ‘rules’ and deal headlong with ‘political correctness’ when it got in the way; he had to build immense amounts of trust and deal with the times that trust was tested; he had to stay focused on the needs of the client while staying in balance in his own life; he had to make his position and ‘contract’ clear from the outset; and he had to ignore any advantage that working with a prestigious client might have presented, in favour of staying focused on the mission in hand. The coach in this true story had to do these things and more to be successful and I'm happy to report that his successful approach has much in common with the successful coaches of today.

You don’t have to have a speech impediment to get a coach. 

 You do need to have something about your life that you want to change, and you need to choose a coach with the requisite technical skills to help you with your issue. If the Duke of York had been having trouble with managing relationships then a specialist in speech coaching would not have done. The same is true today for anyone wanting to make their own life turn out a different way, but it won’t happen on its own: Most people invest more in their motor cars than they do in themselves. They spend more on simple servicing and maintenance in a year than they do on servicing or maintaining a much more precious vehicle to carry them through life; their own mind. Is it any wonder then that their car often lasts longer than their dreams?

Ask anyone if they’d like to be happier and more fulfilled, have something specific change in their life or simply get more of what they desire most, and what will they say? 

Put like that, doesn’t everyone want something? Yet if that ‘something’ was going to happen on its own then isn’t it true that it already have or at least some evidence that it was likely to? No river changes course without some intervention to make it so. The same is true with life; we get one chance at it and if we fail to make the best use of that chance then there is no one to blame but ourselves. If you watched the movie and you felt moved by it, then that’s because it’s stirred something in you. It did something that reminded you of YOUR potential to change; if you found yourself inspired by the film then that’s because you recognise in it some part of you that could overcome your own challenges too. If you want more from your life, even if it’s already a privileged existence, then you CAN have it; but you probably need a coach to help make it happen!

Martin has produced a short report that provides more detail on the coaching lessons form 'The King's Speech'. If you’d like a copy of it then click here and complete the registration form for your free download.

Martin is one of the UK's most experienced Business Coaches. To read more about him click on his name!

Kind regards

Laura Ashley-Timms - Director of Coaching