There is no doubt that coaching is an excellent tool that dares to challenge human behavior, whether it is deliberate or unconscious. But how the coach penetrates those deepest parts of the human soul and psyche responsible for governing those behaviors, is a whole different game, one that is played on the edge, with unpredictable outcomes. As I interviewed Goran, I felt an energy possessed only by highly skilled and engaged coaches – genuine concern and compassion for the client. Goran wanted to depict a true and inspiring case study that stands as an example of dramatic change initiated and supported through coaching, in which a “rough” young man grows into a four-time gold medal winner in four different sporting events. This article isn’t only about Goran taking Slavisa’s name literally, which roughly means “Celebrated” in Serbian. Goran truly wanted to promote his client through this story, because he deserves it. The following is an account of Goran’s experience with Slavisa, told from the heart….(Editor)
The first time I met Slavisa, he seemed like many of the strong and fit guys you see in a traditionally rough Belgrade neighborhood. Slavisa informed me his wish was to build his own endurance and strength training club. Just after 15 minutes of talking with him, it was apparent that he had both the strength and knowledge to achieve his vision, but that he lacked self-awareness, an idea of his personal identity and values that lied behind the club. It became apparent that applying the Dilts pyramid in Slavisa’s case was the right way to go. The Dilts pyramid is a model of personal change. It consists of a series of levels, each of which is constituted from, while also constraining, the one below. Hence, your capabilities define which behaviors you are able to engage in, but are also made up from your behaviors to date. And you only gain new capabilities by engaging in new behaviors. This is a story about how small change in the Dilts Pyramid of Logical Levels (DPLL) can lead to tectonic shifts in the life as a whole.
During the first few months of our sessions, no matter what we worked on or talked about, I felt compelled to ask the same question over and over: ‘And who are you, Slavisa?’. At first, it was frustrating for both him and me, until finally I got the answer the client needed to know for himself: ‘I, Slavisa Obradovic, am a fitness trainer with the best all-around training program!’ This answer led us to use Inspiration as the first phase of our coaching methodology. We finally knew what we were aiming for. How can a fitness trainer with no formal education, but who devoted his whole life to spartan strength and endurance training out of pure love, prove that his training method is that good? At this point, Disney’s Creative Strategy gave the much needed answer. Disney’s Creative Strategy is a tool for creative thinking and was inspired by Walt Disney, who is well known for generating creative ideas and converting them into reality. His friends and associates claimed that there were actually three different Walts: the Dreamer, the Realist, and the Spoiler. You never knew which one was coming to the meeting. Walt Disney’s strategy was highlighted and modeled later by NLP expert Robert Dilts. He defined the technique as Disney’s method for turning his dreams into reality. In this method, a group of people use a specific thinking flow which builds parallel thinking that can be used to generate, evaluate, critique ideas and solve problems. Slavisa was experiencing this very same conflict between The Dreamer, The Critic and The Realist. In the end, the roughest part of Slavisa’s personality, The Critic, pushed Slavisa to set a goal of winning four gold medals in four different sports in order to prove how capable of a trainer he is.
The first sport he chose was Ashihara karate. In order to determine which attributes were needed to be an Ashihara champion, we used the Life Wheel exercise. The Life Wheel is used by coached to help clients consider each area of their life in turn and assess what’s off balance. As such, it helps identify areas that need more attention. Based on the results, we created action steps, tested Slavisa’s commitment level, and used it as the only criteria for measuring results during our coaching sessions. Our only goal was to keep Slavisa’s commitment level at a nine or ten, every week. Eventually, the first goal was achieved and Slavisa won Beogradski pobednik international tournament and took home the gold medal.
The next thing we had to face was the undermining of Slavisa’s result through comments like: ‘Slavisa has always been very strong, but he’s only had fights dressed in a kimono and won gold, there is nothing special about that’. What he needed at this point was the ultimate test, one that cannot be undermined. One day, Slavisa told me to pay attention to his Facebook status – he claimed he was going to run a full marathon under five hours, after only 20 days of training. By doing so he put the whole training to the test, and honestly, even I didn’t think he could do it. Two weeks after the post, and one week before the marathon, Slavisa called me to tell me he didn’t think he could pass the 35k mark and that he had made a terrible mistake by claiming to everyone he could do it. At that point I realized that if I couldn’t bring his strongest emotion out, the whole project would fall apart and that both him and I would have to come to terms with the failure.
Analyzing the DLL there were only two words going through my mind – core values. I realized I could bring the last 10K out by focusing on Slavisa’s beliefs. I decided to put everything I had on the fourth level – as in roulette, and to break all coaching rules by directly challenging Slavisa. I asked him the following: ‘OK, behind thousands and thousands of hours you spent training, behind all the sacrifices you made, what is the one thing that lies behind everything and motivates you for doing this, that you haven’t told anyone?’ I was amazed by his deep answer: ‘Look, I’ve done many different things in my life, good and bad, exciting and boring, but each time I would go to a gym or on the playground to train, I was entering my world in which my rules applied. I want to share that with people and to help them realize all the hidden potentials they have within them.’ I told him: ‘And you really going to let a measly 10K ruin your dream? I won’t talk to you until you finish that marathon and bring that result!’. At that point I knew I was risking everything but I also knew it was the only way to set his strongest emotion into motion. Slavisa finished the marathon in 4:53:00. That was his second gold medal, only two more to go.
For the next challenge, which was in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we had established the identity, the values, and we created action steps – Slavisa won two gold medals in Germany, gold in Italy, at the European championship, along with several other medals in various European tournaments.
As the fourth sport Slavisa chose kettlebell. Just before preparations for the first tournament started, I called Slavisa and told him: ‘You know what the goals are, the four stages of the project (inspiration, execution, integration and ending), the are neurological levels, etc. Now take this knowledge and use it on yourself and your trainees– that’s your graduation!’. Slavisa won the gold medal on the international kettlebell competition in Croatia, and two of his trainees won silver and bronze.
The key of the whole process was the change in how Slavisa identifies himself, and the value on the higher neurological levels which lead to all that success. According to the “butterfly effect” concept, something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can ultimately cause a hurricane halfway across the globe.