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The Game of Teams

Teams are the new unit of currency in business. Harnessing the wisdom and brilliance of teams is not easy. It can be messy, confusing, non linear and complicated. Learn from your peers and thought leaders about what it takes. Listen to their stories, pains, and pride when it works. This show is about the magic of mining work and relations for high performance, satisfaction and fulfilment on teams

Jun 1, 2023

Introduction:  Author, Thought leader and Entrepreneur in the world of performance, learning and coaching 

  • Myles Downey is a thought-leader and entrepreneur in the world of performance, learning and coaching. He was the founder of The School of Coaching, for many years a much- respected provider of coach training and executive coaching in the UK and Europe. Myles is the author of ‘Effective Modern Coaching’, ‘Effective Coaching’ and ‘Enabling Genius – a mindset for success in the 21st Century’. 

  • Myles is one of the leading business performance coaches in Europe with extensive, global experience spanning thirty years. He has worked with CEO’s, COO’s and MD’s in the most prestigious organisations from Banking and Financial Services, to Manufacturing and Oil and Gas to Professional Services and in the Public Sector. 

Podcast episode Summary:  In this episode Myles Downey shares his passion for his work, his writing work, and the work he does to support leaders and organisations express themselves fruitfully and joyously for the benefit of the organisation and each other. There is a focus on his new book, The enabling Manager where Myles decodes the distinctions between Lead, Manage and Coach. 

Points made throughout the Episode: 


  • How did you get into this domain called Coaching? Myles started back in the days when the word “coaching” as we know it today was barely understood. Myles was a good tennis player and enjoying playing and competing and he came upon a book called “The inner game of Tennis” Myles was a professional architect at the time and after reading this book within 6 months began to explore the ideas housed in the Inner Game 

The book title effectively divides the world into two, the inner world and the outer world where most of the focus for coaching was applied -such as how you placed your foot etc as opposed to the inner world the stuff between our ears. That was the start of Myles journey into coaching. 

  • Myles set up his practice first in Dublin and then in London where he set up probably the first Coaching School called The Alexander Corporation in 1987

  • Was the world of sport ahead of The world of Coaching by way of that book The inner Game of Tennis? No like Coaching it was very mechanistic and focused on knowledge and how to rather than what was happening interiorly for a person or player. 

  • What did you appreciate when you first heard about the Inner Game? Gallwey the author made a critical distinction between what he called Self One and Self Two. 

  • Self-One is that part of you that is in fear, in doubt, in worry and Self-Two is that part of you that is in flow. Teaching tends to put people into self-one. They start to emulate the teacher and they “try” and trying cripples people. Operating from Self Two comes self-reliance and autonomy.  

  • Timothy Gallwey used to employ a formula which Myles calls out and explains. Performance = Potential – Interference where interference is about doubt, fear, thinking about winning or not losing instead of being present. If you can reduce the interference for people then they can perform. 

  • How did Sir John Whitmore and Graham Alexander influence your work? These two gentlemen had the rights to the Inner Game in Europe. Myles joined them as they both moved into the world of Coaching in Business. 

  • What made the work of Sir John Whitmore so impactful in the World of Business? Time & Place provided a rich landscape from which John’s work took hold. There was an openness in the mid 80s to alternatives. Sir John Whitmore was the first person to write a book on Coaching devoid of content such as tennis for example. His book was very simple and very readable. Sir John Whitmore was a man of humility and that meant his ego did not get in the way in his communication with others. 

  • Myles does not subscribe to the Leader as Hero model. He shares his work with the English Rugby team and their take on Leadership housed in three capacities, Lead, Manage, Coach. 

  • We often make the erroneous assumption that Leaders need to be omnipotent and be skilled in all three capacities. “Leaders are not perfect” and Myles loves that quote from Graham Alexander. 

  • As an Author what motivated you to write? One of Myles greatest strengths is his ability to make intellectual distinctions that he can communicate.  Because Myles set up the school of Coaching he had to teach a lot and that motivated him to write too. Orian Publishing asked Myles to write a book and he felt he got “permission” to go ahead and write the book. Myles first book, a book on Coaching has been in publication since 1999. 

  • What are the compelling messages you would like to share with the Listeners from your latest book? 

  • Command & Control a model of Leadership that has been around for a long time does not work. Think engagement surveys, performance levels and a study that shared the 10 things people do not like about work. No. 10 was their manager. 

  • Myles scanned the world to find what did work. The Military was one such place. Start-ups was the other place. In both there is an emerging practice that you could call an entrepreneurial mindset. 

  • The US Army are exponents of what they call Mission Command. The thing they talk about most is Trust. 2 things prevail. People have to trust and they have to understand their mission. Entrepreneurial mindset is similar because everyone should know the primary objective of the new business. 

  • Both places allowed for and encouraged people to be liberated to perform. 

  • When Myles extrapolates these practices into his work he get to three doing words-nouns Lead-Manage-Coach. 

  • Lead is about the Why. That is back to Mission Command-understanding the future direction and where the company is going. 

  • Manage: describes the part a person will play in the game. Role, Goals, Projects, Tasks, Standards, Protocols etc. 

  • Coach: once the person understands why something is important and their role in achieving it then you get into a conversation about “how” they might do it. 

  • The authority shifts between the first two and the third. In the Coaching part the authority shifts to the person who is going to do the work. “Tell me how you are going to go about it?” 

  • This shift in authority is one of the greatest difficulties for Leaders and managers alike. A lot of the time it is because they do not have the distinctions as described above. 

  • The Leadership model moves from Command and Control to Align and Enable. 

  • What inspired you Myles to encapsulate your model with the Noun Relate. A robust relationship based on trust will allow for these kinds of conversations to happen. 

  • Relationships before results is a Mantra I use and Myles agrees it is so fundamental to work and for him before he does any team work he will indulge some time to build relations between members. 

  • When people build relations and build trust they have the difficult conversations so quickly. 

  • What eludes managers and leaders to apply these four nouns? A lack of understanding. So many companies try to build a coaching culture for example. Myles says “stop” stop right now. You do not want a coaching culture you want a performance culture. You have to be able to hold people to account. 

  • Psycho Synthesis is a body of work built up by Roberto Assagioli in the last century. One of his ideas concerned Love and Will. There are two fundamental drives, one is love the other is will. Love is a feminine energy based on trust, based on nurturing, about letting things happen and is somewhat non-judgemental. Will is a more masculine energy, is founded in control, rigid and structured. Assagioli made the point that whilst love sounds like a good thing it has its shadow. If you are overly nurturing as a parent you rob the child of their opportunity to grow. Similarly Will might not seem appealing but if a child does not have boundaries that is not useful. Myles equates the love piece with Coaching and the good Will with managing and you have to have both. 

  • Assagioli shared his idea that that any time you have two ideas, such as  Will and Love that naturally form a spectrum you need to get above both to see what is going on and for him that formed a tringle and the word he chose was Presence. 

  • Presence, Will and Love underpin Myles model Lead, Manage and Coach. His model is underpinned by Relation. 

  • Relationship and Intent or the fundamental understanding of intent allow for the application of Will and direct communication. 

  • What does it take to be able to adeptly move between these domain, Lead, Manage and Coach? Myles answers by referring to some research that supported his book enabling genius. The research was looking at answer the question; Across those people who have displayed “Greatness” what did they have in common? The research unearthed a few things. 1. Identity was important- people understand who they are in a particular domain and how they uniquely express themselves. 2. Will was another and 3. Mindset was the third and 4. The importance of continuing to learn and grow

  • Most people when given a new job to lead people are giving no training. In the UK 71% of people who are given responsibility for people are not given any training. 

  • Most people when they get into a leadership position do not know who shows up. It’s a potpourri of the things they have had done to them, the expectations of the company etch. Rarely it is about that persons own authority what comes from within. 

  • Myles works with Leaders to help them understand who they are as leaders. Myles has developed over time a process that starts by asking a few set questions followed by a visualisation exercise and then a few more questions to pull the analysis together. Some of the questions sound like the following;

  1. As a Leader what are you great at?

  2. What do people come to you for? 

  3. What are you becoming?

  • The visualisation exercise produces a symbol that represents a Leaders presence/essence and genius. 

  • The exercise ends with the question what would you say is your unique identity as a Leader. 

  • Mindset is not a given it is something that you unconsciously develop over time and knowing that you can start to develop it consciously over time. 

  • Myles shares his own approach critical to informing his mindset. He uses six post cards that characterise his desired mindset. This is something you can create and guide your behaviour every day. 

  • FTSOW (For The Sake of What) is this mindset important. You need to contextualise a mindset. 

  • Somewhere in that mindset has to be other people and how you influence and lead other people & there also has to be something in there about how a leader maintains a clarity of context and a vision that is further than the crippling short termism that is so often evident. 

  • To bring your book to life is there an example of a team you would be willing to share?  

  • An example includes a case from a TV production company and Myles is quick to point out, not the BBC. One of his 1:1 clients, a C-Suite executive was determined to increase the performance of his unit. The work started with conversations with him as a leader and what that looked like and how he brought on and supported the performance of others. The leader formulated an idea that if he could up his own performance it would create a vacuum for his team to fill. As they moved through the work the leader appreciated he needed to improve his capacity to coach as did his leadership team. 

  • Myles supported this leader and team through five workshops where they went through the domains of Lead, Manage and Coach. These were very practical workshops where Coaching was emphasised. On the fifth workshop Myles shared his workshop notes and together the team practiced the elements of the program to get the feel of the work. The team worked in pairs and delivered the content to their teams together, thereby learning from each other and with people. 

  • The work proved to be transformational. The pairs were asked to have the work delivered across and down several layers of the organisation. 

  • Unlike other Manager as Coach programs which often do not gain traction this one did by way of the commitment of the team, the clarity of the Leader about what needed to happen & unequivocal will to make it happen. The Leader was incredibly compassionate with his people & supported them to integrate the material in a digestible fashion. 

  • Myles ended this podcast by sharing his wish for the future of work. Human beings should find ways to express in the world, a genuine, authentic expression of you, me, they in the world. Myles plays tennis not because he is competitive but because he loves expressing himself on a tennis court. Myles wishes that our workplaces should be places where people can express at least parts of themselves, fruitfully and joyously. 

Resources shared across this podcast 

  1. Myles Downing is the author of ‘Effective Modern Coaching’, ‘Effective Coaching’ and ‘Enabling Genius – a mindset for success in the 21st Century’. He is also the author of The Enabling Manager, how to get the best out of your own team.