Provision #389: Coaching as Tiger Team

Laser Provision

Are you pulled in so many directions, with so many demands, that you end up with precious little time or energy for the people, causes, and things you truly care about in life? If so, then join the club. That seems to be the way of the world. But today’s featured client tells the story of how coaching has assisted him to bracket those urgent demands with small steps that support his important values. If you, too, juggle the urgent and the important, then you’ll have much to think about and take away from this Provision.

LifeTrek Provision

Perhaps you are familiar with the term “tiger team.” I was not until I was introduced to it by today’s featured client, an engineering project manager in the aerospace industry. And it presents yet one more fascinating metaphor, along with some new distinctions and dimensions, for understanding the coaching process.

The term seems to have originated with the U.S. military, where it refers to a team of “sneakers” whose purpose is to penetrate security, and thus test security measures. From there, the term spread to other sectors, especially computer-security circles, to refer to a team of professionals who attempt to hack into systems in order to expose errors and security holes.

It was only a matter of time before the term was being used more broadly, to refer to any group of people, in any context, brought together for the specific purpose of analyzing systems in order to identify hidden or heretofore unrecognized problems which might lead to performance declines, boundary violations, workflow interruptions, and decreased earnings.

Such preemptive action has become standard operating procedure for many companies. It also describes yet another facet of the coach approach to human development. The concept of hacking into systems in order to uncover, and ultimately to fix, hidden problems is a big part of what coaches do. Through conversation and a way of being, we invite our clients to look at their lives in new ways and to see the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Sometimes those pieces are right before our eyes; we just don’t see how they fit together. Other times we have to go searching for them. But in the end, when the picture comes together, the truth can no longer be ignored and a compelling case for change is made.

Of course, that’s exactly what happens when a tiger team strikes. In the military or other high-security environments, heads can roll over the discoveries these teams can make. Their operations can make people miserable. And so too when it comes to coaching. Coaching is not just a feel-good activity. Sometimes we make our clients very uncomfortable as an important part of the growth process.

Today’s featured client has certainly had plenty of experience with tiger teams both at work and through almost two years of intermittent LifeTrek coaching. I trust that you will be blessed by his honest reflections on how our conversations have both assisted him to move forward and to realize the work that is yet to be done.

Q. How did you first learn about LifeTrek Coaching?

A. I had been reading your material on my Palm Pilot, through AvantGo, for quite a while before giving you a call. And when I called, I didn’t even have it in mind to start a coaching relationship. I simply recognized you as a kindred spirit whose writing and work I had come to appreciate. I really just called to say “Thanks,” and to explore opportunities to collaborate. Once we started talking, however, I recognized that LifeTrek Coaching could mean more to me than a weekly, inspirational Provision and I became open to the possibility that coaching might be able to assist me to reach my goals in life.

Q. And what were some of those goals?

A. How much time do you have? For the last twenty years, since I was in college, my overarching goal • my Big, Hairy Audacious Goal or B-HAG, a term which I originally heard at a retreat with Mark Victor Hansen who had himself borrowed the phrase from Jim Collins • has been to reduce the dependence of the United States on fossil fuels.

In college I rode my bike to get to class until, if you can believe this, they banned bicycles from the campus. The university transportation czar was wheelchair bound, and so she was focused on wheelchair-accessible public transportation. Bicycles were seen as an obstacle to accessibility. That decision seemed ridiculous to me. Bicycles and wheelchairs could coexist. So I became an activist and got on the university transportation board in order to change the policy.

Since that time, I have had repeated experiences that remind me of this priority. I see or sit in traffic jams, with one person to a car, depleting the earth’s resources, destroying the environment, creating economic dependency, and ruining our health. These experiences have made me more committed than ever to developing sustainable forms of transportation and alternative energy sources and I know, in my heart, that our country possesses more than enough technical expertise to achieve these goals if we were to make energy independence a priority.

Could LifeTrek Coaching assist me to reach such a goal? I believe it has, it can, and it will by assisting me to rearrange my life in ways that enable me to put more time and energy into my passion. That is why I decided to work with you, because there is a huge disconnect between my core values and where I spend my time. My core values put the well-being of our planet, and of my family on our planet, at the top of the chart. But you would never know it from the hours I work each week in the aerospace industry.

So I wanted you to assist me to see what I was missing, like my own personal tiger team. I wanted you to come in and evaluate the holes in my life, and in my excuses, so that I could figure out a new way of being in the world.

Q. How did we do on that score?

A. The bottom line is that I do better when I talk with you on a weekly basis than when I push things back to biweekly, monthly, or not at all. You have become an accountability partner for me. The fact that we have a scheduled appointment, that I prepare for that appointment by completing the Prep Form, and that we have homework growing out of every call means that I am more accountable to myself in living from my values rather than from my pressures.

But I would be lying to say that we have made great progress. The huge stumbling block for me is figuring out how to replace my salary in the aerospace industry with my passion for renewable energy. I have not figured that out yet, and the longer it goes on the worse it gets. I get promoted into increasing positions of responsibility, requiring even more time and energy for me to be successful.

Right now, I have not been coaching with you on a weekly basis for quite a while and I have let things slide. From the point of view of my day job, it is worse now than on the day I first called you.

So come January, after the holidays, we may need to ramp up our work together again. That’s because I really do better with you as my tiger team. On a personal level, I do better with my spiritual practices and my family commitments. I also do better with my daily habits. As the work load has ramped up, for example, I’m back to drinking coffee again and having ice cream at night — two habits I had completely eliminated when we were working together weekly. I am also not exercising like before. In short, my life is in better balance when we are working together more regularly.

On a professional level, I do better with my plans for leaving my current job in favor of my B-HAG. We have discussed two important strategies here, both of which deserve more attention than I am giving them now. One is to develop my network marketing business into a going concern, to replace some of the income I would lose if I left my current position. The other is to work in the field of alternative energy or energy conservation, either through a for-profit corporation or a not-for-profit organization.

Q. Those two strategies could fit together nicely, supporting both your passion and your finances.

A. Yes, and I only saw that recently in conversation with you. I had once thought that network marketing would provide a sufficient revenue stream to fund the startup of my own business, developing technological innovations to cost effectively improve automobile fuel economy without sacrificing performance. But after a couple of years of network marketing experience, while I have achieved a moderate level of success and associated income, I have not yet been able to earn enough money for me to walk away from my day job.

When you suggested, however, that I could work in the field of my B-HAG, earning a salary, albeit lower than what I now make, I suddenly saw how the two together might be the ticket I have been looking for.

Q. So what’s to stop you from pulling this all together?

A. What stops anyone from stepping out in faith? Too much fear and too little time. The fear, of course, is that it won’t work. That we’ll develop a plan that we’ll never be able to implement. It’s always harder to walk the walk than to talk the talk. But the lack of time gets in the way of everything. My work is so demanding that it leaves precious little time to think about anything else. After working all day, I come home, enjoy some time with my family until the kids are asleep, and then often work overtime hours late into the night. At that point I usually just fall into bed, exhausted, without thinking about or working on my B-HAG.

In other words, to borrow a phrase that you’ve written about from Steven Covey, I have precious little Quadrant II time in my life right now. Quadrant II time is focused on the Important-Not Urgent items. But so much of my life is urgent, the proverbial “squeaky wheel.” The demands are loud and they keep getting louder. If I can’t get myself to spend more time in Quadrant II, I will never get to working on my B-HAG.

Q. With so many external pressures, how could coaching assist you to do better?

A. The same way it always has. When I have a coaching call on my calendar, I leave the office and take the call. When I have assignments growing out of the call, I always somehow manage to make the time to do the assignments. In other words, to have a coach is to make a commitment. And I am serious about my commitments. That’s why I do well at work. And that’s why, with a coach, I do better in other areas as well. Having a coach forces the issue. If you’re not going to do the work, then you shouldn’t have a coach.

Coaching also opens my eyes to new possibilities. I’m not just talking to myself, I’m talking to someone who is not entrapped by the same pressures or inside the same boxes. There’s no way to describe how refreshing it is to talk with someone who is not overwhelmed and who trusts in my ability to figure this out. It makes my goals seem possible and doable.

And, of course, we come up with incremental steps that I can take from week to week. These are not short-term solutions; these are practical, doable steps that I can act upon to make progress towards my long-term vision. That’s what I like so much about coaching. It’s a high-accountability, judgment-free space that propels me into action. When I work with you weekly, I develop a cadence in my life that is positive, productive, and purposeful.

Q. That sounds like a strong recommendation to our readers as to the value of coaching.

A. Absolutely. Establishing a coaching relationship allows you to bring out the things that are inside you already, the things that are really important, the truths that you know to be true that can no longer be ignored. Once you’ve heard yourself explain them to another person, once you’ve written them down and embraced them on the deepest of levels, it becomes almost imperative that you take action upon them.

Coaching makes your values more real, tangible, specific, and important. You find yourself asking the questions, “Why am I not living my values?” “Why am I not acting on the information that I know to be true?” When you play in that sandbox with your coach, it becomes increasingly difficult to find reasons to justify inaction. The tiger team pokes a hole through your defenses until you sit up, take notice, and move on. You eventually become the person you were meant to be.

Coaching Inquiries: How well does your life express your values? Do you feel exhausted and distracted by the demands of life? Would having your own personal “tiger team” assist you to get on track? What’s one action you could take this week that would move your forward in the right direction?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


Your last Provision, Coaching as Life Raft Click, was very touching. It tells a good story. It gets the reader involved. It’s a great demonstration of exactly what happens in the coaching relationship. They are all good and useful. This one is an “every person” kind of story because life is really not logical or neat as we would have in in our heads and hopes. That may be why coaching is such a fast growing industry group and why the ICF is one of the fastest growing organizations. Bravo for your work and for your contributions to the profession.


Great Provision article this week, Coaching as a Life Raft. I like that concept. I forwarded it to both of my sisters. I am sure they will relate.


Kudos to Kate for her contributions to the Life Trek Coaching website, articles, and links.


Thank you for all the inspiration dissemination. God bless you.



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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