Making room for who you might be

by | Aug 12, 2021

The work I do starts with a simple intention.

I write it down, a ritual of intention if you like.

Rather than listing a ‘To-Do’, I write an intention.

I remind myself of the intention each time I am in conversation with leaders and their teams.

To honour the role.

“I am a coach, mentor and teacher, not coaching to who the leader is now, but who the leader can be, meeting people where they are now, and finding out where we can go together. I will channel my inner Tom Hafey.”

I use Tom Hafey as my coaching archetype. There is romance in this given the folklore role he played in my own life, but mostly, it is the way he made people feel.

Whenever I speak of Tom Hafey, people love to share their Tommy stories. Their eyes light up as they explain where, how, and what they talked about and the impression he left. Most often, it was a single meeting, a country footy club he was speaking at, or jogging past in his speedos along the St Kilda foreshore as he did pretty much every day of his life – rain, hail and shine.

The Tommy meeting is embedded as part of their story. They tell their yarn well, and I sense they’ve shared their Tommy encounter with many others and most likely will for the rest of their lives.

There are leaders you get to meet who make you feel good about them. What separates great leaders, is how they make you feel good about you.

They become unforgettable, fixed firmly in who you are.

The magic of Tommy Hafey is there is no magic.

Tommy made you feel good about you.

Play on.


You are the coach and player of your own life.

My conversations with leaders start with a simple question, one that relates to ambition:

“What is it that you seek to do?”

Having got a sense, often unclear and vague, which is perfectly fine and probably expected, as it is their uncertainty that most likely led to this conversation, I will then follow up with:

“Who is it that you seek to be?”

We are making room for who the leader might be. I have Pippa Grange and her book ‘Fear Less’ to thank for this powerful idea.

Leadership is not only something to do, it is something to be, but you must do the doing, to be the being.

I don’t coach to who the leader is now, but who the leader can be.

To embrace the expectations of their role, welcome pressure as a privilege, a right they have earned, and be energised by the opportunities it provides.

It starts with the understanding that the leader is both the coach and player of their own leadership lives.

How do they get the best from themselves as leaders, and execute in a manner consistent with their values, philosophies and unique capabilities?

They will need to change and to make change happen. They will be in charge of the direction their leadership lives take.

They will learn to borrow freely and combine uniquely to build on their learnings and those of others, to find their distinctive leadership voice.

To achieve this, I guide, mentor, cajole, challenge, remind, refer, teach, calm, push, prod, encourage and provoke leaders to be the change they seek to make.

To see leadership in a different way.

To see leadership as a craft.

A craft for which they can leverage and build a leadership game that is a full expression of who they are.

To see leadership as a ‘get to’ thing, not a ‘got to’ thing.

They ‘get to’ craft themselves, make their own art, not as an outcome based pursuit, but by following their own imperfect path, and in doing so, make things better.

They then ‘get to’ play a role in the lives of others, help them to make themselves better.

There is never one ‘right’ answer, no perfect outcome. It will always feel uncertain, which is most likely, the most important skill leaders learn.

They have made room for who they might be, and made space for others to do likewise.


“What change do you seek to make?

Why bother to speak up or take an action if you’re not seeking to change someone or something?

It makes some people deeply uncomfortable to imagine that their work will change someone else. What right, we wonder, do we have to take that on? What authority do we have to show up with any intent at all?

If there’s no intent, it’s likely that there’s no change either. If there’s no intent, it’s unlikely that things will get better.”

Seth Godin, from his highly recommended book ‘The Practice’.


Pick up a guitar.

Any guitar.

Tune it. It is easy. Used to be tricky, a learned skill.

There is no magic required any more. There is an app for everything.

As a teenager, whenever my guitar went out of tune, I’d take it to a mate’s house down the road. His older sister played guitar. She had long fingers and could play Cat Stevens and Carly Simon, fingerpicking songs, and singing tunefully with her eyes closed. To me, she had ‘the gift’, she was some kind of musical and guitar maven.

She would take my nylon string guitar, which was actually my older sister Jennie’s, and happily tune it for me.

My stage of development was single-string riffs, very much stuck in the ‘Smoke on the Water’ phase which many get to, and few go beyond.

My maven understood this. Whilst it was was hard to believe, she was once in this place.

She took my left hand and placed my first three fingers on 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings I now know to be the B, G and D strings, gently twisted my hand a little, then took my right hand and strummed the guitar, and my life changed.

The chord she had just shown me was Am, and it took me on a journey that is still with me over 40 years later.

She then took my little nylon string guitar, strummed the Am, then closed her eyes and played “Ain’t No Sunshine” and I was in love, with the guitar, the song, and no doubt, my mate’s sister.

I had no idea my guitar was capable of this sound.

My recommendation, learn Am.

Good things happen.

…and a timeless song lyric:

Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


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