How far would you go to help someone excel?

Recently, I was fortunate to hear a key-note speech by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who relayed an insightful anecdote about helping people to excel. For those of you who may not know who she is, she is best known as an incredibly successful British former wheelchair racer (who participated in 5 Paralympic Games). Since retiring, she has become involved in a range of different activities, not least of which is her membership of the House of Lords having been made a life peer in 2010.

Tanni is a cross-bencher meaning that she has no allegiance to any of the political parties that are represented in the Lords. She relayed this story about when she first started – it was confusing, difficult to understand with a lot of unexplained rules, processes and procedures. She felt this was part of the Lords induction test – to see how you rose to the challenge.

She was fortunate that one of the older Lords, took it upon himself to help her to navigate through all of the confusion. Tanni said this was puzzling, because they had nothing in common. They had different political views, were probably unlikely to ever find themselves working with each other and had radically different backgrounds.

Why would he help her to excel?

Eventually, curiosity got the better of her, and she had a conversation with him about what had motivated him to help her. His answer?

I want to help you to be the best person you can be.

This was not through some feeling of altruism or deep desire to help a fellow human being. It was because he recognised that the day would come when they would face each other on opposing sides of an argument. He didn’t want to beat someone who was “having an off day” or “who wasn’t quite at their peak yet”. He wanted to know that if or when he won the argument it was because he had overcome an opponent who was at the ‘top of their game’.

This resonated with her, because in her career as a sportswoman, this is what she wanted to do – beat the best opponents because she was better, and not because they were “a bit rubbish” to use Tanni’s words.

Isn’t helping a rival to excel a challenging thought?

Would you help a potential rival or challenger to be the best they can be? There is a perspective here:

• When the focus is upon yourself – you might feel that you are helping someone to become better than you. A greater rival perhaps?
• When the focus is upon contribution – you might see that you create a better outcome. With better competition, it raises my game…

The two scenario’s might be better viewed as win-lose or win-win.

Reality check

This is probably not the sort of thinking that you would extend to your nearest or bitterest rivals. However, as a philosophy, it means that you actively seek to help people who will eventually push you to be the best possible self that you can be.

What would be possible for you if you were to create the habit of helping people to do the same?

If you’d find this a challenge, why not speak to us about coaching? It is never too late to #Changesomething or #Startsomething.