The King's Coach

The new film The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Geoffrey Rush, is a lovely and touching true story of how Britain's King George VI, struggling with a life-long debilitating stammer, ascended to the throne on the eve of England's entrance into the second world war.

Not only is this a worthy movie for any who enjoy a high quality film, but this is one with particular relevance to those in the field of coaching. In fact, you could easily rename this film The King's Coach as it centers on the efforts of one Lionel Logue, a speech therapist from Australia, who is enlisted to work with "Bertie" (as the King was known by his family).

Late in the film, when Bertie is informed by his handlers that Logue is not a doctor and has no credentials, the King is enraged and accuses Logue of being a fraud. Then, in one of the film's most moving sections, Logue explains himself. He never called himself "Dr." Logue. He never claimed to have certifications or credentials. He came to this work, he said, via his experiences helping shell-shocked soldiers to regain their confidence and their ability to speak during World War I.

An HR blogger made the point that even Kings need to do a thorough background check before they hire a so-called expert. Good point. But there is another HR-type lesson here, I believe, about the nature of expertise.

What is expertise? What is an expert? Does a PhD guarantee it? Does a certification ensure it?

The dictionary tells us that an expert is someone who has achieved a level of skill or knowledge in a particular field making them an authority or specialist who is sought out by others for advice and consultation.

Lionel Logue's expertise in speech therapy originated in his love of spoken language. He further developed his expertise through study as well as the creative applications he undertook to assist soldiers. His expertise, rooted in a love of speech, came from doing the work itself, and demonstrating its benefit to others.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday December 30, 2010. For more ideas on coaching, contact Terry and invite him to your organization.


Jen Turi said…
Great post, Terry. Certificates and degrees certainly don't guarantee anything and passion is a very important component of someone who is successful in their chosen field. One would hope that the passion would drive the earning of these, but occasionally life doesn't allow for this. I like the dictionary's definition better than straight credentials.
I agree that the formal degrees, certificates, etc. have little to do with competence in many cases. People do have to be protected against unqualified people--that's one purpose of these degrees. They succeed to a limited extent, and I say that as someone who has the certifications, so I have seen the competent vs. the not so competent.

Great post--I also posted about this film, different aspect:
Terrence Seamon said…
Jen and Marilyn,
Thanks for your comments.

Though I doubt the filmmakers were addressing HR or hiring managers, I believe there is a lesson for them in this movie. To sum it up, in your search for talent, be sure to look for credentials, but also look for heart.

Here's wishing you both much success in this new year!


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