As a young boy growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, my mother used to take me to lunch at a local eatery called Stone Soup. The place was a cooperative of several owners/workers with an aura of a hippie/bohemian lunch counter. The homemade soups and fresh baked bread they made bring back great memories and were certainly the beginning of my love of soup and bread! Thinking back to those great lunch breaks with my mom made me think about the age-old story from the namesake of the eatery, Stone Soup.
The Stone Soup story has many variations and conflicting origins but essentially the narrative tells the tale of a stranger arriving in a town one day and he found its residents to be very standoffish and a bit stingy about sharing their food. After realizing there would be no offer of food from the townspeople, he made it known that he was going to make an iron cauldron of his famous “stone soup”. He made a fire to start boiling the water for his soup and then proceeded with great fanfare to pull a magic stone from a small velvet bag. As the villagers gathered around the pot to see how this stranger would make such a delicious soup, the stranger bragged the soup would be the best anyone had ever tasted, but it could use some carrots to make it even better. Miraculously, a women ran back to her house and soon returned with a bunch of carrots to add to the soup. This same pattern repeated itself with cabbage, onions, salt beef, and other ingredients until the soup was ready. The moral of the story is that by working together with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.
So what does reminiscing about a cherished eatery and ageless story from long ago have to do with coaching? I believe the story has another lesson to tell high performing and high potential people who are thinking about partnering with a life, career, or executive coach. Like the villagers in the story, we all hunger for something more out of work, family or our social life. Similarly, like each villager who gave something for the soup, we all have a God given gifts that we can use to make our lives and the lives of others better. I see the stranger in the story as a coach who encourages the villagers (clients) to make their own soup by capitalizing on those talents and strengths
The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The stranger, acting like a coach, embodies the ICF core coaching competencies of co-creating the relationship, communicating effectively and facilitating learning and results. While there is no magic stone in coaching, a coach certainly has some powerful “stones” at their disposal to help the client move forward in their lives. Some of these stones are well-polished and allow an experienced coach to actively listen to the client, ask powerful questions and create awareness through those personal “Aha” moments.
Perhaps another lesson from this story is you have a choice to either make a bland soup of water and stone or a bountiful and tasty soup to help sustain and enhance your life. I vote that you choose to make a soup that fulfills your life, job or family! Now go get a coach to help you make that great “soup”!