by Bob Weinkle
As a young boy growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, my mother used to take me to lunch at a local employee-owned food cooperative eatery called Stone Soup. The place was owned by the workers (mostly 1970s hippie-types) who served only homemade soups and freshly baked bread. I’m getting hungry just reminiscing about their food and distinct, but spartan, atmosphere! Thinking back to those treasured lunch breaks with my mom, it makes me recall the age-old Stone Soup story.
The Stone Soup tale has many variations and conflicting origins, but the story is about a stranger passing through a town one day where he finds its residents very standoffish and stingy about sharing their food. After realizing there would be no offer of food, he made it known that he was going to make an iron cauldron of his famous and highly delicious “stone soup”. He made a fire to boil 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, someone ran back to their 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. A common moral of the story is that by working together, and 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 impart to both coaches and their high-performing and potential clients. Like the townspeople in the story, our clients all hunger for something more out of life. Similarly, like each resident who gave something for the soup, our clients possess God-given talents that can make their lives and the lives of others better. I see the stranger in the story as a coach who encourages the residents (clients) to make their own soup by capitalizing on their own talents and strengths in doing the will of God.
One definition of coaching is: Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The stranger in the story, acting like a coach, embodies the CCNI core coaching competencies of co-creating the relationship, communicating effectively and cultivating learning and growth. While there are no magic stones in coaching, a coach certainly has some powerful “pebbles” to use in helping a client move forward in life. Some of these “pebbles” are well-polished and allow an experienced coach to actively listen to the client, ask powerful questions and create awareness through client “Aha” moments.
Perhaps another lesson from this story is that we all have a choice in life. We can make a bland soup of water and stone or a bountiful and tasty soup to help sustain and enhance our lives. Let’s all choose to help clients make a soup that enhances their live, job or family! Now go help someone make a great “soup”!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob is currently serving as Director of Strategy for CCNI. He is an award-winning leader with over 35 years of experience in the military, corporate, non-profit and federal sectors. He’s provided over 1,500 hours of client coaching services and earned his coaching certificate and Master’s degree in Organizational Behavior and Executive Coaching from the University of Texas/Dallas. Bob is a published author, speaker, instructor, facilitator and served as an Associate Professor of Leadership and Management at Georgia Tech and Morehouse College. Bob holds credentials as a Certified Professional Christian Coach (CPCC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and a Certified Career Services Provider (CCSP). He is the founder of Trifecta Coaching and Leadership Consulting.