Occasionally, people ask me if there are some people who are just uncoachable… hopelessly and forever a liability to themselves. The short answer: Yes. Some people are hopeless. The long answer: “uncoachable” is a state of being that can certainly change.
What prompted this musing is Chris Brown, who infamously assaulted Rihanna. Since the incident, Chris Brown seems to be trying to move through the motions set in play by his PR people – going on Larry King, giving his side of the story in various ways. But time and again, Chris seems to dig himself deeper and deeper into his hole, as evidenced by yesterday's Twitter tirade (Twirade?), prompting his PR folks to delete his account (wisely done). Just for the record, I believe it is way too soon to be out there promoting a new record until he does more in the public eye to educate young men about stopping the cycle of domestic violence. But that’s another topic for another day.
Even the best crisis PR can fall flat on its face if the person in the eye of the storm doesn’t have the capacity to see beyond his or her own ego. With every interview he gives, Chris reinforces my belief that he is immature, jaded by success, unable to manage his own emotions, and intoxicated by his own talent. And believe me, the kid is talented. (Don’t believe me? Watch this VMA performance, and it will jar your memory.)
Because of this toxic combination, Brown is not capable of giving any kind of unscripted interview that would improve the viewer’s opinion of him. I believe him when he says he doesn’t know what happened that fateful night. And therein lies the problem.
What I love most about coaching is that I see, very quickly, what people are made of… how willing they are to confront some of their biggest personal flaws. (And believe me, as someone with many personal flaws, it’s something I respect;). I’ve worked with people for whom arrogance was their biggest obstacle in becoming truly great speakers and spokespeople. For one in particular, it was a tough journey. But the key to his improvement was not me. The key was that he himself was willing to take a good hard look at what was lying beneath the arrogance, and to confront it head on. It was a privilege to help him on that journey.
As my mentor and friend Kristine Schaefer says, “The more we know about ourselves, the more we can reveal.” And that truly is the key ingredient to anyone who electrifies an audience – we want to see someone in their purest, most authentic state, giving selflessly of their time, and sharing their stories with a measure of real vulnerability. And Chris is nowhere near ready to have that kind of relationship with himself.