Coaching For Success With Andrew Moss

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What is the true essence of coaching and how does it tie up with success? That’s what we’re unlocking in today’s episode with host Tony Martignetti and guest Andrew Moss. Andrew has been a coach for Olympic athletes for 20 years, but now he has transitioned into coaching and developing other high-performance coaches. One thing he’s learned in his career is that all coaches, no matter what industry, have one goal in mind, and that is unlocking potential. He also shares the flashpoints in his life that helped him realize his calling as a coach and how he realized that life is truly in your hands and no one else’s. Learn some invaluable insights on how to become a great coach in this episode of The Virtual Campfire.

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Coaching For Success With Andrew Moss

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Andrew Moss. After a twenty-year career of coaching elite athletes, developing high-performance coaches, and advising on talent development in the Olympic sports, Andrew has taken all of what he learned about unlocking human potential to help exponentially enhance the impact of a similarly ambitious community of entrepreneurs and innovation leaders. Andrew is located in Toronto, Canada, and he is joining me to sit by the fire.

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Welcome to The Virtual Campfire, Andrew.

Thank you, Tony. It's a pleasure to be here.

I'm thrilled to have you and looking forward to knowing your story and all the insights you have to share from your years of coaching with such amazing individuals. I know it's going to be a thoughtful conversation.

We've crossed paths and I’m looking forward to this conversation.

Same here. I want to give you a little bit of context because I feel like this show is not like other shows but you never know. The way we roll here is we talk about what's called flashpoints in people's stories and these are the moments in your life that have ignited your gifts to the world. There could be one or there could be many. Along the way, we'll stop as you tell your story to see what's coming up. What are the themes? What are the things that have revealed you to the world? With that being said, I'll allow you to take the floor and see what's coming up for you.

It's such a fascinating question because there are a series of flashpoints that show up for me. I'll go back to grade nine because we had careers class in high school. I think my girl still had that. We were asked to fill out a little survey and indicate the two careers that we could imagine ourselves. I answered chef and coach in grade nine. I'm still working on the chef part. I’m getting better all the time but there was something in the experiences I had as a young person with the coaches that I interacted with that impacted me to the level of imagining a career of doing the same of what they had done for me, doing the same for others.

Put the athlete as the expert and simply be a mirror to help them find their way to improve.

I've thought about it quite a bit. I've stayed in touch with a lot of coaches who were my coaches way back then. What is fundamentally was, was that I had coaches that allowed me to be the best I could be, not by physical training or technical skills, but they made me understand how I was getting in the way of myself most of the time. They had this ability to unlock the mental part of being a successful athlete. We trained and learned skills but I was able to perform at a level beyond what the training and the technique would have allowed me to because they taught me how my brain was involved in that process.

I can say that now. When I was that age, I would have said it too in a way that they made me feel like it was possible for me to be great because they taught me that any thoughts were limiting and thoughts were just made up. They didn't have to be there. When you're 13 or 14 years old, you don't have the language for it. That's certainly the first flashpoint for me. It’s a point in my life where I saw and valued the way a great coach could make somebody feel and I wanted to figure out how to do more of that.

The second one is probably much later in my career. I was working at a national training center in Canada and we had a lot of international athletes that would come and train with us because we were at a couple of thousand feet elevation. There’s a benefit of training at altitude when you would return to sea level. One of the athletes was a ten-time world record holder with three Olympic medals. I was often working with the international group in our squad. The first time I coached her, I remember she came in to practice and she said, “Coach, how are we going to get better today?” I thought, “That's an interesting question to be asked.”

I was in my early 30s at that point and I had to come up with an answer to a world champion and world record holder. This is in the sport of swimming, which means that she was the best there has ever been ever in her events in the sport. The next practice, she asked me the same question and then I started to realize that I needed to be as prepared for these practices as humanly possible because the challenge for the year ahead was to help a world champion become better in every single training session. That's a flashpoint for me because she taught me what it is to be the best at something. She could have gone through the year and just tried to replicate what she had done before, but she was curious and open.

I was a new coach for her, so I was seeing her in a new way. She was always curious about what I saw and what I would have to suggest to help her improve. It was a never-ending curiosity from her. That fundamentally helped me understand what it is to unlock potential, even in the highest of performers. Sometimes in our coaching community, people see people at that level and think, “They're unreachable as a coach.” It’s like, “What do I have to offer?” They are the most curious and interested to learn more about performance. It's what's gotten them to that point in the first place.

Even having a unique perspective to offer them is often enough of a difference to be able to bring value and help them see a path to get better. That's the second one. The third one is less positive but informative in terms of my career. Towards the end of my coaching in the sports side, I had an opportunity to see an old friend I hadn't seen since high school days, so it’s twenty years later. It was the first time we had seen each other. My sports coaching career had taken a good beating on me. I was not in a great mental place and physical place.

When he saw me, we spent the weekend around a campfire and he said, “You're not who I remember you as. What's going on? What's that all about?” He's not a coach, but it was a great coaching question. I opened up and there were a lot of things in my personal life and relationships that were going on. The character that I was playing by being a high-performance coach wasn't that attractive to me anymore. That all came out. We had a great conversation around the campfire to say, “What else is out there? What else is possible? What would bring back the playful, positive, energetic guy that he remembered me as?”

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That was a real pivotal moment for me. That changed the course of a lot of things in my life, but it's brought me to where I am today of getting a chance to still coach, but coach from a much different place with pure authenticity to how I show up in my coaching. That's been a liberating thing. It's been a great role model for my kids to see that dad just shows up as a silly dad, but he can make a living doing that. People are attracted and appreciate that. As a father, that's always a concern, like, “What is the story they're being told by watching me live my life?” That conversation was a huge moment for me, and then the following years since that have resulted from that.

There are many things I want to react to. One of the things that I sense about you is this element of coming back to your true self and living more authentically. It's beautiful because you don't have to put any airs on of like, “I have it all figured out,” because most people don't, which is cool. We often have conversations about what makes a coach different than most people. In my opinion, it’s not that we don't have it all figured out. We happen to have good tools to be able to think it through. I'd love to know your take on that for starters.

The tools are part of it. Most great coaches have some real lived experience that gives them a perspective and empathy for what people are going through. One of the gifts that I was given having the chance to work with high-performance athletes was to see that they are extraordinarily imperfect people behind the scenes. Most people get to see them on NBC Sports every four years or the Olympic Games and they're portrayed as these superhuman beings. In fact, most of their life, those are the accolades they receive. That's how their persona is portrayed and how they identify worth in their life.

Having been behind the curtain on that, there's all kinds of self-doubt, questioning, imposter syndrome, and all of the stuff going on. I realized that it was a great gift to get a chance to see that because it's also helped me see that it's okay that I feel that way. It's certain that everybody I've come in contact with is also feeling that way. It's like, “How do I show up in a way that makes them feel comfortable to share some of that and to see how we can help them?”

Another question I have around being a coach to high performers, especially athletes, is oftentimes when you step into an arena where there are people who are highly trained and they look at you and say, “Who are you to coach me?” It seems like you were a born coach but the type of coaching you do is now shifted and it's more aligned with who you are as a person. When you were coaching these Olympic athletes, did you have to wear this era of like, “I've been where you are?” Tell me more about that.

If they had googled, they would realize that I was not who they were as an athlete, so that wouldn't have been a useful story to tell. You bring up two powerful flashpoints for me. One of the first mentors I had was an Australian coach who would have drowned if he had fallen in the swimming pool that he was coaching Australian Olympic athletes. I don't mean that as a joke. He would have literally drowned. He could not swim and never learned to swim. I watched him coach and saw that he put the athlete as the expert and he was simply a mirror for them to help them find their way to improve.

For example, for people that have kids that maybe go watch coaches in other sports, most coaches show up and will give feedback to the athlete directly. They'll watch the athlete do something and they'll give them feedback. What this coach would do is he would ask a question about how the athlete felt while they were doing the last thing. Whereas they are going to head off and he would say, “Pay attention to how you feel about this on the next few laps you do.” He would then get the feedback from them and he would craft his feedback in a way that supported them being the expert of themselves, and he would add his little layer of insight to it.

You are 100% responsible for what happens in your life.

I remember the first time I watched him do that. I sat for two hours and watched him coach and thought, “That is what unlocks not just potential but the athlete to feel empowered that they own their performance.” It's not because of the coach that they're this powerful. It's because they've developed their talent. If that athlete was to go away on a trip without the coach, they would be perfectly fine because they didn't need that coach to be there to get their performance. That was huge for me. That was a real mental shift. If I could be a mirror for the person I was coaching and get them to provide feedback, I could add some value by adding what I was seeing from my viewpoint and we could get better together. That was one huge thing for me.

You talk about gifts in your life. Having him be willing to spend some time with me was massive. The other one was in that transition point when I was leaving sports to move into what I'm doing now. I went to a conference in New York City where it was a sports performance conference but they had panels talking about each subject. One of the panel members was from sports, one was from business, and one was from another field but they would all talk about the same subject.

I remember one where they had a Formula 1 pit crew director, a neurosurgeon from New York City, and a director from Broadway. They were talking about developing talent and managing talent. In a pit crew, you've got all these people running around doing jobs. This guy's job was to recruit those people, train them, and make sure they did the best job possible. A neurosurgeon had a whole team of people around him when he was doing brain surgery and then a director on Broadway has got all these moving parts and they've got to make it all work.

The whole weekend was a series of those kinds of talks. I remembered sitting through them and having this insight of, “We're all doing the same thing. We're all finding people, connecting them to where their talent can thrive, and then giving them the feedback to let them be their best self in that context.” That weekend helped me shift towards coaching in the business and entrepreneur space. We’re all a bunch of human beings doing different activities at the end of the day. Most of what gets in our way are stuff that goes on between our ears and it doesn't matter the context of what we're doing.

There's an element of the context that it doesn't matter but there's an element of your body and your mind is always at play. The mind is, of course, a big part of it. For your mind to be properly functioning, you have to also be keeping your body healthy. It's the container that keeps everything going. In some ways, coming from where you came from, it's a nice way to bring it into the world of leaders, keeping themselves in a place of self-care and making sure that they understand the importance of that mind-body connection, too. There are always little connections that I start to see pop up when you’re working with different people and that is a powerful way to bridge the gap from athletes to leaders that are leading the companies.

Whether it's for coaches or leaders in organizations, we all bring this buffet of life experience with us to the table. I find that in a lot of conversations, sometimes people compartmentalize some of those things. They do this for a living but then they have these other hobbies. In coaching, sometimes people will say, “I'm a new coach,” even though they've been a corporate leader for 25 years. You've been coaching, leading, observing, and trying to figure out how to get people to do what you need them to do for many years now, so you're not a new coach. This is a different label that you're using now. The sports world gave me access to see how people, who in a narrow niche activity, performed at the highest level.

The biggest gift that gave me was to see that their ability to perform was tied to their ability to manage their mental state because I also got to see how challenging it was for them to see their careers develop and go to school when they were outside that context and they felt like imposters. As soon as they stepped off the swimming pool deck or the track, they felt like they had nothing to offer the world. It was fascinating to me to see that. All of those experiences helped me show up with a little bit more empathy for everyday human beings like you and me. We’re all trying to figure it out and be the best version of ourselves. If I put Tony or Andrew in a certain setting, we can feel all mighty and powerful and then if you take us into a different setting, we have no clue on what we're doing. We're all the same in that way.

I am still in awe of the fact that here's a person who, at a young age, had this connection with coaching. Here you are now doing that thing. It's morphed and changed along the way and you've created this path. It's interesting because I often look back and I look at the early days of people's lives. Oftentimes, the things you do at a young age, you come back to. There are kernels of truth in what you are as a child and what you dream of. I'm still amazed at that connection that you had.

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It's a blessing to have been able to do this for an entire career and there's no end in sight. The other full circle path, which has also been an interesting journey, is when I moved from sport to the business world, I have a lot of people pushing me towards doing executive coaching and all that. “You've coached an Olympian and you’ve coached a CEO.” I dabbled with that for a while and I didn't feel the connection to doing that work. I was dabbling with some different things and then I was doing some work with a group of university students, and I went, “This feels great again.”

For me, it was coming back to the energy and the ambition that an Olympian has or a would-be Olympian has. It's the same for these soon to graduate university students who are looking at the world. They've got this I-want-to-make-the-world-a-better-place attitude. They're early enough in their life with a little bit of support and that same feeling that I had when I was young gave me. If I can transition and give that to these university students, they've got a whole career out of them to make the world a better place. Somebody needs to give them the support and belief that they can go out there and do that.

It has come full circle for me in that way as well. Being able to come back and spend a lot of my coaching time working with younger people, socially-minded people, people that have the same drive and passion that the athletes had that I worked with has been great. It's fueled this second wave of energy that I've got around coaching until they drag me off the fields, so to speak. I don't think I could imagine a better job than to show up and help people realize their dreams for a living.

I love it when you start talking about university students because that's powerful. It's an area where there's a need for more focus. When you start a business, you think, “We got to follow the money. Where's the money?” I don't think many people think of the universities as a place where there's the money but it's a place where there’s impact and truly a place where you can make an impact. It's not just about making money. It's about making an impact on the future and shaping minds. I think about the person that you mentioned, which was the athlete who talked about the ‘we’ and that mentality of this young person comes in and says, “How are we going to get better?” That person was your coach at that moment.

It's part of showing up as a coach. You have to know where your ego lies to be able to cope from that perspective. If you need to fill your ego as a coach, you won't allow yourself to be in that position. I've seen a lot of coaches that can't put themselves in a position to appear with their client or a guide where the client is the one that's being empowered to make the decisions. That, to me, is the most powerful coaching that you can do. I remember Nelson Mandela talked about this leader from behind. You have to empower people to feel that they are making their own decisions and they're empowered to have their own destiny in their own hands because, at some point, that's going to be true.

Working with university students, if they rely on me to make decisions, at some point, I'm not going to be there for them and I will have done nothing to benefit them. I spend a ton of time with the university students, getting them to understand what's getting in their way of figuring out the answers that they're looking for. Unfortunately, the school systems don't do a great job of teaching kids that at all. They're told to sit and receive information, not how to think about, “What do I do? How do I see the world? How do I make decisions? Why is my brain thinking this way? What's going on with it?”

There isn't enough emphasis on that. It's been great to find that there are some schools out there now investing in having coaching around degree programs. Timing, the universe, or whatever, I was in a place where somebody said, “We'd love to have you on our team.” I've had a chance to do that for the last few years with probably 400 to 450 students. They have been my teachers and I've guided them a little bit. That’s the rewarding part of my coaching.

It’s not always a smooth road that leads to big impact.

When I look at that, that's the power of what we can do if we are open to it and allow ourselves to the opportunity. What would you say are 2 to 3 things that, as you look back on your journey, come up as the big standout lessons for you and that you want to share with people?

I'm going to answer for the everyday person out there who may or may not be a coach. This is not coaching advice but it's advice from lifetime-spent coaching. One is that you are 100% responsible for what happens in your life. Whether that's practically true or not, it's 100% true in your mind. What I mean by that is the old adage that we can't necessarily control what happens to us but we can control how we think about what happens to us. It has been a fundamental belief of mine. Throughout my life, there have been times where I've lost sight of that, it hurt me, and I started blaming. When I brought it back, I was empowered to solve my own problems.

When I'm talking about empowering young athletes or young students, it's because ultimately, they need to be responsible for making the decisions and the outcomes of those decisions in their lives. That would be one. Everything I do in my coaching is focused around conscious awareness of our thoughts and the way that impacts how we see the world, see each other, relate to the problems and the challenges that we're facing.

Probably the biggest advice I could give on anything would be to learn how to be a little quieter between the ears, notice the thoughts and the emotions that come after those thoughts, and how that impacts the actions that we take. I've been blessed to do a little bit of work with a group that's doing some youth programs in Southside Chicago. They're teaching young high school kids conscious awareness of thought to the point where kids no longer feel like they have to react to everything that happens to them in their life or that happens to their friends or their family.

There's that moment of noticing that thought pattern and being able to check it before the emotion and then the action that follows, and they have taught kids how to check their behaviors. You only need to start doing that with a few kids who start teaching a few more kids and people start reacting differently to one another to change a whole environment in a very powerful life. I had the unfortunate experience of sitting in the stands watching the US presidential debate from up here in Canada and I was thinking to myself, “That is not a great example of humanity and how to treat fellow human beings or how two human beings can coexist.” We have to be better than that. We have to rise above that to solve the problems that we're all faced with in the world. That conscious thought is a huge part for me.

The last one is to find something in your life that lets you show up as your natural, authentic self and do that. Find people that value that and find a profession that allows you to do that. When you do that and you show up in that way, you are more powerful and can serve people. There's no rulebook that says we all have to go down a certain path and do certain things in our life. Find that and for parents out there, support your kids to find their path and to be true to themselves. I have four daughters, so I've learned that for sure and I watch their journeys. That would probably be the third one.

I love the last one, especially because that's powerful. Everything about you is about showing up authentically. It took a lifetime to get there in a way but it's proof that it's worth it in terms of how you're showing up now. That's powerful. Thank you for sharing that. I have one last question for you. What is one book that's had an impact on you and why?

The one book I would refer to is called The Untethered Soul. It's a simple little book around consciousness and awareness, maybe a little bit of meditation thrown in. It's a book for the layperson that wants to try to figure out how it is that we, as human beings, are wired from our brains, emotions, and actions. It's one of those the-teacher-shows-up-when-the-pupil-is-ready moments in my life. The teaching I needed was, “I'm going to come out of this character I've been playing in the sports sector. How do I learn this approach to life that comes from a calmer place, a place of seeing every human as the same caught up in their thoughts and trying to figure out life?” That book was a powerful way for me to get access to that space. I have a massive bookshelf that has set me back a few tens of thousands of dollars, probably. That's one that certainly pops in terms of the impact that it made at an important time in my life.

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I love that book, too. Is the author Michael Singer?

Yeah.

That is a powerful recommendation. I love the way you describe it, too, in terms of how it fits into your life. It does make a lot of sense. Andrew, this has been such a great journey with you. I'm so appreciative of all the work you do in the world and what it took for you to get here. I'm looking forward to seeing where you go from here because there's so much more that you're capable of unlocking in terms of potential. Thank you for coming to the show. I also want to give people an opportunity to find out where they can find out more about you.

I'm looking forward to finding out what the future holds, too. People can find me at CoachAndrewMoss.com. That's my little coaching website. Nothing too fancy. I don't do any of the fancy marketing things. I'm active on LinkedIn. It’s where people see a lot of daily thoughts from my morning walks along the beach or whatever inspires me. It’s usually what shows up on LinkedIn daily. The coaching side is how people can reach me and find out a little bit about my programs.

It's been fun to get to know each other from a distance and watch each other's actions. I'm a big fan of you, your journey, and the courage to make the changes that you've made. Thank you for having me on the show. Thank you for having the show because these are important messages for people out there to hear and to hear the journey that other humans have been on, and realize that it's not always a smooth road that leads to a big impact.

Thank you. That's kind of you. You're absolutely onto it right there. It's not a smooth road and people don't just arrive at being brilliant in the world. They have to go through some trials and tribulations and some learnings along the way. Thank you to the readers for coming on the journey. I hope you are taking a lot of great insights with you. That's a wrap.

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About Andrew Moss

VCP 58 | Coaching For SuccessMy professional career has provided many unique experiences, all of which my clients benefit from. I chose to be a coach from the very start of my career and have never looked back. For the first two decades, I was in the high-performance sports world, working with elite athletes including Olympic and World Champions. From there I moved into roles coaching other coaches and advising talent development experts across a range of Olympic sports.

In 2016 I attended a performance conference in New York City and heard top talent experts from many different contexts - business, arts, education, medicine and sport, all speaking on the same topic and I realized that my gift for helping athletes see something new in themselves was applicable to any group of people with ambition, work ethic and a desire to realize their own most inspiring dreams.

That insight led me to begin my current efforts in private coaching where I work with talented and driven people with big dreams, a feeling of frustration about the state of the world, and the determination to do something about it.

Personally, I am a father to four daughters and have learned so much from them. I’m passionate about social issues, especially those of Indigenous people in Canada. In 2019, I spent two and half weeks hiking over 600km across northern Canada in memory of the death of a young indigenous boy in the 1960’s who was trying to escape from a residential school and return to his family. I wrote a post about this experience here. I’m also an avid sailor and skier and love to be in nature - you can catch my morning sunrise walks on my Instagram.

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