Something not fully appreciated in the world of entertainment, commerce, and public affairs is the role of 'shadow contributors'… those who contribute their talent and expertise in the background, often unknown to the general public or consumer.
In the field of pop music, for example, the musicians performing on your favorite album are sometimes studio musicians—a skilled elite of musical specialists—substituting for the regular band members who appear in concert.
In the business world those stirring rags-to-riches autobiographies by renowned corporate leaders are often written in large part by ghostwriters, dramatizing or embroidering the historical facts.
And of course those mellifluous speeches by heads of state or political candidates are usually penned by professional speechwriters, with general direction provided by the leaders and their staffs.
But this seems to be a happy trade-off. Shadow contributors receive a respectable wage in exchange for relative anonymity.
This phenomenon also happens in the world of consulting, coaching, and counseling, where a shadow practitioner offers his or her advice in the background, as a consultant to the consultant or coach to the coach.
For instance, one shadow consultant I've used from time to time—to get a second opinion on personnel issues in my client organizations—is friend and trusted advisor Herb Pearce. Because Herb is not signed to a confidentiality agreement with my clients I don't mention the name of the client to him—nor specific names of individuals—but will in general terms outline the case I'm working on.
As a psychotherapist, relationships counselor, and business coach Herb is especially adept at understanding and explaining personality differences and the communication breakdowns they cause—an everyday occurrence in business, from boardroom to shop floor to front office.
It helps that Herb Pearce is one of the world's leading experts on the Enneagram system of personality differences which he teaches in workshops all over the US. His book, which can be purchased on his website, is 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Power of the Enneagram'. (Don't worry, this book is not just for complete idiots. Those of us who are part-time idiots can get value from it too.)
There are countless systems of personality differences (including the popular Myers-Briggs) but I find the Enneagram to be the most useful in business. It's been taught in institutions as varied as the Stanford School of Business, Motorola, the US Postal Service, the CIA, and the Vatican.
Having been a leadership coach for twenty-eight years now (hard to believe it's been that long), I've enjoyed playing this shadow role as well, to other management consultants and executive coaches.
Especially because it allows me to dispense advice from my Chestnut Hill couch and forgo the 'extreme commuting' I normally have to subject myself to (bouncing around on propeller planes and Silverado rentals in rural North America).
But coaching other coaches can be a tricky proposition. Those coaches are often coaching client managers or team leaders, who in turn coach others. So the job is to coach coaches to coach coaches to coach others. (No wonder I need a coach.)