Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Playing to the Edge

Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2011 by International Coach Federation

The 2011 ICF Conference in Las Vegas is just weeks away! The theme for the Conference is “Playing to the Edge.” One of the members of the Educational Steering Committee, Katerina Kanelidou from Greece, wrote an insightful essay on this theme that I believe will stimulate your thinking and perhaps highlight some perspectives you haven’t thought about. Enjoy…and…I hope to see you in Las Vegas!

Lynn Meinke, PCCChair: 2011 Educational Steering Committee

Last December, as a member of the 2011 ICF Conference Education Steering Committee, I was requested to brainstorm for this year’s conference theme; extremely challenging for a non-native English speaker. By the end, one of the teams came up with the title “Playing to the Edge.” Everybody loved it! As a non-native English speaker, I was skeptical. In my consciousness this playing to the edge just meant risky business.

A couple months later, we were requested to share one thought on playing to the edge, what it meant for each one of us. I thought about it and consulted one of my best friends, the dictionary.

I started with the verb play. Checking the dictionary, some of the meanings of “play” were:
  • Engage (in an activity);
  • Deal in a light, speculative, or sportive manner;
  • Take advantage;
  • Move or function freely within prescribed limits;
  • Perform (music);
  • Act (theatre);
  • Engage or take part in a game;
  • Behave or conduct oneself in a specific way;
  • Gamble; and
  • Amount one’s efforts.
This made me think. And wonder. We have frequently heard coaching described as a dance. What if coaching is also a game? A game we play with our clients. A game that serves the purpose or goals of a much larger game: the game of life.

We do not want our clients to just live their lives. We want them to engage in this game, perform, act, deal with it and its challenges, have fun, take risks, and interact with it. We do not coach passive spectators; we coach players of the game of life!

And it is all done through another game: coaching. We do not just dance with our clients. We engage them in a more dynamic and interactive way. We challenge them. We encourage them to take appropriate risk. In a way we support them to gamble, not based on luck but based on their skills and strengths. We help them discover the fun of being in the game, and encourage them to celebrate all their victories, small and large.

What do we play for? Ultimately we play to win. The definition of what is won can be many things: achieving a goal, enhancing a career, improving performance, positively changing thinking and lives, reaching a vision, and most importantly growing. As coaches we are also challenged to grow. And so, in this game of life and work we grow, as do our clients. In this interactive and inter-developmental game of coaching, we support and encourage our clients’ growth and, in turn, our clients’ creativity and work stimulates and enhances our own growth as human beings and coaches.

So, if coaching can be considered a game in the service of this larger game of life, why play to the edge?

Again, going back to the dictionary. I found the follow meanings for edge:
  • sharpness (of a blade);
  • force, effectiveness;
  • keenness or intensity of desire or enjoyment;
  • the line where an object or area begins or ends;
  • the narrow part adjacent to a border;
  • advantage; and
  • brink, verge.
The ICF International Conference happens once a year, so it draws a line that has a definite beginning and end. This drawing a line is also done in times where the world is seen to be at the edge from many perspectives. In my own country we are living at the edge economically and, as a consequence, socially and we are experiencing uncertainty and fear. The recent revolution in Egypt and the current situation in Libya and Syria are showing all of us how whole nations can live at the edge as they try to make their way to democracy or peace. And let’s not forget the recent crisis in Japan where the edge has become an everyday experience. So, perhaps our world is at the edge: socially, economically, environmentally, politically, and spiritually.

From the coaching perspective, when it comes to our work we play to the edge with our clients and ourselves. We “play” to our own limits of what we can do as we develop our own mastery and growth in the coaching field. We play to our own keenness, effectiveness and sharpness during every coaching session as well. We also invite our clients to play to their edge, as that is where they often need to go in order to develop. As said by another Committee member, we ask our client to step out of their comfort zone to move forward. As coaches, we move alongside them on this thin line, “the narrow part adjacent to a border”, to stretch them, and in so doing, we stretch ourselves to stand up to this challenge.

For me it’s a perfect coincidence that we are having this conference in a place like Las Vegas, a place where people go to challenge their fortune by playing to the edge. What an incredible opportunity we have this year to stretch ourselves and to play to our edge, especially at this particular moment in history when the world is at the edge. And, at the same time we can take a moment to recognize and celebrate a profession that also works and plays to the edge.

Katerina Kanelidou, ACC


  1. Katerina! You "get it"!!!!!
    Love your post!
    And your writing is masterful, esp. considering English is your second language. Bravo!

    Tom Krapu, PhD, PCC

  2. Excellent, Katerina. I am in awe of your ability to write in English as well as intrigued by your perspective. I enjoyed this article.

  3. Love this Katerina! It has been a delight working with you on the committee....I love your playful sense of humor too!
    Lisa Kramer

  4. This is powerful, Katerina. In recent months, I've been "playing to the edge" in a personal sense by engaging in activities that would have cowed me before - I started to do improvisational acting and creating art with collage and encaustic.It seems that my own adventures in newness + risk-taking have also transformed my work with clients. More comfortable taking them to their edge. Wonderful to read someone speak to this so eloquently.
    Karma Kitaj, Life Spring Coaching

  5. It is the edge we all, as a planet, are, Katerina... And the edge has different expressions in various places of this wonder~ful planet... And edge is exactly where learning happens!
    And it is with play and dance we transcend and grow and move on!

    Thank you for this beautiful article!

    Filia polla from Rhodes, Greece,


  6. Tom, Iris, Lisa, Karma, Maria,
    thank you all for reading this article and posting your feedback.
    We, coaches, have the privilege to do a unique profession. We witness our clients evolution and growth and we grow together with them.
    And when we have the amazing opportunity to be part of a great team that inspires our thinking, then we are truly blessed.

  7. Excellent post on playing to the edge. I really love reading this content, please keep it coming!

    Boston executive coaching | Boston video production company


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