A Tribute to Our Friend, Sir John Whitmore


Sir John Whitmore was born on October 16, 1937 and passed just a few weeks ago on April 28, 2017 at the age of 79. He is the one of the founders of the coaching industry and the GROW model and is also known for his racecar driving.

Sir John Whitmore was our friend, our very dear friend. We smile at the irony of him starting this talk by saying, ‘I am not here to make friends this morning.’

He was everyone’s friend.

For those of you who may be hearing his name for the first time, take a moment to look him up. This man played a major role in founding an industry that is still in its infancy but has the capacity to transform the world. He was a pioneer in coaching, co-created the famous GROW model and advanced the idea that the answers are truly within us. Time and again, he reminded those who would listen that the role of the coach is to ask, not tell, and that when we increase awareness, we are able to generate responsibility.

His was a pioneer.

John spent most of his career focused on developing human potential. He believed in empowering young people with choice and allowing them to learn from the experiences those choices generated. He supported experiential learning – what he liked to call ‘natural learning’. In education, the problem he saw most was our systematic focus on teaching knowledge instead of wisdom. We fail young people in taking away their sense of responsibility, and thus the biggest gift to children is encouraging self-responsibility at an early age. For John, that gift can single-handedly change the world.

He championed choice and responsibility.

If you knew John well, you probably heard many, many stories. One in particular is the story of a little boy who loved his orange shorts so much he begged his mum everyday to wear them to school. Over and over, he pleaded with her, and over and over she said, ‘You will be too cold, put on your jeans’. That is, until the day she let him do as he pleased. He proudly wore his orange shorts and sure enough, he wound up freezing in the schoolyard and never asked to wear his beloved shorts again.

He was a storyteller.

Whether on a TEDx stage or making awesome digital copies of VHS golf videos, John was a rock star. People followed him. People learned from him. Perhaps, a generation will be changed because of him. So, as we move forward and treasure memories of Sir John Whitmore, we will remember that his role in this world was to provoke thinking and push the boundaries. And that, he did – and will continue to do in our hearts. He will remain a beacon of hope and of what is possible for as long as we live.

He will always be remembered.

Thank you, John, for teaching us how to consciously connect and befriend. Thank you for telling inspiring stories, pioneering a beautiful industry and living a life of service. You will be remembered in our hearts, minds and work for the rest of time.