michael phelps coach

Athletically, I’m probably as far from swimmer Michael Phelps as you can get.

I’m not a big sports fan either. And I haven’t been swimming for a long, long time.

(In case you don’t know, Phelps is the most successful Olympic athlete of all time. He has 22 medals – 18 of them gold.)

While I admire Phelps, I’m more interested in his coach Bob Bowman.

While Phelps is Bob’s star pupil, he has coached many other swimmers and he’s been the head coach of the US Olympic team.

Compared to Phelps, Bowman has 32 Olympic medals to his name – medals won by swimmers he has coached.

That makes him the most successful Olympic swimming coach of all time. Clearly he knows something about helping people achieve long-term goals!

Recently, Bowman published a book outlining his 10-step plan for swimming success: The Golden Rules.

Read his 10-point plan, ‘the method’ for success here.

While his 10-point plan is interesting, something else in this article stood out for me.

First, part of Phelps’ success is because he had a great coach. Let’s be clear here… Bowman didn’t get wet. And we all need help to get to the top regardless of what goals we pursue.

Second, Bowman’s secret to success is that he worked with “as many top coaches as he could, soaking up all they knew about ‘what makes people work, succeed, fail, adjust and overcome.’”

There are two big ideas here.

One, learn from as many different people as you can.

Two, learn about people.


1.  What makes people work?

2.  What makes people succeed?

3.  What makes people fail?

4.  What makes people adjust?

5.  What makes people overcome?

Too often the leadership literature only focuses on ‘what it takes to succeed’ – while useful this is not enough.

Getting good at helping others in these five areas will ensure you can win at long-term goals. Along the way you’ll become a great leader.

Take care,

Mike Allen