An Interview With Alon Gal, CEO and Founder of Tut Communication and Results / By Hila Yaakobi

tut communication and results is a leading company in the field of coaching and training in israel. in 2001 alon gal, chairman of the israel coaching association, founded the company, which now has 212 coaching franchises. we met with him for a fascinating talk about life, business and the unique methods he developed to help people and organizations succeed and realize their dreams. we also heard, perhaps most of all, about the vision behind the company he founded – building new leadership in
israel – and the ways he and tut coaches live the vision and work to make it a reality.

what led to tut’s founding?
i’ve been involved in coaching for 11 years. i used to be an athletic coach. i trained the maccabi haifa swimming club and eitan auerbach. i took a course in interpersonal communications and started to give workshops on interpersonal communications at organizations. i started receiving more requests to provide managers close guidance and then the two worlds came together: quality, professional guidance in interpersonal communication and the content world i came from – athletic training. i found very close ties between the fields and in 2001 i decided to set up a coaching company.

does this mean you’re a pioneer in the field of coaching in israel?
no. it turns out there were already a number of people who had backgrounds in coaching from the us before i got involved. i was unfamiliar with the field at the time and didn’t even know it existed. i called it “coaching” because of the field i had come from and because i liked the perception the concept represented in this context. i started to study it, gaining expertise, and i set up a study group with another 10 coaches from around the world, and we worked together for two years. we exchanged opinions, contents, approaches and learning, and gradually i delved into the profession.

alon gal, ceo and founder of tut communication and results

how did all this turn into a decision to start a company?
a lot of people who knew me, particularly customers, contacted me, saying it’s really amazing and they want to do it too, so i put together all of the techniques and through a year of teamwork we started to create our unique method. in 2001 we did our first training course with a group of 20 people. all of those 20 people formed the core group i started the company with.

how did tut grow into a company numbering 212 coaches?
tut is a franchise company, meaning every coach at the company is a tut franchise. we started a new training course once a year and each year we were contacted by tens of thousands of people who wanted to study to become coaches. we were never a coaching school. our school is training franchises, people who chose to engage in coaching. every year we accepted a couple dozen people into our training program. eighty percent of the people who did their initial training at tut remain authorized tut franchises to this day.

what are the acceptance criteria?
first of all we created our own outlook on the matter based on a number of stages. the first stage focuses on the question: what does it mean to be an independent operator? in order to be a coach you have to be an entrepreneur, so we built a series of workshops that clarify who is right for that and who isn’t, but more than that we built a method that provides people tools to evaluate themselves before deciding whether being an independent operator is right for them. this is the first stage of the screening, followed by additional stages. the first of them, which is the least significant, is communication aptitude.

communication aptitude is the least significant characteristic for a coach?
its relevance for acceptance is negligible for several reasons: in the final analysis, of all the quality communication experts, strategists and superb communicators i’ve met and accepted for training program, the vast majority did not become coaches, while many people who found it difficult, uncomfortable and unnatural to juggle communication were the ones who turned into leading coaches and the most amazing coaches i’ve known. there’s no correlation. it’s an element we use to categorize people, but as far as i’m concerned the ability to conduct a quality conversation and execute simple logical connections is good enough. it can be taught, improved and the method can be introduced into the coaching conversation, turning the seemingly least assertive person into an amazing coach at the end of the process. 

doesn’t communicative ability include charisma, an ability to drive people, an ability to enlist people, etc.?
i draw a distinction between the two. one element is verbal aptitude and appearance, which is the least important in my view. the second aspect is the person’s communication with himself, which includes the things you noted. that’s the most important thing we evaluate. it includes humility, resolve, an ability to enlist people to work toward shared goals as well as the coach’s integrity. we have a whole methodology to evaluate these things.

how many people does tut employ?
including the coaches we have 350 people on the staff. marketing, finance – we have a lot of subsidiaries, all of which launch what we do. it’s a serious project.

what kind of a company is it?
it’s an amazing company, full of life, full of love. there’s a lot of action taking place here, a lot of mutual learning, a lot of help, caring, cooperation. we really do have a good time, it’s a fun organization.

is the company management hierarchical?
yes, but not rigid at all. there are rules and guidelines, but we formulate them together. tut has a group of leaders – the top tenth coaches – and we develop and think together.

how would you characterize the relations between tut and its coaches?
every coach is totally independent. the coach clips out a coupon from every coaching job tut refers to him. our relations are not built on who brought in the customer. the moment someone becomes a tut franchise he comes with a reputation of very high standards. we have monitoring groups, quality assurance groups, and every customer knows there’s someone behind him. if tomorrow morning he decides he can’t get along with the coach, we’ll look for a replacement, and if the process doesn’t work, we even reimburse customers.

what are the advantages for the coaches in working as tut franchises?
every tut coach is affiliated with a professional group that meets twice a week. every process is monitored at the group level and there’s a coach in charge of it who provides professional guidance. he receives numerous tools, including organizational software that allows him to manage processes from any location in the world, a library split into different subjects with material written at tut on every possible topic. he arrives with the tut reputation and backing, which carries a lot of weight. all of his additional training he receives free. the training, guidance and expertise are included in his franchise. also, there’s the matter of the customer referral, but that’s insignificant alongside the rest. tut is a home for training. we have over 1,000 square meters of facilities, coaching rooms and halls, whose use is also included, of course.

which companies are on tut’s client list?
in 2007 alone we operated at 700 organizations and companies, including bank hapoalim, the clal group, bank leumi, leading high-tech companies, the migdal group and many others. on an average day tut receives 120 inquiries. that doesn’t happen in the rest of the coaching industry in ten years’ time. in this field we’re like microsoft, before they came up with something else.

besides coaching, what other operations are you involved in?
the coaching department represents less than 30% of tut operations. we have numerous projects we’re running at various organizations. purchasing information is one of them. it offers guidance ranging from arranging a story to proper design to training the salespeople and managers. we have a recreation company called outdoor, which runs various activities out in the field. we have operations outside of israel, such as a branch being set up in los angeles; we’ve set up branches in holland and turkey, and have cooperative arrangements in germany. we have an assessment and placement project, including assessment workshops for organizations and placement services including resume screening, defining job profiles, surveying jobs and placement. there are a number of other projects, including btv, an online coaching channel we’re working on that’s slated to go on the air very soon.

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what do the business coaching processes entail?
every business coaching process starts with a survey we conduct based on the method we developed, which is essentially an assessment of communication blocks, bungled cooperation, etc. we write up a report accompanied by advice to the organization on coaching, and then we start the process itself, which is divided into two parts: start-up and assimilation. because we provide one-stop-shop coaching for organizations the spectrum is very broad. during the course of eight years we’ve developed methods for every possible topic at an organization, based on the needs we’ve encountered.

what are the messages you convey to service providers?
we have a very different approach to the definition of service. service generally focuses on the recipient of the service. ninety-nine percent of contents in the business world are from service providers – how to smile correctly, how to speak correctly, how to make the customer feel good, etc. we have a totally different definition of the term service. service is an act for the benefit of another, which the provider of the service gains from at the same time – if not first and foremost. if you tell a service worker to smile to the customers and the worker feels uncomfortable it makes him feel bitter. the worker is displeased and in general he won’t provide customers good service. we try to take the concept of service and integrate it in life.

how can you create a breakthrough through business coaching?
the typical understanding of a breakthrough is improved results, but in terms of linguistics and perception it’s a bit different; a breakthrough is the moment when a person becomes open to doing everything he has done so far, only taking an additional route. not instead of the path he’s traveled so far, but as an additional path. many of our processes are based on this idea.

how does it work?
if we identify any communication block inside the organization our goal is to open the possibility for a trainee or a group of trainees to look at the issue from another angle. when a person is willing to acknowledge the existence of another way to observe a matter, we know how to turn it into delineated actions with a set timeframe that are not obligated to achieve certain results, but rather with definitions of the results you’re aiming toward. this is our primary strength – to provide the additional point of view, leading the trainee to be willing to recognize it and create delineated actions and possible results based on the new outlook.

how do you help organizations build a company vision?
in this matter as well our outlook is quite unconventional. generally organizations and people as a whole think of a vision as something that will happen in the future, a sort of utopia that is bound to happen if and when…but we regard a vision in terms of the present, not what will be. the vision is a choice in the here and now, not a choice to be made in the future and not a results-oriented choice. a vision cannot be defined in terms of results because results belong to the physical world, i.e. they are quantifiable things that articulate the vision, but they cannot be the vision itself. it’s essentially a process of clarifying that has to be summed up in a single sentence. we have never built, for any organization, a vision that’s longer than one sentence long. we’re very proud of our ability to create and get organizations to focus on a vision that is clear, simple and achievable for all of the people involved. at the end of a process every one of the employees arrives at a place where an element from the vision touches on his life and the values he wants to abide by.

that’s not what the vision is like at most organizations…
generally, when you step into the offices at a company, you see a lovely sign hanging on the wall with 72 principles and a whole lot of words that mean nothing to anyone, and that’s the company vision.
once i went to a company that had just finished a vision process that cost them over a million and a half shekels, and they posted the company vision opposite every worker’s desk along with the bottom line. i came back three months later to check what the employees understand the vision to be and i conducted a terrible exercise. i did something that really shouldn’t be done, because there’s a limit to a person or organization’s ability to handle conflict at any given moment.

what did you do?
i went up to ten people while they were sitting around the person who assimilated the vision at the organization, turned over the sheet the vision was written on and asked them to quote one item from what was written. nobody could quote even a single word, and that was after a million and a half shekels had gone into assimilating it.

what, according to your understanding, are the main reasons for faulty management?
i’ll start from the end. after all these years i have a terrible awareness that first of all we know nothing. it might be unpleasant to hear, but it’s true. i see managers who i have no idea what they do or how they do it and they have excellent results and are well liked, and i’ve seen companies where the situation is exactly the opposite. it’s terribly complex. all of human experience is very complex and it’s a mistake to think we have much of an understanding of it. that’s why i feel coaching is an amazing method, because in the end it goes to the individual and says to him: let’s take a look together at the places where you say, ‘i don’t feel comfortable, i’m not happy with my results, i don’t like what they have there, i don’t feel at ease with this.’ still, it’s possible to identify very clear principles or modes of conduct, that are highly likely to halt many people’s results in each of the fields.

what are the commonly occurring principles and patterns that cause the biggest blocks?
one of these principles is postponing and not carrying out agreements. if people were trained to carry out their agreements, i.e. to declare, to mean it and to keep their word, their results and self-expression would improve radically. this applies to everything, including management. another principle is responsibility – there’s a certain confusion between responsibility and blame. there’s a tendency to lay blame instead of heading in the direction of solving the problem and moving on. fear of failure is an ever-present pattern, and on the opposite end is the principle of audacity, which is built around my well-known slogan: “lets try, worst comes to worst it’ll succeed.” the fear of failure – how will it look, how will it be perceived, what will the price be – puts a big brake on people’s ability to make progress. all of these principles are the primary impediments against realizing people’s goals in life.

are there principles that only apply to personal coaching or only to business coaching?
it’s funny, but most things in life, in all matters, are very closely related and very clear. we fall in the same places and the fear of falling affects most of us and it has ramifications on the way we conduct our lives. this process of examining, understanding and being able to take this to another place allow people to produce astounding changes in altering behavior patterns. how many of us have the tools to see that the fear of failure is absurd?

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what are relations between coach and trainee like?
from the very first meeting there’s a process of building a contract of trust, which has very clear guidelines. when you hire my services to coach you it means you’re giving me the privilege and the authority to confront and appreciate you.
often people who saw me on television ask me, “how can you say such things to him?”
i don’t come up to anyone on the street and start to confront him. coaching is founded on a contract in which the trainee gives me the authority to confront him. those are the rules of the game.
coaching is a game. it’s like stepping outside of life and running a game whose goal is to improve the way i conduct my life. many people don’t understand this.

but it’s a serious game that requires investment and commitment…
if we take driver training, for instance, when you take a look at what happens in a year’s time, going from not knowing how to drive at all to driving almost automatically, it’s an amazing thing. in that case people are perfectly willing to pay money, invest time, practice, study theory. but if you tell somebody to put in the very same time and energy resources, directedness and resolve you put into learning how to drive into your interpersonal relations – suddenly nobody wants to put in the time and energy. when it comes to the most important things in life we’re not trained to invest an effort, and that’s absurd.

how long is the coaching process, whose aim is to alter these basic thought patterns?
there’s no such thing as a time limit. coaches who speak in terms of a process with a set time until results are achieved insult the profession. an individual or an organization are coaches as long as they think and see in the results that the process has advanced them.

when an organization enters the coaching process, there’s no clear deadline?
heaven forbid. the only thing that’s done is to determine the yardstick for monitored results. the coaching process is not a process of blabbing and wasting company funds. it’s a controlled process of action and as such there have to be results. some organizations request a monitored process focused on a certain matter, earmark a budget in advance and that’s the structure of the contract. if you ask me, as long as the organization, along with the coach, built the development threshold and it’s executed in a results-oriented way, the coaching is worthwhile.

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what is your vision as founder of tut?
my vision is the tut vision, which is the vision tut was founded on – creating new leadership in the state of israel. new leadership refers to both corporate and communal leaders. when i started tut i was very well off. i didn’t need tut to make a living. actually today i’m earning less than i did before i founded tut. tut is a platform for building new leadership in israel. we live within our vision and create it all the time.

how do you live within the vision?
i’ve started two non-government organizations. one of them is the association for personal excellence in israel. we do hundreds of processes a year, all on a volunteer basis or funded by the association, to which i’m the biggest contributor. i’ve donated approximately one million shekels to this association, from my personal funds. never have i taken a single shekel for my television appearances. all of the funds i’ve received, down to the last agura, were donated to the association for personal excellence in israel.

what is the goal of the association you set up?
the association was set up in order to lead and accompany weaker segments of the israeli population at no cost. the association provides tools and enhances various segments of the population in israel in a myriad of ways. we’ve done and continue to do many projects around the country, on a volunteer basis.

which projects have you done and continue to do through the association?
we did a large volunteer project in sderot, we did a project with elem in kfar saba [an organization for at-risk youth] where we set up a gallery for youths that exhibits works of art. we have a project in the arab sector in which hundreds of arab youths undergo a free process aimed at bridging cultural gaps. we hold a job fair in nazareth and invite large israeli companies, creating the link between them and the arab population. we believe that in order to make peace between arabs and jews in israel first of all you have to create shared life experiences and joint businesses.
right now we’re launching a joint project with or yarok to train truck drivers, a responsibility project designed for all truck drivers in the state of israel.
we work in collaboration with bougie herzog, the minister of labor and welfare, and are set to introduce enhancement tracks into all of the welfare departments. we do amazing things, and this is just the beginning.

where are you and tut headed in the future?
as long as god continues to give me the strength, and it’s clear to me that could come to an end in half a second’s time (we’re not as powerful as we think), but as long as i’m able i will continue to create and act for the general good. i was given the privilege to lead a whole lot of possibilities, both in terms of human affairs and communication, i’ve received a lot of privileges and i have to use them for the common good, for my own sake, for the sake of my family, my city, my country and the whole world, and i’m constantly engaged in this.

in what way are you engaged in working for the sake of the whole world?
i’m currently involved in submitting plans to the organizers of the 2012 olympic games in london, which define how to use the olympics to create more harmony in the world. i’m constantly initiating projects. i don’t know which of them will succeed and which won’t, but that’s what i’m engaged in – to make this world a better place for us and for our children. i think that because i’ve been blessed with so many privileges and possibilities, if i’m not constantly engaged in this creation, it would be wasteful and arrogant. we have to take what we’ve been given and do the best we can, that’s the bottom line.

for the hebrew article  

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