Interview with Mr Michael Thallium, Greatness Coach, Spain

Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam* Interview series

Global Leaders who have Enlarged, Excelled and Evolved 
into Global Personal Brands

Area of Thought Leadership-Global and Greatness Coaching

Tell us something about your unique coaching style or greatness coaching.
First of all, I would really like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about this. The greatness coaching idea came a couple of years ago when I read a “great” book by Stephen R. Covey, The 8th habit, explaining how to shift from just effectiveness to greatness, that is, finding your “voice” and helping others to find their own voices, too. And this taking advantage of our body, mind, heart and spirit intelligences. I am also influenced by the neuroscience and the work of Howard Gardner, specially his five minds for the future: disciplinary, synthesizing, creating, respectful and ethical.

Reformulating Mark Twain words: Do not be parted with your dreams and illusions for when you cease to live, they will keep on existing; the true transcendence is to transcend... in the others. This is something I learnt from Carmen Cayuela, a Spanish PCC Coach specialised in Emotional Intelligence.

I believe there is something great in all of us, we just have to find what it is. When people talk about achieving goals, they mainly think in terms of “effectiveness”, which is good, but what happens if our ultimate goal is greatness instead? I believe we open a new space for coaching where transpersonality plays a key role. And this leads to transleadership. Lately, I am also following the work of a great transleader I am learning from: Jennifer Sertl.


What is the importance of communication to achieve greatness? Can you elaborate with some client /coaching experiences?
Who is the person you talk the most for the whole of your life? It is you! We are continuously talking to ourselves, communicating with ourselves. And this inner communication affects the way you communicate with others. And otherwise: the way you communicate with others affects the way you communicate with yourself. What is the basis of a coaching session? Communication. And this communication within a coaching relationship requires empathic listening and silence from the coach, too. Silence can be very telling.

I have met many people from very different cultures, nationalities and walks of life and, in my experience, the common thing to sort out conflicts has been communication which, as I said, involves a big deal empathic listening. Before I became a freelance coach, I used to implement coaching in the way I led (you “manage” things and “lead” people) working teams. I remember I was once assigned to a project in New Caledonia for a closing of operations. I knew quite in advance that the goal of the company I was working for at that time was to do the closing and send people home. So, basically, I would be the one sending those people home and I had three months time to deal with the situation. I will not go deep into detail, but let’s say that, on the one hand, the company did not want the workers to know they would be made redundant and, on the other hand, I had to deal myself with the situation on the spot in a remote place thousands of miles away from the head office in Europe.

I spent a whole month interviewing around 150 people -and when I say “interviewing” I mean in a coaching way- so that every single person could have the opportunity to feel he or she had been listened to. I used direct communication to generate trust, a good rapport, to leverage awareness and responsibility, that is, creating such a good team work environment as possible. What was the result? Yes, in the end 95% of people were fired, but they got the news two months in advance, not last minute -the company feared that if they would know it, they would stop working because of lack of interest and commitment. However, and this is the interesting and “great” thing out of it, leading people in a coaching way helped create an environment where, I dare to say, no-one felt deceived and they kept on working up to great levels until the very last minute that project lasted. And I like to think they all have good memories of those three last months we spent together. I just tried to help them be great under unfavorable circumstances.

I also use coaching in the teaching of languages in business companies, using conversations to leverage awareness and responsibility in the learning process.

Now, talking about executive coaching, I found that there are some succesful business people who fear public speaking and this makes them feel they cannot communicate. This feeling may prevent them from developing their careers or, at least, not enjoying them. Working on communication at a different level using coaching with emotional intelligence can be very helpful.


Tell us about your journey as a coach.
I believe the journey of a coach is a journey for life. I first became aware of the word “coaching” back in 2003. I was at some airport and I saw a book by Talane Miedaner called “Coach Yourself to Success”. I had a look at it and said to myself: “Hmm, this is something similar to the way I understand human relationships...” So, I bought it, read it and put it into practice with myself and with one of my teams at the time. However, as I said, that was the first time I became aware of that word “coaching” When I looked back, I realize that was just the moment I named something which was, somehow, part of me long before.

If would have to say how I ended up being a coach, I had to say that mainly through language (communication). When I say “language”, I mean language in the broadest sense of the word, including music. I have always been fascinated by the meaning and sounds of words, by their origin. When I was a child, I caught myself every now and then looking at the dictionary in the search for the “exact” meaning of a word. I love a book by the Spanish philosopher José Antonio Marina: “La selva del lenguaje”, which we could translate as “The Language Rainforest”.

On the one hand, there was my love for words, philosophy and arts (specially music) and, on the other hand, my curiosity for science. At high school I chose science subjects and then, after some adventures, I ended up studying translation and interpreting (Spanish/English/German) at the university. When I finished my studies, I worked as an interpreter for a while, but I soon gave up and decided to do something slightly different: “animador”, a Spanish word which you can translate as “animator” -not a graphic one, though- or tourist entertainer. Basically, what I did was entertaining tourists with different activities in hotel resorts. I like the word “animador”, it comes from the Latin “anima”, meaning “soul”. So, in essence, an “animador” is someone who gives soul to others and this requires that you have a great soul to share, because this activity is very energy and time-consuming. Then, I changed tourist animation for hotel management and later I ended up working on cruise ships. That was back in 2002. 

I worked on ships for a while doing different jobs and then again on land working for a hotel chain while I embarked on a PhD on communication and then again back to cruise ships. In 2008, I worked on a ship as a hotel manager going around the world. I have very good memories of that world tour, specially because I was privileged and honored to have the best Chef I have ever worked with: Mr Bernard Barretto. Everybody called him Chef Barretto. I like to call him Bernard. He came from India and if I mentioned him here, it is because without him, that World Trip would have been very, very difficult and I acknowledge him for the success, if any, of that venture. Do not forget that acknowledgment is very important in coaching.

When I came back to Madrid in the summer of 2008, I decided to write a PhD thesis on communication, coaching and globalization (still in progress) at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos I in Madrid and to become a freelance coach. I also decided to widen my auto didactic coaching and professional experience by certifying myself in integral coaching at the International Institute Ola Coach in Madrid.

My project Greatness Coaching Research is just the embryo of a greater life project: my vision of creating an institution to boost creativity and people empowerment in Asia, Africa and Latin America. A long and exciting way to go!


What role does music play in your greatness coaching?
Music is part of me. Actually, in my coaching I try to combine language, music and globalization. I studied piano when I was a teenager but I never finished my music studies. Then, many years later, when I was 28 I bought a guitar and started teaching myself how to play it. Sometimes I join some musicians to play with but not for a living.

As I said at the beginning, one of my influences in coaching is neuroscience and I would like to mention three people here: Dr Oliver Sacks, whose fantastic book “Musicophilia” helped me navigate for the first time into the “music brain” and discover new paths; Dr Aniruddh D. Patel, whose work “Music, Language and the Brain” enlightened me in the use of new concepts and technology to research on the neural correlates of music; and Miss Rachel Flowers, a 17 year old teen (by the time I write this) whom I consider a genius and an epitome of greatness as a person and as a musician (if you don’t know her yet, just have a look on Youtube...).

But let’s talk about coaching. Take an orchestra, for instance. For me it represents a perfect metaphor not only for team work and the different styles of management, but also for our brain or, if you prefer, our different personalities. Every musician represents a different “voice” (personality) which wants to be heard, understood, and there is an orchestra conductor who gives them the chance to speak... or not. I think, when you work with emotional intelligence coaching this metaphor can be very helpful for the coachee.

My name, Michael Thallium, is also a product of music. Shortly after Freddie Mercury died, I was in a chemistry lecture and I had a periodic table in Latin with me. I was not paying much attention to the lecturer. I realized near the Mercurium (mercury) was the Thallium. So, I said to myself: "Hmm, Freddie Mercury... ¡Michael Thallium!" I used that name as a pseudonym for years until I registered it as my professional name.


Tell us about your concept of humanocracy.
I came up with this concept while I was sitting in a coffee shop some years ago, I believe in 2004. I usually have a notebook with me -not a computer, but a real “paper notebook”- where I write down ideas. Back then, I was fed up -well, I am still fed up- with the bad news and the different nationalism they always talk about on  the mass media. They say “democracy” is the best system so far. This word comes from the Greek meaning “rule of the people”. Then, my reflection was, “I don’t know if this is the best system or not, but for sure there can be a better system”. I named this system “humanocracy” (rule by human beings). What is then the difference? I believe if there is a “demos” (people), there will be still a nationality and, therefore, a certain kind of nationalism. However, if you consider people as human beings regardless of their nationality, then you can create a system based on the rule of human beings. I called this “humanocracy”. I am not saying this must be “the” system, but I think it is a greater step toward a better future in the world. I rather have a humanocracy than a “warcracy”.

Our greatness will exist as far as we transcend in others.

Dear Amit, I want to thank you for this interview, which made me think, recall and become aware of all those so many things which yet remain unsaid. I wish my silence would trascend in others, too.

* "World is one family" in Sanskrit

Thanks Michael for sharing your wonderful thoughts and experiences.

Brief Profile
Michael Thallium is Global & Greatness Coach. He believes in the greatness of people and his vision is to help others find their greatness globally. He believes in combining communication, coaching, music and globalization to become greater. He knows Spanish, English and German.

For more, click here


  1. Hi Michael, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and for lightening our minds :-) Regards, Carla Franco


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