It's no trouble conjuring up the image of a coach. You can picture someone stomping back and forth on a sideline, blistering the ears of a misguided referee or throwing down a headset in frustration over a botched play. You can picture an agitated coach, or a cerebral coach who is more of a tactician rather than a red-faced screamer.
It is harder, however, to picture a facilitator. Maybe it's even harder to imagine an executive coach and facilitator in business world boardrooms instead of basketball gyms or football fields.
The world of Irving Barnett Goldberg -- Barry to his friends and clients -- is one of an executive coach and facilitator. Goldberg works with individuals but also is employed by Vistage, where he meets with executives of companies big and small and guides them through the difficult decisions they face.
Goldberg puts his talent to work for a wide variety of ventures including glass companies, electrical supply companies and even the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Leadership in its various forms is the subject of Goldberg's column in Arkansas Business.
"Early in my tenure as CEO [chief executive officer] of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, I read a leadership article of Barry's and immediately knew I wanted to know him," Marta M. Loyd says. "We have been working together ever since. Barry is a highly regarded expert on leadership. Through Vistage and executive coaching, he has the unique ability to thoughtfully listen as leaders express tough issues they face. He then adeptly applies the right mix of theory and common sense to give us tools to solve our problems."
While he is aware that coaching isn't the most complex task, he takes pride in what he is able to accomplish with those who seek his help.
"We can teach people the basics about coaching in about a week," Goldberg says. "The difference between a mediocre coach and a great coach is who shows up to use those tools. I am aware of the constant need to work on myself."
Whatever his methods, Goldberg's clients do not hesitate to sing his praises. They see him as someone who through his experience can see patterns that they can't see.
"I often find myself asking 'What would Barry do?' Usually, that question results in my calling to ask him," Loyd says.
VIETNAM AND THE DRAFT
Goldberg grew up in Dallas, the middle son in a family of three boys. This was the 1950s and, while nobody would have considered the Texas town with the then population of half a million as sleepy, it didn't resemble the major metropolitan city it is today. Goldberg's father served in the South Pacific in World War II. His family had a history of being in the hat business that traced back to an ancestral home in Lithuania.
"My dad was a millinery manufacturer," Goldberg says. "All members of my family ended up in the hat business."
The west side of Dallas in a "modest neighborhood" was where Goldberg and his friends would roam and rule.
"We were out on our bikes all the time," Goldberg recalls. "We would ride around all day. We did all the usual stuff boys do to get in trouble."
It wasn't hard for Goldberg to see that his family stood out among the others in his neighborhood.
"There were Jews [in Dallas] but we were a minority," Goldberg says. "There were four of us in our elementary school. I will tell you an early memory. Every morning at school we had a prayer. They pulled a kid out of class -- a different kid every day -- to go to the principal's office to say a prayer over the intercom after the morning announcements. One day they selected my brother to lead the prayer. He started to pray in Hebrew because that's what he knew to do. Let me tell you, the brouhaha after that was significant."
In the sixth grade, Goldberg's family moved to the north side of Dallas, which was the location of "all three synagogues and Jewish Community Center."
"It wasn't so strange there," Goldberg recalls. "We didn't have to travel so much in the car to go to services. Being someplace where it wasn't so foreign to be who we were was healthy."
By the time he reached high school, the Vietnam war dominated the headlines and the thoughts of young men like Goldberg who would soon be eligible for the draft. Protesters fought against sending American soldiers to harm's way in a distant country. Ways to avoid the draft existed but didn't come without a cost.
"I did consider other options," Goldberg recalls. "I do not think I would have had the nerve to go to Canada. I was not a fan of our presence [in Vietnam] -- something that has been validated as history shows why we were there. But I also did not have other plans. My mother had quietly shared with me that sending me to [University of Texas at Austin] would have been a financial burden and I was not interested in a commuter school."
Goldberg enlisted in the Navy before his number was called for the draft.
"It was I thought a strategy to have more control and I did get to choose the training specialty for Quartermaster school."
Goldberg says straight out that he does not like to relive the details of his time in Vietnam. He is very clear on how he views that time in his life.
"I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience I had there and I would not take a million dollars to go back. It's not something I want to repeat and yet I learned important lessons there."
Even after returning home from the war, Goldberg wasn't completely set on the direction his life would take. He eventually came back and settled in Dallas and took on a series of odd jobs.
"I sold retail radio advertising," Goldberg says. "When you are young and you walk in with a cheap plastic briefcase, they make you immediately as a salesman. It was hard when you don't know anybody."
An interview for an opening at Xerox came with an offer and the advice to not take the job.
"I'll never forget it. The interview was with Frank Dombroski. He told me, 'I will give you this sales territory but I suggest you don't take it.' He was saying I should go to college. I knew if I didn't go back to school at that time, I never would. My father never finished high school."
The man who would later analyze complex business systems and walk through difficult decisions with CEOs did not major in business or accounting at the University of Texas. Goldberg's degree is in Slavic Languages and European History.
"I took an interest in folk dancing in high school," Goldberg says. "When I came back from Vietnam, I was living on the West Coast and introduced to a coffee house night club place for folk dancing. It was a thing then and I practically lived in the place. I found the folk instruments and asymmetrical rhythms of Eastern Europe fascinating and challenging. When I got back to school, I thought I would be an ethnomusicologist, and teach anthropology -- until I learned more about what that life would look like."
Goldberg knows that his love of this specific type of culture and music makes him a rarity but not necessarily fun at parties.
"I still have a collection of Eastern European/Balkan folk music recordings and instruments that can empty a room in no time."
By the 1980s, Goldberg had left Dallas for California and ended up in San Francisco. He would learn about and then would become an expert in CRM (customer relationship management) systems.
"CRM technology is commonplace today but was new then," Goldberg says. "I did not sell or install software but instead facilitated a process of clients understanding how to get business to benefit from those systems. Failure rates on CRM implementations were through the roof and I could help clients understand how to use the systems to avoid creating more and different problems."
He worked for companies around the world and did so much traveling that he "earned platinum status on two airlines."
"I also thrived on the variety of places I could visit in a week. There was a period when I had active projects in London, Poland, San Francisco, New York City, Tampa and Hong Kong. It was a lot of long hours and time zone shuffling and hard on the body when I traveled -- but I loved the experience."
Work for Goldberg was on the upswing and his personal life was headed for a big change.
"I got married in 1983," Goldberg says. "I say that Faith is one of those women with a permanently-arched eyebrow. Our first date was a disaster. Even today we need a [Henry] Kissinger to help us decide what movie to watch on Netflix. Whatever it was, we both kept coming back. We are joined at the hip. We can't think of life without the other."
Goldberg and his wife were living in San Francisco when they had their first and only child.
"We loved San Francisco," Goldberg says. "But it wasn't what was right for our son. I had been to Arkansas three times for banking clients. I started to work for Alltell in Little Rock. Pretty soon we had a house with a backyard where our son could play."
Jordan Beard, president of the All Electric Supply company based in Little Rock, has come to know Goldberg through monthly Vistage meetings. Vistage touts itself as the world's largest executive coaching organization.
Beard cites Goldberg as making an "impact at a pivotal moment early in my career. [Barry] honed in on an issue I was having. It was the start of great things for my business."
It was Goldberg's advice and approach that impressed Beard on the first meeting.
"He is a great guy and very selfless," Beard says of Goldberg. "He is very understated and modest in his approach. He is not loud and not overbearing. In some of the private work, he keeps it from being confrontational. He helps you step back and help process the decisions you need to make. He helps you see into the future."
Goldberg understands that what he does for a living is ripe for exploitation by bad actors who can claim to be an executive coach with no experience or credentials. To counter this, Goldberg touts his advanced certificate in leadership coaching from Georgetown University that he earned in 2004. He also is happy to point to numerous successes including the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
"I've been on the board of the ASO and I was asked to come on and help facilitate strategic planning there," Goldberg says. "The ASO has over time become a disciplined organization and has been in the black for 10 years, I believe. Now that's not just me but due to the great leadership there. I was pleased to be able to help."
It doesn't take much prodding for Goldberg to sound like an optimistic, forward-thinking coach.
"I am deeply spiritual," Goldberg says. "I believe we have access to something bigger than ourselves. If I can tap into something deeper and listen well, I have the capacity to see patterns. If I can show up with my own best stuff, it's a good day."
• DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: Dec. 27, 1953, Dallas
• SOMETHING I WAS TAUGHT EARLY ON THAT'S REMAINED WITH ME TO THIS DAY: My uneducated grandfather crossed Eastern Europe from Lithuania, got himself onto a boat and to the United States on his own when he was 12. If something is important enough, you can figure out a way to get it done.
• I AM MOST RELAXED WHEN I: Am deep in the woods -- far enough away from civilization to get a full, clear night sky.
• ADVICE I WOULD GIVE MY YOUNGER SELF IF I COULD: Form good work habits now. (I didn't.) Don't worry -- they will not stifle your creativity or your fun later.
• EVERY DAY HAS TO BEGIN WITH: Coffee (usually espresso or Turkish coffee) and meditation.
• IF I COULD GET ON A PLANE RIGHT NOW, I WOULD GO: The world is large -- how do I choose one place? If it is only me traveling, probably back to Vietnam or to New Zealand. Or somewhere far flung I have never been to before -- maybe Fiji. If Faith is traveling with me, Paris is always first on the list.
• THE FOUR GUESTS AT MY FANTASY DINNER PARTY: Four is hard -- but I have whittled it down to seven favorite provocative authors: Steven Pressfield, Marion Zimmer Bradley, David Whyte, Stephen R. Donaldson, Nikos Kazantzakis, Mary Shelley and Pat Conroy.
• ONE WORD THAT SUMS ME UP: Visionary: I see patterns and possibilities really clearly. Unfortunately, I can also trip on the details.