“Everyone needs a coach.” These are the words Bill Gates chose to open his TED talk with impact. Interestingly the point he highlights—and the one characteristic common to all high performing individuals, from executives to athletes—is the fact that they all have a coach. Yet, surprisingly in business nearly two-thirds of executives outside the leading-edge innovators of the world don’t. “Why do you need coaching? What’s wrong with you?”
In our experience the people being coached aren’t the ones with something wrong with them. In fact, it’s enabling them to leap ahead. As Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google recounts; the best advice he ever got, initially resented, but now always give is to have a coach. A great coach is somebody who looks at something with another set of eyes, they give you perspective, the one thing you can’t give yourself, and a system to tackle future challenges and succeed.
So, what Is Coaching?
At SmartBox Leadership, we simply define it as unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their performance. It’s not our definition. It’s from Sir John Whitmore, arguably the greatest coaching industry pioneer we have seen.
Good coaching provides actionable insight and opportunity for growth based on specific areas you wish to improve; be it better decision-making, problem-solving, or conflict management and negotiation. Its purpose must be clear and the success criteria are set. But not by a coach, by you.
Coaching is the mechanism to help you achieve the success you define for yourself, the coach is the ally that helps get you there.
I talk to many many business owners and I typically come up against what I call ‘coaching myths.’ Here are the two greatest in my opinion….
“I Don’t Need A Coach. I Have Years Of Experience!”
It seems the reluctance to embrace coaching can be stronger in those in more senior positions. After all, with years of experience there’s a sense of “I don’t need coaching … What would they know about my industry? … I’m the expert!”
This is where the confusion around what coaching really is and what benefits it has to offer lies. A coach is often not an expert in your field. In fact, at SmartBox, we tell our clients that we don’t have the same level of expertise they do in their field. But we can help them discover how to endlessly improve any skill, capability or challenge they want to tackle for themselves. This ignites their curiosity.
We set expectations that coaching is there to help them facilitate finding the answers to their own questions and challenges. Remember a coach is not a mentor so is not there to give you the answers. You are the expert in your field, the coach is there to help you get to your next level of what you have identified you wish to achieve.
How? By challenging your thinking, making you considering better questions or different world views, and helping you understand your own blockers to success. Coaching helps you break through these barriers, empowering you to be the expert of your own success.
“Only Underperformers Need Coaches.”
Imagine if Tiger Woods believed that Or Usain Bolt!
For many the idea of coaching conjures feelings of failure, punishment and even incompetence.
however we know which side high-performance organizations and leaders see it. High performing teams come from high performing cultures which come from high performing people investment – coaching as part of the senior leadership team that build the largest privately owned property business in the UK, and who ALL had coaches, I can vouch first hand for its effectiveness
You don’t become the fastest man on earth over 100m without trusting someone to hone your natural skills and consistently take you to the next level of performance.
So What Are You Going To Do, About YOU?
When you are passionate about improvement and growth, asking for help is rarely the blocker. The challenge is knowing where to go and how to get started. Here are our tips:
- Get extreme clarity on your purpose for coaching. It’s your personal and professional development—own it, be accountable.
- Identify a challenge that you are personally struggling with. Identify the success of overcoming it. Tell your coach.
- Check the coach’s credibility. There are a lot of people who position themselves as coaches who haven’t coached other leaders, been coached themselves, or trained in coaching. Ask what they have done to demonstrate excellence in coaching. Are they active in the coaching community? Recommended by people who worked with them before? Do they eat their own dog food and get coached by someone else too? What are they trying to improve? What success have they achieved?
- Get the chemistry right. Do one or two sessions. Most coaches will offer an initial chemistry session to see if there’s a fit. Take advantage of that! Discover if you are a good pairing for one another. The most benefit comes when you’ve got the correct match.
- Recognise that at different stages of your career, life, or situation you may need other coaches to help you. Coaching doesn’t have to be for life, it should align to your purpose and objectives at that time.
- Start. Give it a go. Test and learn. Don’t succumb to inertia—discover for yourself what works, and what does not FOR YOU!