I was listening to my favorite sports radio station when I heard: “Up next we will discuss Jon Gruden’s new $100 million contract to coach the Oakland Raiders.” Did I hear that right? Yes indeed, the Raiders are making a 10 year, $100 million commitment to their new head coach. Talk about a ringing endorsement for the coaching profession.
Sports teams are seeing the value in having great coaches lead them: in hockey the Toronto Maple Leafs made a long term investment in Mike Babcock, and Phil Jackson was also well compensated for his work building championship teams.
It’s not uncommon for coaches to be paid more than the players they are coaching. And this makes perfect business sense to me. If you invest a lot in building a strong a group of talented players, why wouldn’t you invest in a coach to lead them to success?
With the Olympics underway, can you imagine any world class athlete not having a coach, or a group of coaches?
The same rings true in the corporate world. Your company invests a tremendous amount of resources in finding, engaging and keeping strong employees. But do we invest in the leaders who will be coaching them? Famous leaders like Jeff Bezos, Barack Obama, and Steve Jobs all had great coaches in their corner.
Take a moment right now to think about someone who made you better. They could be a mentor, boss, friend, teacher, or coach. The truth is that your best chance at becoming the greatest version of yourself is to be supported, and pushed, by someone else.
Think of a great coach as Sherpa or guide, there with you every step of the way. Seeing new possibilities and moving you into action. It’s someone in your corner to be brutally honest with, that listens, and customizes a plan of action to meet your needs.
Now I know what you‘re thinking: “what a surprise, a business coach is telling me why I need a coach.” Fair enough, it’s a bit like a car salesman telling you that you’d look great in a new car.
But the truth is I didn’t always have this belief: there was a time when I was actually resistant to getting real, honest feedback. I often lied to myself and said things like “I’m doing well, I’m good at what I do.” Or the worst lie, “I don’t need any help.” Like asking for help was a sign of weakness.
I was hiding, and that was not only hurting me, but everyone around me—personally and professionally.
Being honest with yourself is not for the faint of heart: it exposes you and makes you vulnerable. But it’s also where all the growth is.
Whether you hire a coach or not, there is tremendous benefit to adopting a coaching mindset. Embracing coaching principles can help you make your future bigger than your past.
Listed below are what I have experienced as the top three benefits on having coach. And if hiring a coach is not an option for you right now, for each point I will offer an alternative to get you started.
1) Asking Questions that Bring You Closer to Your Vision
In a previous post I talked about the Dan Sullivan question. I typically start each client engagement by asking this question::
“If we were meeting here one year from today, and you were to look back over the year, what has to have happened during that period for you to feel happy about your progress?”
Your answer is your vision.
Of course, it’s one thing to answer a question thoughtfully, and another thing to turn that vision into reality. When you’re heads down in your day-to-day, juggling meetings, putting out fires, and responding to a barrage of emails/messages, it can be difficult to align your actions to your vision. A good coach will help guide you toward your goals.
Asking for help is an act of courage and true leadership. A great coach will help you support your vision, move you into action, and hold you accountable. They are in your corner every step of the way.
Three months into working with a new client, she told me: “My team keeps asking what’s different with me. I’m happier, more productive, and smashing our goals. That’s when I knew the value of having a great coach!”
If you’d like to be a more effective coach for your team, or just learn more about coaching, two great books to get you started are:
- The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
- The Dan Sullivan Question by Dan Sullivan
2) Real Feedback and Unbiased Opinions
The higher you climb in most organizations, the lonelier it is. Many leaders I work with feel they can’t share what keeps them up at night, or admit that they don’t know the answer to everything.
With a coach they have permission to cut the BS and be honest. The experienced and unbiased perspective of a coach can expose your blind spots, and open you up to new possibilities.
Part of my process involves asking the following questions:
- What are your goals for the year and quarter?
- Where are you spending your time daily?
- What skills are you exceptional at?
Then I work with my client to create a plan to increase the amount of time invested in the areas where they excel.
I was once working with a sales rep, “Joe,” in the field. We were driving to a client meeting when the national boss called. Joe put the boss on speaker and let him know I was in the car.
I knew the boss well and asked him a few questions: “What does success look like for Joe at the end of the month?” He answered with a sales target—to be expected. “What’s the number one thing Joe needs to do to reach that goal?” More one-on-one meetings, the clients love Joe, and love meeting with him. Ok, so: “If that’s the case, why are you making him spend more than half of his day on conference calls, filling out forms and other activities that take him away from the real goal?”
Silence. Followed by the response, “Good point, I hadn’t thought of that.“
We hung up and Joe thanked me. He didn’t feel that he could speak to his boss so frankly, which is a big part of the problem. A good coach can ask you the tough questions to help you find the highest value activities for you and your team.
If you’re not ready to hire a coach, schedule time with a co-worker or friend to ask each other about your goals, how you’re spending your time, and what you are exceptional at. Commit to making one small change as a result of your discussion, and follow up with them in a few weeks.
3) Move Out of Your Comfort Zone
It’s hard for most people to admit, but I’ve noticed that many people would rather stay stuck (or even miserable), than make the effort to change their circumstances. I call this phenomenon “comfortable misery.” Let me explain.
A few years back I was asked to speak to a team that worked together. Morale was at an all time low. The manager hoped I could help get them out of their funk.
I started the session by asking two questions:
- What’s working well right now?
- What’s not working well right now?
When I asked the first question, everyone in the room started studying their shoes. Silence. So I moved quickly to question #2.
27 minutes and 6 flip charts of grievances later, we stopped. No wonder there was low morale! We circled their top 5 concerns, and started to discuss some small changes they could make to improve. They had some really great ideas.
But then one member of the group, visibly concerned, pleaded with me loudly: “Don’t come in here and start changing things!” This was right after 27 minutes of sharing what was making them miserable.
The group, or at least that one person in the group, was choosing to be miserable over making change.
Change is uncomfortable. You have to move out of your comfort zone and be willing to confront the ways that you are contributing to your own circumstances. This principle can apply to any area of your life: work, fitness, relationships, etc. A good coach can help you recognize when you are getting too comfortable in your misery and help you get unstuck, back in motion toward pursuing your true vision.
“There’s just one way to radically change your behavior: radically change your environment.”
—Dr. B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab
Everything is an environment. The people you hang out with, your thoughts, your physical space, the books you read—all affect how you perceive and react to the world. If you don’t have a coach to help push you out of your comfort zone, making a deliberate change to your environment can help you overcome the challenges of of change.
One of the most fun ways to change your environment is to host a dinner party or mastermind group with friends, and have each friend bring someone new to the party. Come with an open mind and ask some great questions, and let the fun and magic happen.
I’ve had a business coach for the last 8 years, and I admit there were times that I couldn’t afford it. But they have made me better, uncovered my blind spots, moved me into action, and played a huge part in helping me create a life I love.
A coach can help you get your life back, become an even more respected leader at work and home, achieve results like never before, and better enjoy free time. All while escaping the hamster wheel of day-to-day activities many of us are stuck on.
If hiring a coach is not in the cards for you right now, there is tremendous benefit in developing a coaching mindset and playing with the exercises above.
The most important investment we can make is in ourselves, and I can’t quite believe I am citing lyrics from Fifth Harmony as life advice, but “Baby, I’m Worth It.”