performance coaching

How do professionals get great at what they do? Do you need a coach?

In 2013 Bill Gates gave a talk that started with the now infamous words “everyone needs a coach” remarking that everyone needs feedback to improve. So from executives, high performers to athletes it makes sense to have a coach, right?

However, so many people don’t receive outside leadership advice in the business world. They see it as a sign of weakness, they feel they are too experienced or are just too caught up in the day to day rigmarole of work and life, I know I did when I was starting out. So if you’re asking yourself right now, “Do I need a coach?” you’re not alone.

In my experience, the people that reach out and embrace coaching are the ones that can be great, and they are the people I want to help and work with. 

What is coaching in the business world?

In the UK, we are overloaded with ambiguity around the purpose of coaching, its objectives and the results. As long as there is trust between the two parties, I believe good coaching provides actionable insights for Professional success, Personal growth as well as Health and wellbeing. Fundamentally these are specific areas that you wish to work on. And that is the crux, the individual is the person who must desire a change, the coach is just the catalyst.

A coach doesn’t provide you with the answers or tell you what to do (it is your life at the end of the day). Instead, the coach acts as a facilitator/enabler to help you ask better questions and explore your own answers. When I had my first coach, I used them as a sounding board, but it was my choice to make the decisions I made off the back of each session

High achievers and Athletes have coaches to continue to improve and develop on a daily basis. They actively work with someone who pushes them to get the best out of themselves. Imagine an Olympic athlete without a coach – in fact, you don’t have to, remember Eric the eel from the 2000 Olympics? Yes, it was a victory for an amateur and a bit of fun, but most of us would rather stand out in a more positive way.

I now think there is an evolution coming in the coaching world, which makes this industry really exciting. As the business environment becomes increasingly more complex, it makes even more sense to turn to coaches for help in understanding how to get the most out of yourself. The kind of coaches I am talking about will do more than influence behaviours; they will be an essential part of the leader’s thought process, providing knowledge, opinions, and judgment in critical areas. There is also an element of helping with the soft skills side of business, being people orientated and not just giving practical business advice.

I am a big believer that it is not what you think about that is important, it is how you think about it. You can then reframe any challenge, incident, issue into a more positive light. How do you want to be thinking about situations? Do you want to dwell on them? Or get ahead of them and get them sorted? I know which camp I’d rather be in.

There’s no question in my mind that leaders will want to reach out more in the coming months and years. For larger organisations this will be part of executive development.

I have years of experience so why would I need a coach?

I find this is one of the biggest stigmas, normally the people that could benefit most from coaching are the ones who say they don’t need it, dismissing it straight off the bat. The paradox here is that they are usually high achievers who have had development/learning in past but now feel that they have got to where they need to and don’t need help. They see it as a sign of weakness and even embarrassment, and you know what I can see how that thought process happens. With years of experience and a place of responsibility in an organisation, there’s a sense of “I don’t need coaching, what would they know about my industry? I’m the expert!

Having worked myself as a Senior Manager and as Director under COOs, MDs, FDs, CEOs in various sized organisations they absolutely would have benefitted from an external coach. Coaching of senior leaders benefits everyone in the whole organisation, as it filters down in some form right the way through the business, no matter the size. I had one coach for six years and it filtered down to all my managers at the time, it made us all better leaders and we enjoyed unprecedented success as a result.

A coach is often not an expert in your field. In fact, I constantly tell executives that I work with that I don’t have the same level of expertise they do in their field. But I can help them discover how to think differently, get creative, improve skills/capabilities and give options for challenges that they want to tackle.

Remember a coach is not a mentor, they are not there to give you the answers but help you get to your next level, whatever you choose that to be.

Am I bad at my job then?

The other stigma is that the person being coached is bad at their job. The only person who thinks that is you, it is in your head. And you need to shift your thinking from a fear of failure to one of focusing on succeeding, accepting help from others is NOT a sign of weakness!

A coach can help you process your old beliefs and ideas in ways that allow you to move forward through positive habit creation, goal setting, improved focus, clarity and even more purpose. This allows you to get more done, instead of dwelling on the past.

Your thinking now should be – it is not how good I am now; it is how good I am going to be in the future.

Some of you might be familiar with the character Wendy Rhoades in Billions. Now some of what goes on in TV is artistic licence granted, but this type of in-house council and performance coach is common in the USA to get top executives and businesspeople to peak perform daily.

So my advice is to swallow your pride and reach out to someone for help and guidance. 

What would your next steps be?

If you are reading this and thinking I want to move up at work, I want some direction, I want to be a better leader, I need to be held accountable, I want more from my life, and above all get to 70 years old with a load of regrets! Then you probably need some form of coaching, so reach out, find someone you trust and get going with it.

Desire is a powerful emotion, if you want something bad enough you will get there. The right coach can help bring that out of you so that it moves from a wish to a reality, which involves getting you outside of your comfort zone, albeit in a safer environment.

I will leave you with my mantra “everything you still want in life is outside your comfort zone, otherwise you would already be doing it”

Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions.

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