Bill Gates famously said “Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you are a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or bridge player.” There is a misperception that getting coached, whether it be for personal or business reasons, implies that you are defective or perhaps less than. I love the analogy a recent facilitator for my Advanced CliftonStrengths Coaching said: “You won’t go up to an NBA basketball star and tell them they don’t need a coach anymore.” So, if you have hit mastery, it’s OK to just coast on your laurels.
I have to say that as a coach, I am suspicious when another coach doesn’t have a coach. How can you coach if you don’t see the value for yourself? I see having a coach as sharpening my saw and realizing that I’m not finished. I have room to grow. Unfortunately, many organizations only use coaching to turn a bad egg around, which gives it a bad reputation. Coaching is embraced by many organizations as a perk and it enhances their workforce.
Here are the six reasons why you need a coach:
- Clarity: Perhaps it’s hyperconnectivity or maybe the clatter of conflicting and competing goals, but coaching has brought clarity to my life. I can get wrapped up in the immediacy of getting laundry done, packing for a trip and making sure bills are paid instead of being clear about the path I am headed down. I find this to be especially beneficial when there is more than one apparent goal. I have been coached about the priorities in my life dozens of time and it’s not until the distractions are temporarily put to rest during coaching that I realize that supporting my loved ones is the most important goal for the next few months. Coaching has helped clear the fog and provided clarity.
- Blind spots: There are many things that I take for granted or have made assumptions about for years; some, even decades. Coaches help you seen the unseen. They uncover the pattern that is not apparent. I just worked with a CEO the other day who realized that he had no problem paying compliments to his child but was hypercritical with his direct reports. This was a blind spot. He realized that if he could focus the same openness and benevolence with his direct reports, he would be more approachable and a better leader. Coaches help shine a light on the blind spots.
- Perspective: Coaches don’t have a dog in the fight. They are outside the situation. They aren’t your direct report, your boss or your partner. There are very few people in your life that have this perspective. This makes them much more unbiased and open to possibility. My child, my parent or my boss might try and limit my choices and add to my limiting beliefs, but a coach can set up a safe space where anything is possible. They can also suggest resources that might be helpful. I remember when my marriage suddenly and unexpectedly dissolved, my coach, Tammi, suggested a book by William Bridges called Transitions. It was invaluable to help me make sense of being in the neutral zone for many months. The neutral zone is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. I don’t think I would have found it on my own. Coaching provides a different, neutral perspective.
- Accountability: When I coach, I ask my client if they want any accountability around the actions they have come up with. The important thing to remember is that coaches don’t decide on action items, the client does. So, if my client decides they are going to go to one networking event per week, month or year, that was their decision. When you come up with your own action items, you are much more motivated to see it through. You own it. If you want accountability or not, you are the best to decide. Some clients (like those who are naturally responsible) don’t need any accountability. But as a client said this week, “Oh yeah. I’ll forget and won’t make this happen unless you follow up with me.” So as a client you may or may not need the accountability. A coach is there to help with accountability.
- Powerful questions: Coaches employ powerful questions to help tease out insight. As my Neuroleadership Coach Training taught me, new connections between neuropathways are made with powerful questions. This is virtually impossible on your own. The other thing is that powerful questions have a positive forward-looking perspective. Sample questions are: “What is possible? What if it worked out exactly as you wanted it? What does success look like? What do you want?” In a safe space, these questions open up and create new thought pathways. Coaching is about powerful questions.
- Happier: I have found that most of my clients are happier. I have found myself to be happier once I started being coached. I feel more balanced and less frazzled. I have changed other things in the same timeframe, including being sober and a long-standing meditation practice, but I believe that checking in with Tammi once a month has brought about a new balance and perspective. She has been with me on my journey for over five years and has seen the highs and lows. I appreciate the space she creates for me to do my best work and reflect. As William Arruda wrote for Forbes, “Because coaches help you identify and align your values, create a focus, cut through clutter, and clear tolerations, they help you increase your professional fulfillment.” Coaching makes you happier.
It’s important to know that coaching is not mentorship, consulting or therapy. I know that many clients say it “feels” like therapy, but therapy has a backwards view and coaching has a future, positive view. It feels like therapy because there is someone who is deeply connected and listening to you. It’s the gift of truly being heard. Have you thought about having a coach?