Despite the surge in popularity in Life Coaching and Business Coaching (Business Coaching is over $1 billion / year business in the US alone according to Forbes), I'm still amazed at how many people don't quite get what coaching for non-athletes is or why they might need it. As someone who's worked in startups, often with young, inexperienced founders, and someone who personally has his own coach, I thought it might be useful to list some of the reasons you might want to consider coaching. If you're curious about how I went from startup CMO to coach check out my post Succeed or Learn: There is no Fail.
1. Help...I'm stuck. Over 70% of Americans are unhappy at work and this has nothing to do with age, intelligence or where you went to school. At some point in your life you're going to wake up and think: "I'm really not sure where this is going lately. I feel I need a change of direction." In addition, you might also find that family, friends and co-workers simply can't help you. Either they're too close to you, know you too well (or think they do) or you might even feel that you can't really talk to them as openly as you'd like. It can be hard to share with your spouse, for example, that the career you've spent the past 15 years of your life in simply isn't working for you any longer. A good coach can help by asking the right questions, provide you tools to better understand yourself and help you work through alternatives you hadn't considered as viable career options.
2. Everyone just tells you what you want to hear. Success is often said to breed complacency but complacency often starts with groupthink. No matter how smart your team or how well educated, at some point you might find that nobody wants to deviate from the path or that people fear telling you the truth. Coaching can be incredibly helpful here since the right coach doesn't really work for you in the same way your team does. A good coach doesn't have an agenda aside from helping you be the best that you can and telling you the unvarnished truth. Your coach can also work with you to adjust or change your management style so you can encourage people to speak more openly in meetings or when discussing things 1-1. This can be particularly effective if you have a very big, extroverted personality or when your team simply expects you to come up with all the answers.
3. It's lonely at the top. Nowhere is this more true than for CEO's and top business leaders. In addition to the fact that people might be less likely to challenge you, you may also feel like you're simply expected to have all the answers. You may also worry that asking certain questions to your team, peers or your board might make you seem foolish or inexperienced. Good coaches can act as sounding boards for whatever questions you might have. This is particularly helpful for very sensitive questions like how to make changes to your organization, whether you should promote an individual or, worse, whether you have to let someone go or restructure part of your business. As a matter of fact, a Harvard Business Review article cited that in 26% of cases organizations hired a coach for a top executive, it was to act as a sounding board. I recently worked with a client who had a low performer on his team. We worked together to understand the nature of the problem, whether it could be corrected, and, when all else failed, how best to create an exit plan for that person that was fair, humane and didn't disrupt the organization and the team.
4. You're drowning. Nowhere is this more true than in startup culture. Whether you run your own company, are a senior executive or have just acquired more responsibility, there will always be a tendency to overreach. Sooner or later that Asana task list goes from being a stretch to being virtually insurmountable. Coaching can help you prioritize what really matters. A good coach should spend significant time up front with you simply trying to understand your goals and what's going to make you feel complete. When you start slipping you can then revise where you are in terms of your goals, what you're currently doing and whether it really aligns with what you need to get done. A coach can also help put things in perspective and work with you to revisit your goals and whether you need to adjust them based on the new realities of your business and/or personal life. For more tips on how you can improve your productivity make sure to check out my post here as well.
5. You simply love to kick that can down the road. Remember that "Very Important, Not Urgent" Task that simply gets pushed back quarter after quarter? Most of us have things we simply hate doing and always kick down the road. Coaching can help you become more accountable. Once you've agreed on where you really want to go and what you need to do, being accountable to your coach can provide you with the kick in the ass you occasionally need to get those items off your task list. In my case, for example, I text my coach each morning with the 3-4 things I really need to get done that day. At night I send another text with whether I got them done or not. I always feel sheepish when I miss things. If you keep missing the same things repeatedly, it might also be time to discuss how important those tasks really are to you and why you might be struggling to get them done.
6. You've just landed that big, new job! This one might be counterintuitive but several months ago I was hired by an executive who had recently landed a new job. The job was a big step up for him and there were a number of challenges which he had never dealt with before. In this scenario, hiring a coach who has "been there, done that" can not only greatly accelerate your ability to execute but it can also save you a lot of time and painful mistakes. In these situations, it's really important to have a clear understanding of your coach's background and skillset as well as to share with him/ her the types of issues you're going to need help with. It's also recommended that you speak with references who can vouch for the coach's experience in dealing with those issues as well as to get an understanding of their coaching style (which is something you should do regardless).
7. You know what to do but not how to do it. At times, either through your own gut feeling, input from others or simply looking at the data, you'll know exactly what to do but you simply might not be sure how to do it. For example, you know you need to reposition your product in the market but question whether you should you let the team work on the new campaign with your in-house designers or whether to hire an external brand agency to do it. You also might know that your company has an image problem and that you need PR but you've never done PR in your life. Do you hire an agency, bring on a freelancer or hire an expensive head of PR? Coaches with the right experience will be able to help you weigh the pros and cons of which road to take and also share their experience based on what they've done in the past.
8. Jump Starting a business. Again, this one might appear counter intuitive. Why would I hire a personal coach to help me start my company when I don't have much cash? To save time and costly mistakes. That's why. When I hired my own coach I faced exactly the same problem. I didn't have any income coming in but I made the decision because it was an investment in me and in my business (I actually wrote it off as a business expense for tax purposes too). Through coaching, I learned to actually "slow down to speed up." I completely changed the way I was approaching possible clients. The results were immediate and my coaching relationships have never been better but I had to rethink the way I'd been marketing myself compared to the way I'd marketed products in my former life.
9 Managing Work-Life balance. Whether you believe it or not, the reality is that your work life is very heavily affected by what happens in your personal life and vice versa. Often, when I work with people sooner or later I find that a professional goal is directly related to something happening at home or that problems at work stem for challenges with children or health. Even in the Valley, with all its intensity, people come to the realization that to be successful professionally you need to feel complete outside of work as well. A coach can help you find that fine line between being successful at what you do and having a personal life that is rich, healthy and meaningful. For example, one woman I spoke with admitted that after 5 years of working at a top tech firm, she suddenly realized something was missing and was concerned that she didn't have kids yet. The conversation then went towards how could she find a better balance between career, friends and the idea of starting a family. For others, the challenge lies in finding time to stay healthy and do sports. As in all things, the key to happiness is balance.
10. To get a better perspective on yourself. Eric Schmidt, Google's Chairman, says it best: "The one thing people are never really good at, is seeing themselves as others see them."
A coach can provide you with a different perspective, an outsider's perspective, on how you appear to others. This can help you identify mistakes you're making and opportunities for improvement to take your management style to the next level.
In the past, it used to be the purview of high ranking senior execs in large companies, celebrities and athletes. That's no longer the case. In my experience coaching can have a lasting, powerful impact on people that really helps serve to enrich their lives; no matter who they are, where they live or where they are in life. Naturally, the success of coaching depends on many factors such as the chemistry between the coach and coachee, the coach's processes and experience and the person's willingness and openness to be coached (that will be the subject of another post). So if these things have resonated with you why wait until Jan 1st, 2018? Think about what massive changes you'd like to make in your life and start looking for a coach that can help you make it happen.
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