One of the most frequent questions I get as an executive marketing coach is: "Why do I need coaching? There's nothing wrong with me."
I'd rather answer that with a few questions of my own: "Have you ever struggled? Are you struggling with something right now? Do you think you might struggle with something in the future?"
What do all these people have in common?
Steve Jobs (Apple co-founder and former CEO)
Eric Schmidt (former Google Chairman and CEO)
Leonardo diCaprio (Actor)
Oprah Winfrey (Talk Show host, Entrepreneur)
Bill Clinton (former US President)
Serena Williams (Superstar Tennis Player)
Metallica - band members (Famous Rock band)
Hugh Jackman (Actor)
1. They're all famous
2. They're all highly accomplished
3. They've all struggled
4. They all hired coaches
5. All of the above
Answer: 5. All of the above.
I'm sure they all have other things in common but whereas coaching used to be just about helping people sort through problems or "fixing" things, today coaching is much more than that.
Coaching is an insurance policy on life itself. Smart people get coaches not just to fix problems, but rather to anticipate and be prepared for those problems before they happen.
We don't buy car insurance after we have an accident do we? We buy it in case we have an accident. Coaching is like an insurance policy that improves our drive through life every day but also provides a backup plan if ever we're in a crash.
If only car insurance could do that...
What is Coaching anyway?
As a former CMO turned coach and someone who's been coached, I would boil coaching down to 4 things:
1. Helps you clearly identify a problem you're having
2. Challenges you to uncover different perspectives through which to look at the problem
3. Supports you as you plan and execute a series of actions to tackle the issue
4. Holds you accountable to your plan as you move forward
The end goal is to help you achieve what you set out to do, no matter how fantastic or impossible that might seem.
What are the benefits?
Coaching has many benefits, but from a business perspective I would highlight the following:
Clarity: Our biggest challenge as business people is that sometimes we simply can't see "the forest through the trees." Coaching helps you zero in on what matters so you can maximize your impact.
Perspective: One of the biggest benefits of coaching is to help us get different perspectives on the issues we're facing. When we see things in a different light we're better able to come up with new solutions to a problem.
Decision-making: One of the biggest points of stress for executives today, whether in startups or corporations, is an over abundance of data which makes decision-making more difficult. Coaches act as independent sounding boards to bullet proof your options and improve decision-making.
Accountability: A good coach holds us accountable once we've committed to a course of action. There are few things worse than having to explain to your coach why you didn't do what you promised 2 weeks ago.
Developing soft skills: The higher you go in an organization the more soft skills matter. Good coaches can help you hone and develop emotional intelligence to become a more effective leader and manager.
Self Awareness: Eric Schmidt, Google's former Chairman, says it best: "The one thing people are never really good at, is seeing themselves as others see them." Coaching helps you better understand your strengths, limitations and how others might see you.
Balance: A Harvard article stated that although companies hire coaches to support executives on work-related issues, 76% of coaches end up providing support to clients on personal issues as well. For many of us what happens at work can often impact our family. The reverse is often more true as well.
Achieve our goals: This is why you hire a coach. Whether it's to get that promotion, change careers, launch a new product, get fit or improve your marriage, coaching makes anything possible.
How does it work?
At its core, coaching revolves around coaching "sessions" much in the same way as therapy does (although some coaches do workshops and also do "group" coaching).
You might meet with your coach 2, 3 or 4 times a month with a session lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 120 minutes (for an intake or initial deep dive session). Most coaches I know usually do 30 to 60 minute sessions.
During this session, the client will usually bring a topic that he or she would like to discuss. The coach will then use certain tools combined with a series of powerful, open ended questions to get you to explore the topic more deeply.
In fact, good coaches take this a step further by asking questions that might, at times, challenge your existing assumptions even to the point of making you feel uncomfortable.
Discomfort and even, at times, emotional pain, really lie at the heart of where growth comes from for many people. Just as in physical fitness, discomfort is ultimately where the insights come from that enable you to have breakthroughs that you might not achieve on your own.
Coaching can either be done on the phone or in person. Many coaches I know actually do video conferencing since it allows them to more visually gauge how a client is responding while also allowing them to work remotely. There are pros and cons to either approach but in the end, the type of communication you use ends up being a function of convenience for both parties.
One of the biggest misconceptions I've found with coaching is that many people assume a coach is simply going to come in and solve your problem for you by telling you what to do. This sounds more like consulting rather than coaching and I actually have a video here that spells out the difference more clearly.
Although some coaches may do this and I've been asked in the past by clients for specific guidance and advice, philosophically this isn't what coaching is all about.
Here's a parable that helps explain the philosophy behind coaching:
A hungry man in a small village approaches you for food.
If you give him some fish, you can feed him for a day.
However, if you teach him to fish, you can feed him for life.
Coaching is all about teaching people how to fish.
How to Find a Coach
Coaching is perhaps one of the best investments I've ever made in my life. Following a separation, job loss and mild case of depression, hiring a coach allowed me completely shift my perspective on my career and make a significant career change that might have seemed impossible only a few years ago (you can actually read my full story here)
So if you believe that coaching might benefit you and help you achieve the goals you've struggled, with here are a few resources to help get you started:
The Coach Training Institute - Global organization that trains coaches and provides a directory of CTI certified coaches for clients.
Noomi - Online coaching directory and resource for coaches and those looking for coaches by location and specialty.
The International Coaching Federation - has a tool that allows you to search for certified, professional coaches using filters like location, age, experience and area of specialization
If you're working in a corporate environment, I would also urge you to talk with your local HR or leadership and development team, to see what resources they have available as well as whether you qualify as an employee for coaching.
Tips on Coaching
1. Hire your coach. Try and meet 3-4 coaches and spend some time with each. Great coaching is based on openness and trust so try a few coaches to see which one "fits" best with your personality and needs.
2. Be Open. Coaching is a commitment to challenging the way you see the world and your own beliefs. Try and remain open to possibilities you might not otherwise consider, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
3. Budget. Coaching is an investment in yourself and in achieving your goals so don't think of it as an expense. That said, be realistic about what you can afford while still getting the best coach possible.
4. Make a commitment. This is your time and your investment. A great coach can help you get back up when you fall down but they won't carry you. It's up to you to show up on time, bring the issues and deliver on what you agree to do. If you do, the results will be amazing.
I hope you've found this post helpful. If you're curious about coaching feel free to watch some of my videos on YouTube and visit my Facebook page. If you're a senior executive involved deeply in marketing and would like to set up a complimentary session, feel free to book some time here.
After 25 years in marketing and several stints as a chief marketing officer in startups and Google, making a major career change was a huge challenge for me. I could not have done it without the benefits of coaching.
I wish you success as you explore all the amazing possibilities coaching may bring you.