I hope this article can be more than a self-indulgent walk down “yay for coaching lane”. Give me a read and if I fail, you’ll click away. Low stakes.
Who do you talk through complex issues with? Who do you go to ask for feedback on what you know to be weaknesses or blind spots? A spouse, partner, therapist, coach, friend, your kids…a stranger? It’s possible to get great feedback and the benefit of a sounding board from any one of them.
What is your attitude towards coaching in general? Do you think,, “that’s not for me” or “I get feedback from friends, my spouse, my boss, or coworkers”, then keep reading!
When you fail to incorporate enough feedback into your life and career and the decisions you make, the likelihood rises that you will miss opportunities to reach your full potential or underachieve and revert to the mean. When your performance drops, you become average.
Average in 2018 is dead. Earning average grades, an average salary, or average performance takes on a different and more dubious meaning today than in any other time in our history. About 5 years ago, economist and author Tyler Cowen wrote about the dangers of being average in his book, “Average is Over” where he highlighted the growing prevalence, importance and value of coaching in the workplace.
“High-skilled performers, including business executives, will have some kind of coach. There will be too much value at stake to let high performers operate without a steady stream of external advice, even if that advice has to be applied rather subtly. Top doctors will have a coach, just as today’s top tennis players (and some of the mediocre ones) all have coaches. Today the coach of the CEO is very often the spouse, the personal assistant, or eve a subordinate, or sometimes a member of the board of directors. Coaching is already remarkably important in our economy, and the high productivity of top earners will cause it to become essential”
Mind The Gap! The pace of growth and change has only accelerated. The gap between skilled and unskilled workers, the salary gap between high-tech and low-tech jobs, and the gap between rich and poor is growing. The “haves” continue to capture the above-average salaries, enjoy more job security and maintain a distinct and ever-growing competitive advantage over the have nots.
Big data and artificial intelligence; the internet of things is changing the landscape. Automation and outsourcing allow businesses to operate more efficiently, often, with fewer employees. As this happens, positions are eliminated. The remaining roles will more complex or at minimum, be in greater demand and so candidates that land those jobs will be above-average performers (or have coaches that help them perform at a sustained high level).
Would coaching help you achieve better results, reach your goals, or help you find more balance in your life? Eli breaks down 4 where it can pay to have a coach.
Feedback from Friends
A client of mine is an executive turned consultant and investor. He’s in his early 50’s and has achieved financial and career independence. He chose a path as a consultant and private equity/angel investor and he’s now ready to make an investment in a passion project tangentially related to his domain of career expertise. It would be like a SVP of Finance for Starbucks deciding she’s going to open a local coffee shop – running a successful retail food and beverage operation will require a different set of know-how and skills than the corporate finance role.
He loves the product but has never run a retail operation and doesn’t plan to run day-to-day operations. To get the venture off the ground, he’s tap a friend for advice, consulting, and possible partnership. The friend sees a paycheck and potential equity in the deal. He wants consulting fees and equity in the business to provide input and help set up operations. The problem is that the feedback from a trusted source is biased by their financial opportunity and interest in the venture. That is both good and bad.
Additionally, he wasn’t discussing the venture with friends or family because he didn’t want to play gatekeeper to friends and family that wanted to “own” a piece of the business. He was missing the feedback that would tell him to get more feedback.
Bottom line: He needed some coaching and impartial feedback from an unbiased source. Together, we took a step back to consider alternatives strategies to fill the gaps in his knowledge and manpower. Was giving away equity necessary? Could equity be sold or earned in lieu of consulting fees? What was the appropriate hourly rate and would he be better off working with a different consultant that was more at an arm’s length?
The feedback and discussion gave him a new perspective and some additional options to consider. It was confidential and relative to giving up equity in his business – a lot less expensive.
Your Spouse or Partner Loves You, But…
Suzy is an executive at a media company. A mother of two young children, a professional success, but she’s absolutely miserable at work. She’s in a two income household. She has a great husband who does his best to be emotionally supportive and helpful. But she feels like she takes on the lion’s share of managing the kid’s schedules and housework.
She’ll be the first to tell you that he’s from “Mars” and she’s from “Venus”. “He doesn’t listen.” – she doesn’t like the way he listens. While he cares about her circumstances and wants to help, he gets home from work mentally drained and by the time the kids are in bed, they are both physically drained as well. On top of it, discussing feelings is “not his thing”.
When she brings up challenges at work, he often interrupts with comments like, “what are you going to do to fix it”, “you should say something?” or “send your boss an email about that”. He’s trying to be supportive but his support annoys the hell out of her. She doesn’t feel that he’s listening, acknowledging the issues or seeking to understand the subtleties of the situation and the people involved.
She reminds me often why she hired me – to make room for reflection, to fix counter productive attitudes and beliefs, and build strong behaviors and communication strategies. She claims that my feedback and approach works. I’m glad it does. The credit goes to the coaching model. As a coach, I’m not bound by the bias or weight of the myriad of distractions and pressures at home.
It Gets Lonely At The Top
Bill is the president of a family enterprise with 500 employees across the country. He’s driven, down to earth and highly accomplished. A Type A personality, he’s so competitive that he frequently competes with the best version of himself…and wins!
The company has a flat management structure and readily admits that things get lonely at the top. There is often nobody around him that will truly push back on him and challenge his ideas. Most of the time it doesn’t bother him, but for the big decisions, it does.
He’s been running hard and fast for the past two years and as business booms, he’s feeling stretched thin and not able to give all of his varied responsibilities the attention they deserve. He’s exploring hiring a support position reporting to him as a sort of chief of staff. The person in the role will manage some of his business interests, handle private transactions on his behalf, and at times, manage personal family or financial matters.
This is a highly personal decision and he doesn’t want to discuss it with the Chairman of the company (his dad, who founded the company and has been taking steps back as Bill’s responsibilities have increased). Bill has concerns about judgement and blowback from his team around him. He doesn’t want to give the impression he’s better than anyone or trying to distance himself from leadership duties.
As his coach, we engaged in a frank and confidential discussion about the pros and cons, potential pitfalls in hiring for the role, and the impact it could have on culture within the office. As his sounding board and confidant, we’re able to explore his options and refine the idea before he makes a hire or disrupts his team’s dynamic.
Paul is a prospective coaching client I met recently to discuss a potential coaching engagement. He’s 40 and has been practicing law for over 15 years. He’s highly intelligent and has a diverse range of interests, a soft spoken demeanor and a great sense of humor. His wife is a successful healthcare executive – they have a healthy dual income. As I learned more about Paul, our conversation took a meandering path through a wide range of topics that included unconscious bias, fatherhood, personality assessments, the stock market, college savings and retirement – quite a spectrum!
When we touched on personal finance topics, his body language changed. He seemed less comfortable with this topic of conversation. I think he noticed me noticing because he blurted out that he didn’t have much confidence or knowledge around managing money or estate planning.
“I hate talking about money. It’s too personal and I feel bad that we make more money than most of our friends. I try to avoid the topic. Its taboo enough it doesn’t come up much.” And then he said, “ I don’t even like talking to my financial advisor because I don’t want him to realize how much I don’t know.” Yikes! Avoiding those conversations could cost Paul money.
If you avoid important but sensitive conversations of this nature because they are uncomfortable, the you’re going to miss taking advantage of financial decisions that could put you on a path towards achieving your goals. A coach is not a financial advisors (certainly financial advisors provide coaching in their work too), but having a coach puts an ally in your corner functioning as a confidant and chief growth officer.