Everyone needs a coach. But, not everyone wants a coach or wants others to know that they need a coach. Some areas welcome coaching. Sports for instance. In sports, we welcome coaching because we need an expert eye correcting our technique, exhorting us to try harder, and reminding us to maintain our poise in the game-day environment of competition.
It’s the same in corporate life, where the best leaders function like our favorite high school coach: teaching, supporting, inspiring us, and occasionally instilling some healthy paranoia to keep us surging ahead.
But beyond the structured hierarchies of the workplace, where we’re always answerable to someone for our paycheck and where we have clear incentives for getting better, we don’t appreciate the dynamic as well. In our private lives, where our chaotic environment triggers undesirable behavior, we don’t always welcome coaching.
One reason we resist coaching, I’m sure, is our need for privacy. Some pieces of us are not to be shared with the world. It’s one thing to admit we could shed some pounds or be in better shape; it’s practically a badge of honor, a testament to our candor and self-improvement ambitions. It’s another thing to confess that we’re lacking as a partner or parent—that is, as a decent “person”—and own up to that personal failing every day. We prefer to keep some of our behavioral deficits to ourselves rather than hang them out in public like laundry.
Another reason is that we don’t know that we need to change. We are in denial, convincing ourselves that others need help, not us. In 2005 the CEO of a large West Coast equipment company called me in to work with his COO and heir apparent. The CEO had a precise timetable for succession. “My number two is a good guy,” he said, “but he needs three more years of seasoning. Then I’ll be ready to leave, he can take over, and everything’s good.” My antennae perk up whenever I’m asked to conduct research that proves someone’s predetermined conclusion. Something wasn’t right. Sure enough, when I finished my 360-degree interviews with the COO’s colleagues, they all said the number two was “ready now.” The deeper problem was the CEO. Without prompting, nearly every interviewee said the CEO had stayed too long and should leave for the good of the company.
Then there’s the successful person’s unshakable self-sufficiency: we think we can do it all on our own. Quite often we can, of course. But what’s the virtue of saying no to help? It’s a needless vanity, a failure to recognize change’s degree of difficulty. I know this because behavioral change—talking about it, writing books about it, helping others achieve it—is my life. And yet I have to pay a woman named Kate to call me every night to follow up on how I’m doing! This isn’t professional hypocrisy, as if I’m a chef who won’t eat his own cooking. It’s a public admission that I’m weak. We’re all weak. The process of change is hard enough without grabbing all the help we can get.
The irony is that, although coaching works just fine with the get-thin, get-fit, get-organized goals of our New Year’s resolutions, it’s even better, practically custom-made, for interpersonal challenges—the be-nice, be-appreciative, be-caring, be-awake goals that make other people feel better, not worse, for knowing us. I know this because it’s what I work on with my clients. They don’t ask me to help them become better strategists, budgeters, negotiators, public speakers, proposal writers, or programmers. I help them become better role models in their relationships with the people who matter most to them—their family, their friends, their colleagues, their customers.
Here are three amazing benefits of having a coach and participating in coaching – they are in fact three indisputable reasons why everyone needs a coach:
- We get better.
- We get better faster.
- Eventually we become our own coach.
Try if for yourself and see!