Tuesday 27 October 2009

Have you noticed, ALL the great Performers have a Coach...??

This question crossed my mind when I came across a 1 minute video clip from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google on why he hired a Coach in 2002 and has used him ever since. Check out this short video link; http://video.aol.com/video-detail/schmidt-everyone-needs-a-coach/35310649 Eric Schmidt admits to having been 'surprised' when it was recommended he 'Get a Coach' when he took over as CEO at Google.

His reaction's typical....'there's nothing wrong with me, I don't need a Coach'. Some questions a Coach could offer are; 'How will you improve? How valuable is perspective to you in objectifying your own decision-making? Who internally can you rely on to be bias free and offer you consistently accurate reflections? Usually nobody internally can do that consistently due to conflicts of interest. This is the value of Coaching and the closer you get to the apex of a business, the greater the impact. In my opinion in a few years time, having your own Coach will be as common as having your own GP.

Tiger Woods has a Coach, so does Roger Federer. Bjorn Borg, the first tennis superstar had one back in the 1970's. Ronan O'Gara and Jonny Wilkinson have kicking Coaches. Behind all great performers are great Coaches. None of them is particularly well known outside of a close circle. Most never excelled at the sport they Coach. Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United Manager's a rare exception. He fronts the team as Manager and is also involved in Coaching , so his role is different. His driving personality is a vital part of the team's success, yet he was never a great player himself. The best Coaches rarely are. It's a different skill set that's required.

Think about this, who coaches Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Tiger Woods or Padraig Harrington...? We don't know their names. All we do know is they're pretty amazing at what they do! Why...? They have a deep understanding of the person they're Coaching. They excel in their understanding of performance and all know their sport inside out. Coaching's a contact sport, it's experiential and to be successful as a Coach you really, really have to both love and 'get' people.

I was asked recently what the difference was between a Coach and a Consultant. I referred them to this definition; "A Consultant will tell you what you need to know...a Coach however will ask you the questions you need to answer for yourself". In a world where clarity is king that really nails it. A Coach is not an expert in your business per se, but an expert in people and over time, applies a deep understanding of you as the Client to the situations you find yourself in and the patterns of behaviour you exhibit. In my past I was a Director within the Medical Device industry and later on in Management Consultancy, so I can draw on that background to inform my Coaching. It does not lead or govern the interaction. It helps me empathise with my Client. Take the crucial activity of skill development- (i.e. an ability to learn about yourself and try out new things) being able to do this in a safe environment is vital. If I've been in a similar situation how to frame the questions is key, so they're not directive. Having a dedicated time and space where there is no judgement, shame or foolishness, allows learning to take centre stage as the 'critical essential'. A good Coach provides a 'channel' for this work to flow through.

The biggest challenge I see with Leaders today is they are very driven but often have paid too little attention to understanding themselves or the world of others. This makes life very difficult. Egos tend to get in the way. Due to limited self-awareness this blind spot goes unnoticed and unchecked. Many such Leaders under pressure, resort to directive styles of behaviour. This really does not work anymore. Today we rely on co-operation (win-win), teamwork, people going the extra mile in order to get ahead and succeed. This is a very long way from what many Leaders have grown to rely on. When words and behaviours differ, people see through that straight away and trust ebbs away....No wonder Leadership can be lonely! Coaching can draw a spotlight to such practices and behaviours which when seen by their 'owner' are powerful motives for real change and new levels of insight for the Client. Ownership happens, things get named. These are 'wow' moments in Coaching when real 'shifts' take place. When we begin to see things differently, behaviour and results follow suit.

Coaching is essentially a relationship and what's role-modelled there can act as a template for what's desired in the future. Through this relationship you learn how to make that happen and get clear on what's required to move to a new and better way of working. The beauty is you mainly work this out for yourself. The journey towards this clarity provides the steps to take to be successful. This allows meaningful long term change to take place. The person being Coached develops new insights into themselves and that clarity provides new energy and impetus to act with integrity in a new and often creative way. In this space people move very quickly. The role of the Coach is really in assisting as a partner. This style of Coaching is called 'co-active'.

A Coaching colleague of mine described it thus "Coaching is not magic, but something magical happens". It's where change meets performance and you get a sense of your own real potential. The real beauty of what happens is that you become addicted to being and acting like your real self in real time... all the time. That's why such Leaders don't need to work with cue cards to ensure they're 'on message'. They are the message and they're on it all the time. People gravitate to that. It's ultimately how Leaders attract followers.

........As a Leader, what would this type of relationship allow YOU to create...?

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