People are sometimes surprised to learn I have a coach. “But you’re a coach yourself, Jim! Why would you need a coach?” It is exactly because I’m a coach that I know how important it is even for coaches to have a coach.
I’ve laid out before the FAQs for having a coach (Coaching and Consulting: Your Questions Answered), but here I want to tell you why I have a coach, and why I love my coach.
#1. My coach is a great sounding board.
Anyone who owns, runs or manages a business knows it can be lonely. Your employees and clients look to you to have the answers, and at the end of the day, you’re the one responsible for the success or failure of your business. No pressure, right?
I know that you’re supposed to be an expert in your field, but I’ve never met anyone who knows everything there is to know and has experienced everything there is to experience—and that includes yours truly. There will always be new challenges to face, and being able to get advice from someone who has been there, done that can be a game-changer.
It’s so great to be able to go to my coach and say, “Hey, I’m a little lost right now. I’m trying to accomplish x, but I’m not sure how to do it. Any thoughts or ideas?” Because he’s been in the game longer than I have, he often comes back with an idea I had never come across or that didn’t occur to me. We talk about how to adapt it to my specific situation, and I’m able to meet the challenge with the confidence that I’m not just throwing things at the wall and hoping one sticks.
Having a sounding board isn’t just about those times when you don’t know something. I also tap into my coach’s experience when I’m at a crossroads: when I need to make a decision about which direction to take my business, or some aspect of my business. I’ve done the research and gone through the decision tree; I’m pretty sure I know which way I want to head, but there’s always that element of, “Am I really sure?” Especially when it’s a big decision or I’m considering a path that’s new to me, there’s an emotional component, too: It’s important, so I want to know I’m making the right decision. I feel the pressure and uncertainty of that, and I need to get out of my head—and my heart—and get the perspective of someone who isn’t as personally invested as I am. I love being able to talk out my thought process with my coach and have him confirm that my decision to do x instead of y isn’t crazy; it is, in fact, the best right thing to do.
A wonderful side effect of having a coach in these situations is more confidence, energy and enthusiasm. When I get a great new idea about how to face a challenge or when my coach confirms that he believes the path I’m leaning toward is the right one, I move forward feeling pumped. That excitement increases the likelihood that I’m going to succeed—and that, to me, is priceless.
#2. My coach holds me accountable.
Does this ever happen to you? There’s something you know you should be doing, but you’re not doing it. Nobody’s looking over your shoulder to make sure you do it, so you have an excuse to keep not doing it, even though deep down you know you really, really need to be doing it.
Well, guess what? A coach is looking over your shoulder. They see you putting off whatever it is, and they call you on it. “Hey, Jim! What about x? How are you doing with that?” I’ll be straight with you: Sometimes my coach has to call me on it more than once, especially if it’s something I really, really don’t want to do. (Let’s be straight with ourselves: When you’re running a business, there will always be something you really, really don’t want to do.)
One of those things for me is following up on phone calls. I’m just not great at it; sometimes I’m better at it than others, but it’s always been a challenge for me. Other people have pointed it out, but there’s something different about having my coach bring it up. I know he’s doing it because he knows how important it is, so after the second (or maybe the third) time he says, “Hey, Jim, what about following up on calls?”, I get off the coaching call and tell myself that it’s time for me to get on it. And I do.
There’s nothing wrong with needing that kind of accountability. We have so much on our plates; having someone to look over our shoulder, who knows what our business needs, helps us prioritize and ensures we’re getting the most important things done—even when they’re not our favorite things to do.
#3. Making my coach proud pumps me up.
Being held accountable isn’t always fun, but it is important. It can keep you from failing at certain things. What’s also important is recognizing when you succeed. I recently had a session where my coach told me he was excited and happy for me. “Six months ago, Jim, you were a little down, a little stressed, but you have come so far since then. I’m really proud of you.”
That felt so good. He was right that I had been a little down and stressed— maybe a lot down and stressed—and even though I felt I had accomplished a lot in the past months, it was gratifying to hear him say it, too.
A lot of us are better at noticing what’s wrong or what we’re not doing as well as we want to; we don’t see our successes as clearly, or we think they’re not as important as problems and missteps. That’s when having that outside perspective can do us a world of good. I might tentatively think, “Hey, I feel like I’m set up to have my best year ever,” but when my coach says, “Jim! You are set up to have your best year ever! You’re going to do it!”, that’s when I really believe it’s possible.
#4. Having coaching sessions on my calendar enables me to let things go.
I mentioned earlier that there’s an emotional component to running a business. Because the buck stops right at our desk, we’re more likely to get worried and stressed when challenges arise. Even something that isn’t pressing or troubling can become pressing and troubling if we’re not sure what to do about it.
When I didn’t have a coach, those things would be on my mind constantly, distracting me from the work I needed to be doing. Now, I know that I always have a coaching session coming up. I can keep a list of things I want to talk about with my coach: sometimes challenges, but also ideas I want to brainstorm and topics that are on my mind. As soon as I write them down, those things stop hassling me; I know they’re going to get taken care of, and I know when. That gives me the space I need to focus on the work at hand.
#5. I know he’s the right coach for me.
In my blog Coaching and Consulting: Your Questions Answered, I talk about how to know a coach or consultant is right for you. Even though you’re hiring someone to help you get your business where you want it to be, the choice of coach is very personal. You need someone who is a good fit for your learning style and who has the right kind of experience for you. (That doesn’t necessarily mean someone who is in your industry.) Once you’ve found someone who meets those qualifications, there’s still one more vital component: connection. You need a coach you click with, someone who gets you.
I definitely have that with my coach. I know that he really gets me. He understands what drives me and what I want to accomplish with my business. He knows my weaknesses—and my strengths. He knows when he needs to give me space to process through something and when it’s time to tell me to buckle down and get it done. He brings solutions I wouldn’t have thought of, or wouldn’t have applied to a particular situation. He is a great cheerleader, giving me encouragement when I need it and celebrating my wins with me.