From my July column in the Kitsap Business Journal…

In June, I watched two celebrated sporting events — the French Open in professional tennis, and the U.S. Open in men’s professional golf. These two sports feature great individual athletic prowess. They also illustrate what is widely acknowledged and accepted in all sports, arts and entertainment. Superstars are well coached.

At the French Open, champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova receive constant coaching and support from their coaches. At every break in play and regularly from the sidelines, they get suggestions on how to improve both tactically and strategically. At the U.S. Open, every golfer from champion Webb Simpson to Tiger Woods, and to the amateurs competing, receive input from swing coaches, mental coaches, putting coaches and caddies.

Regardless of the sport, athletes simply can’t maximize their skill and ability without strong coaching. The same is abundantly true in business. Executives and business owners who accept coaching are more likely to be “superstars” than those who don’t. But unlike sports, where all athletes understand the value, most business owners eschew the concept of coaching. The question is … why?

Why You Say No

I’ve worked closely with small business owners for over 25 years. In my experience, there are five key reasons that business leaders don’t take advantage of coaching:

  1. No concept of value. Coaching is viewed as a cost, rather than an investment. The owner only thinks about what they are losing (money) rather than the value they will receive (more discretionary time, enhanced skills, ability to earn higher revenue more quickly, and a sounding board for frustrations).
  2. Arrogance. “I’ve been in this business all my life. I know what I’m doing!” That’s exactly why you need coaching. This myopic view leads to the downfall of many because they don’t have a firm understanding of the traps and opportunities around them.
  3. Ignorance. You don’t know coaching even exists. You think you have to traverse the world of business as a self-made (or self-destroyed) man or woman.
  4. You’re not broken. It is a fallacy to think that only those that are broken need coaching. Actually, “coaching” is for those who are already really good, and want to maximize their talent. If this excuse were real, athletes like Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and Serena Williams would all be walking around “coach-less!” In fact, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant hires five new coaches every summer to find out what he doesn’t know, or new ways to improve what he does know.
  5. Lack of vulnerability. Owners can be reticent to open up and let someone else hear that they want/need help. They feel that they will appear weak. In fact, the business leaders who are vulnerable and allow themselves to be coached demonstrate tremendous self-confidence.

The Value

There is a myth that a coach must be superior in tale——not to the person being coached. Last time I checked, Tiger Woods has won more major golf championships than all his coaches combined! The truth is that athletes have the talent. Coaches have the innate ability to transfer their knowledge to maximize the talent, and take them to heights they could never reach on their own. Consider this — we are all able to stretch on our own before or after exercise. But, our own bodies limit us. If a trainer or therapist stretches you, they are able to use leverage to maximize the stretch and attain optimal results. That’s how it works with coaching.

Reason #1 above was no concept of value. Here is a list of values I’ve heard from business leaders who have been coached, and from personal experience:

  • Improved ability to prioritize results in more discretionary time for you.
  • Reduced stress through better communications with management and employees.
  • Enhanced ability to communicate leads to more sales and improved bottom line.
  • Improved ability to lead, respond, and accept changes and volatility in business.
  • A sounding board. The last place you want to bring your challenges is home!
  • Improved efficiency at your own job.

Coaching can take the form of many areas that small and medium-size business owners can improve on. For example — improved speaking skills; better time management; enhancing life balance; strengthened leadership skills; and focus on specific goals, outcomes or projects. Coaching sessions can last for a month or a year. It can take the form of accessing a coach’s “smarts” on a retainer basis. However it ends up looking, good coaching will improve the condition of the “player.”

That “player” is you!

© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved



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