Oprah Winfrey. Michael Jordan. Mia Hamm. LeBron James. Caitlin Clark. Tiger Woods. Serena Williams. Bill Gates. Simone Biles. Jack Dorsey. Lindsey Vonn.
Guess what all of these people have in common?
Yes, they’re all elite in their industries. And…they all have coaches. Every single one of them has reached the pinnacle of their careers by using coaches to help them get there. It’s a known fact that it’s a heck of a lot easier to grow with the help of experts, and yet…
You might need coaching in different areas as you go through your career. Your personal life, too. Heck, I would not be the 120-pound cycling machine that I am without the help of coaches and a very strict (and demanding and challenging and exhausting) training program.
There is no shame in getting coaching help in the areas where you want to excel: leadership, managing people for the first time, growing a business, even with skills you want to learn or certifications you want to obtain (PESO Model™ Certification, cough!).
A Great Coach Will Tell You Like It Is
When I was a young entrepreneur, I hired a leadership coach to help me get unstuck in many places. Our turnover rate was really high. I’m a nice and reasonable person, so I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.
It turns out…everything. I was doing everything wrong.
Our hours were 8:30-5:30, Monday through Friday (you know, back when we had an office to go to every day), but people were in the office easily 12 hours a day. Some would come in at 6 a.m. Others would stay until 9 p.m. We were there all the time.
When I talked to my leadership coach about it and how people complained, he asked me why I thought that was. I said I wasn’t sure because our hours were 8:30-5:30, and that’s all I expected, as long as the work got done.
He asked me what time I went to the office. I said it was usually between 6 and 7 a.m. Then he asked what time I left. I said it depended on if I had a client dinner after work, but if not, it was easily 7 or 8 p.m.
Then he said—and I will never forget this as long as I live, “Are you leading by example?”
I pushed back, of course. I said just because I worked those crazy hours did not mean I expected anyone on my team to do that.
He said, “But you’re not demonstrating that.”
It was a really good exercise for me. Just because I said I didn’t expect them to be there, my actions didn’t demonstrate that. Not in the least.
Today, I still work crazy hours and because of how much my personal life has changed, I often do things outside of normal business hours. But my team doesn’t know that (I mean, they do now if they read this article). I take full advantage of the scheduling feature in both email and Slack. I hold things for one-to-ones. And I generally leave them alone.
And it works! We haven’t lost a single team member since 2020. All thanks to my coach who held my feet to the fire and wouldn’t let me get away with pretending I was right.
It’s Not Exactly a Cake Walk
Having a coach is hard work. I joked about my cycling coach in the intro—and it is exhausting work most of the time—but I am a machine because of it. Just what I want to be as I get out on the lakefront in a few weeks to race the boys!
I continue to use a leadership coach. I’ve worked with coaches to build my business, to help me create and sell online courses, to better understand HR and financial regulations—and I was a member of Vistage for a long time.
And while my business continues to grow and evolve, I have professionals in my corner to help me figure out what to do next with as little pain and learning curve as possible.
It Takes High EQ
A few weeks ago, I did a livestream with Trust Insights—Katie Robbert and John Wall (Chris Penn was out of town)—and we discussed coaching. One of the things they told me is that people often scoff at the idea of a coach. As if it’s an insult to hire a professional to help you.
It’s not an insult! Go back to all of the highly successful people I mentioned at the start. They all have coaches. You’re not admitting a weakness if you have a coach. If anything, it shows incredibly high emotional intelligence and a willingness to do whatever it takes to reach your goals.
So let’s say you’re ready for some help and have pretty lofty goals you want to reach. How do you find a coach?
Ask people you trust. You probably know someone in your field who has worked with a coach or knows someone else who has. Ask them about their experience and if they’d recommend their coach to you. And make sure you find out why or why not.
Do Your Due Diligence
Once you have a short list of people to reach out to (I’d say three to five), do your due diligence. Look at their websites, read their content, listen to or watch anything they produce..figure out if it’s someone you like. Trust me, the coach can have all the experience in the world, but if you don’t like them, you won’t attend meetings with them.
Most coaches will offer a complimentary session. Take advantage of that. They should ask you questions to help them understand how they can best help you, they might share some anecdotal case studies, and discuss their coaching philosophy and approach.
This is also your opportunity to do a chemistry check based on the due diligence you did online. Ask yourself if you can imagine spending time on Zoom or the phone with them a few times a month. Figure out if you will look forward to your sessions. Will you be able to be completely honest with them without judgment? Overall, do you think this person will help you reach your goals?
If so, hire them. If not, keep talking to more coaches.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Coach
Once you hire someone, it’s not entirely up to them. You have to be a great coaching client and be willing to do the hard work. Just like I can’t hire a cycling coach and sit on my couch while he rides his bike in my living room, you can’t hire someone and then sit back on your laurels.
To get the most out of a coaching experience, there are a few things you should do:
- Show up. This means showing up for meetings or calls—on time and on schedule. There are, of course, times you’ll have to reschedule, and that’s understandable. But, for the most part, show up. I have a coaching client who keeps a post-it note on her computer screen that she adds to throughout the week so that she’s prepared to talk to me. And yet another uses a thread in Slack that she updates daily. Both do a great job of showing up, both literally and figuratively.
- Be honest. If things in your personal life are affecting your ability to reach your professional goals, your coach needs to know that. While business coaches are not therapists—nor should they act like one—there are lots of overlap between work, family, and friends that affect your ability to reach (or exceed) your goals. Be honest with your coach about what’s going on.
- Do the work. When I hired my first leadership coach, the genesis of it was because turnover was high. And I will admit that I wasn’t willing to accept that my behavior was causing it. I thought I was just bad at hiring. And maybe I was, but my behavior was at the heart of it. We stopped turnover after I was willing to do the work.
It’s not admitting weakness to ask for help. You will grow so much faster when you do. I guarantee it.
One-on-One Coaching With Yours Truly
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I do one-on-one coaching, which is one of my favorite things to do.
I have two programs: one for agency owners who are stuck or those who want to grow and don’t know how and the other is for marketing and comms pros who want to excel in their careers.
My Agency Leadership podcast co-host, Chip Griffin, does, too.
Let me know if you’re interested and want to learn more. And if Chip is more your speed, tell him I sent you. I could use the extra credit.