What do Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Google chairman Eric Schmidt and British cycling sensation Laura Kenny have in common? Of course, they’re leaders in their field – but they also all have a coach.
So should we all have a coach? I say yes, absolutely, but of course you’d expect me to say that – I am one. But let me tell you why you should, based not on my experience as a coach, but as a former executive who needed one to thrive and, at times, to survive.
When first appointed Legal Director at Asda, the job came at me like a train. Regular 12+hours working days; an urgent crisis round every corner.
Hands on? Relentless? Overwhelmingly.
Suddenly my remit had tripled in size. I had a huge change programme to develop and deliver and a wide range of professionals reporting to me, covering areas that I knew little about. I couldn’t work any more hours and there were no more people to do the work that I was already doing – something had to change.
It was my coach that helped me find the answers.
Working with a trusted confidant, I:
- Became a better listener and so for example rather than offering solutions to the team. I started asking more questions and let them find the answers. This works at home too!
- Developed a stronger sense of self and the kind of leader I wanted to be, nurturing the skills and focus that allowed me to stop being the control-freak that had to know every detail and trust the team.
- Built a long term strategic plan so that I could compellingly articulate my vision for the change, enlist others and build a plan to execute it.
When later appointed to the board as Executive General Counsel, as one of two women around the table, I felt the pressure to be an even broader contributor and ruthless prioritiser. I took the opportunity to get 360 feedback from each of the Board, as well as my team and others. My coach was ready and waiting to help me digest this, work on my opportunities, as well as navigating the complexity and politics that invariably exist in the boardroom.
I’ve had the privilege to work with some great coaches that have really helped me to understand myself better, to focus on my goals, translate them into an action plan and, most importantly, how to leverage my strengths to make sure that I and my teams were successful. I got to understand what beliefs and assumptions I held that were holding me back and how to change my behaviour so that they didn’t.
My coaches more than made a difference. They helped me find my voice and remain a centred and authentic leader so I could be at my best whatever the challenge – whether professional or personal. And in a busy legal team there are certainly plenty of challenges.
What Does A Coach Do?
Most of us want to do the best job we can at work and flourish in our lives– be a better partner, parent, child, friend.
We juggle so many competing priorities that we often put what we really want on the back burner, just to get through the day and work through our to do list.
But how many of us feel like we’re just treading water – before we know it another year or four have passed by.
A coach helps you to elevate your mindset and understand yourself, to articulate your goals and hold yourself accountable to deliver them.. And support you to retain focus so you can be more productive, be a better leader and spend time on things that make a real difference.
The best coaches are Olympic level listeners. They give you space to talk through what is on your mind and ask great questions – in the words of the wonderful Nancy Kline giving you “Time To Think”.
What type of coach should I choose?
Some questions to ask yourself to determine if coaching is right for you. Ask yourself:
- Do you have a growth mindset?
- Do you believe that you need to change?
- Are you willing to change?
If so, then you sound like you would benefit from working with a coach.
There are a lot of coaches around. Make sure that you choose one who has professional training. Industry-specific experience isn’t necessary.
Most importantly, this is a personal relationship that goes beyond the transactional – you are going to open your heart and reveal your vulnerabilities to this person. You really need to “click”. Invest your time in a free chemistry session, a short introductory meeting, to see whether you could work together.
Don’t let yet another year pass.