Coach

If you don’t have a personal coach or someone in your corner helping you to achieve your goals, are you holding yourself back?

Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Big Short) has a podcast out called Against the Rules. In its second season, it focuses on the rise of coaches and coaching.

Coaching has been around for years (centuries if you count apprenticeships and the like). However, the occupation of coaching is relatively new in the modern world and the scope of coaching is broadening.

As an example, Michael describes the role of coaches assisting students to develop strategies and behaviours to obtain entry into their preferred University (Yale, Harvard etc.). These coaches have knowledge, skills and insights the individual doesn’t realise exist – and this eliminates them from entry. While others, having this information, are basically coached into University. Here’s the thing, it’s not necessarily the best candidates who gain entry!

If you don’t know a tool, or asset, exists, you can’t take advantage of it. You cannot know what you don’t know.

A good coach gives an individual the advantage over those who don’t. They provide the specific input an individual needs to progress and feedback on their performance. A good coach has the ability to identify and communicate areas of strength to build on and areas to develop as well as areas not to focus on.

Does it Matter that Much?

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” “I don’t much care where –” “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” 

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

If you have no goal, then, perhaps a coach is not necessary. If you have a goal but it is not compelling, then, again, a coach is probably not necessary. However, if you have a goal you must achieve (which is totally your decision), I would estimate having a coach is the best thing you can possibly do.

Of course, if you decide not to engage someone for feedback and encouragement, there are options. You can get tuition and guidance from reading books, watching videos, interacting with peers, in person and online. This input is highly valuable and allows you to discover new and varied ways of accomplishing a specific task or project.

But there is a caution which I gained from personal experience. 

I played golf daily (literally) for many years. I “prided” myself on having never had a formal lesson. I read all the books and subscribed to golfing magazines, I watched videos, played alongside my peers and entered tournaments. And yet I also never rose to any great heights, achieving a best handicap of 12 when the average male handicap was 14 – right in the middle of the good old bell curve!

I decided to get lessons.

My coach clearly stated that, “You cannot get feedback from a magazine or a video and just because the ball went straight it doesn’t mean you can repeat that. You need qualified feedback.”

Watching, reading and discussing form, scores and style are good but at some stage, if you really want to improve, you need feedback on what you are doing. My short game improved considerably!

Do I Really Need a Coach?

No, no-one needs a coach in the sense of they have to have one. But what are you missing that a coach may identify? It may be a simple issue to address, it may be more complex. The real question is what is the upside of having a coach? What will you become as a result of having a positive, constructive voice in your corner?

I think everyone benefits from a coach, formal or informal. Just the conversation itself has the power to encourage, motivate and enthuse an individual to try something new or different. And that can be enough to gather some momentum and accelerate you towards your goals.

If you need further proof of the need for a coach consider people like Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep, Roger Federer, amateur and professional sporting teams and many executives all have some form of coach.

What is interesting is that those at the “top of their game” want to have a coach. They constantly want to get better. It’s not up for debate. So does this mean the gap between the top and middle gets wider? More than likely, yes. 

Look at the common workplace these days. Many organisations are creating roles for coaches. Sometimes this part of a leadership role. Sometimes it’s an additional resource. That’s how important many believe having a coach to be.

Lastly, I would suggest we all have a coach of some sort if we count the ongoing conversations we have in our head. That coach, based on evidence, has a predisposition to be slightly negative in its views. Constantly telling us why we can’t do something or how our attempt was below par. Now, imagine if you had a physical coach like that, coaching from the sidelines as you attempted your best. 

We’d fire them straight away.

Find someone who will encourage you, challenge you and help you keep going in the face of adversity to help you reach the goals theatre important to you.

My Marathon “Coach”

I ran a marathon in June 2017. It wasn’t my best marathon. I hadn’t trained well. Since the half way mark (21.1km) I had been walking and jogging alternately. I was gassed. My shoulder hurt (don’t ask me why, I was running on my feet!) You can see me slowing down in the graph below: slower pace, lower heart rate.

With 2km to go a runner passed me and stated: “Come on, no more walking.” I said I couldn’t. I was done. She tersely warned me: “No! You’re not! Let’s go!” I started to jog with her. I not only jogged the last 2km, my pace was back at a decent level. We jogged the last 2 km, picking up other “lost souls” along the way.

Last 2km showing an increase in pace. Last km (of 42) almost back to pace at the beginning! Thanks “coach!” 🙂

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