“Everyone needs a coach” Bill Gates

This morning I embarked on something new and potentially (hopefully!) exciting. I had my first session with a coach. As this was an introductory session, we didn’t really get into the boundaries of whether this was life-coaching or business-coaching, although I am sure the connection between the two will be largely blurred. It did, however, make me wonder why it is something I am enthusiastic about and prompted me to put ‘pen to paper’ here.

Being coached was something I discussed doing whilst employed but for various reasons never materialised. One of the benefits of my newly found self-employed status is that I have the freedom to explore ways to challenge myself that within the employed environment would be subject to a cost/benefit trade-off analysis, where the key benefit would need to accrue the employer. Of course, I still need to do the cost/benefit analysis, but I can be fairly sure that 100% of accrued value will be to my benefit!

But why do we (I’m proceeding on the basis that I am not alone in this!) feel the need to open ourselves to observation and scrutiny by welcoming a complete stranger into our world (both business and personal) and accept the pokes, prods and prompts to motivate ourselves to do things differently? (I’m fully expecting to hear from my coach that he will neither poke nor prod me, even if it were not a Zoom-based session!). The problem with answering this is that a web-based search of the question elicits literally hundreds of websites of people offering coaching and each suggesting why it is a good idea. I can’t but help thinking they may not be completely impartial!

In reading various articles on coaches, there seems to be consensus that it is not the coach that provides the answers; rather they facilitate you to unlock your real potential: “…a coach can be a powerful resource who can help you get your of your own way…”[1] It was these words that really resonated with me – can help you get out of your own way. It does seem strange, but probably true, that in so many scenarios we are our own worst enemies. When faced with decisions, we constantly weigh up the different scenarios and potential outcomes and balance those against the risks of failing and the repercussions of that failure. How many of us have put off doing something because we place so much weight on the repercussions of failure, even when the probability of failure is tiny? Even worse, we balloon those repercussions beyond anything close to what the reality would be.

Of course, there may be many people for whom this thinking either does not apply or is very much at the margins of their consciousness. Here I am thinking of people so self-confident and clear in their thinking that doubt over actions is either minimal or perhaps even non-existent. But I find it curious that the use of coaching seems to be particularly prevalent among high flying business or sports people; presumably individuals who have quite high levels of self-belief.

For me, the real attraction of having a coach is to have someone who is independent of my day to day world and can give an honest view, unbiased by potential conflicts of interest. As Eric Schmidt, previously CEO of Google said: “The one thing that people are never good at is seeing themselves as others see them.” Similarly, in other situations, whether at home or work feedback is always constrained by other motives – whether that is fear of hurting my feelings or concern over reprisals when providing negative thoughts and opinions!

I have spoken in other blogs of my suffering from impostor syndrome and I wonder whether having someone engage with me in a coaching environment will finally help put that syndrome to rest… or, alternatively, expose me as the impostor I fear! No doubt all will become clear in subsequent blogs – unless of course through the coaching sessions the value of this posting is questioned and the blogs cease to exist!

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2014/12/09/why-you-need-to-hire-a-coach-in-2015/#74181ec86eb3

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