Put Me In Coach

I’m not going to lie to you. Super Bowl weekend is upon us and my local team (the New England Patriots) is playing. But I don’t really care.

Oh sure, I’ll be at a friend’s house, watching and cheering along with everyone else. But I’m a pretend fan. Unlike the people who live and die by the outcome, I expect to spend considerably more time analyzing the snacks than I will the opposing team’s secondary (whatever that is).

I will, however, be paying close attention to the coaches, and in particular, what they choose to wear to the game.

In baseball, the coaches – no matter how old or out of shape – wear team uniforms. In basketball and hockey, tradition suggests a suit and a tie. In football, however, the coaches seem to show up wearing whatever they had on at game time.

Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick, for example, dresses in what I like to think of as “weekend grocery shopping attire.” He always looks as if someone snatched him out of the condiment aisle in mid-shop and drove him straight to the game (perhaps that’s why he always appears so grumpy).

But that’s not my point. My point is this: All teams, in all games, in all sports, always have a coach. And it’s not just teams either. Sprinters, boxers, golfers, even chess players have coaches.

In fact, according to research that if conducted would probably be true, every professional athlete of any merit in the world has a coach.

So why don’t you? (That’s also my point.)

Why is it a given that top performing athletes have professional guidance from people whose sole responsibility is to help them perform better, and yet when it comes to running our businesses – or, if I may be so bold, our lives – we think we’ve got it covered?

I have no idea. However, as someone who’s worked with a coach for nearly eight years now, I can tell you without question that it’s been worth every penny.

Here’s what it’s given me:

  • An objective point of view. Particularly if you’re just starting a new business, having someone who can help you sort through the ins and outs, the opportunities and the fears is tremendously helpful. You can’t watch yourself working any more than an athlete can watch himself playing; a coach sees what you can’t.
  • A trained, constructive listener. Like me, you may be lucky enough to have a spouse who’s supportive, but I’ve come to see that good coaching is a lot more than that. My coach’s understanding of when to push back, when to encourage, and when to remain absolutely silent (one of her most annoying skills) is something I’ve found invaluable again and again.
  • A paid professional. Although your friends and/or spouse may be willing to go deep (gratuitous football reference) on important issues, your relationship with them requires give and take; it can’t be all about you. The nice thing about having a coach, on the other hand, is that it can. Your time with the coach – as with any professional you hire (attorney, doctor, etc.) – is dedicated to your success.
  • A time to refocus. I have to admit, there are weeks when I’d rather just keep working and not take 30 minutes out of the day to call my coach… those tend to be the days where I find the session most valuable. My weekly coaching call forces me to stop running and make sure I’m headed in the right direction to begin with.

Bottom Line: I speak with my coach once a week, 50 times a year. And while most sessions don’t result in any immediate business breakthrough, every six months or so I gain an insight or develop a new idea that more than pays for an entire year’s worth of sessions.

If you think coaching is only for people with “problems,” you’re looking at the wrong side of the equation. If you want to be among the best, and maybe even play in The Big Game, find someone who can help you get there. I’ll be in aisle 4 with Belichick if you need me.

For more on my coach, Phoenix, visit her web site here: www.PhoenixInsideAndOut.com. Tell her the penguin sent you.

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