Why Doesn't Everyone Have a Coach?

Note: I am switching gears this week and I will get back to the subject of ending a client relationship next week. Enjoy. As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/

"I Don't Need No Stinkin' Coach!"
I sincerely disagree. Everyone needs a coach. Why? Because we literally see the world the way we want to see it. But there is a problem beyond that. Even if you are just the most honest, impartial person that you could be, you would still have a problem — namely, when your knowledge or expertise is imperfect, you really don’t know it. Left to your own devices, you just don’t know it. We’re not very good at knowing what we don’t know.

Put simply, people tend to do what they know and fail to do that which they have no conception of. In that way, ignorance profoundly channels the course we take in life. People fail to reach their potential as professionals and people simply because they are not aware of the possible.

Why doesn’t everyone have a coach then? One reason we resist coaching, I’m sure, is our need for avoiding shame. Some pieces of us are not to be shared with the world. It’s one thing to admit we could shed some pounds or be in better shape; it’s another thing to confess that we’re lacking as a leader and own up to that. We prefer to keep some of our behavioral deficits to ourselves rather than hang them out in public for all to see.

Denial is not just a river in Egypt
Another reason is that we don’t know that we need to change. We are in denial, convincing ourselves that others need help, not us. A few years ago, the VP of a large Engineering/Architectural firm in Atlanta called me in to work with his COO and heir apparent. The CEO had a precise timetable for succession. “My number two is a good guy,” he said, “but he needs three more years of seasoning. Then I’ll be ready to leave, he can take over, and everything’s good.” That kind of a statement always gets my attention; i.e., when I’m asked to conduct research that proves someone’s predetermined conclusion. Something didn’t seem right. Sure enough, when I finished my 360-degree interviews with the COO’s colleagues, they all said the number two was “ready now.” The real problem was the CEO. Without prompting, nearly every interviewee said the CEO had stayed too long and should leave for the good of the company.

Then there’s the successful person’s unshakable self-sufficiency: we think we can do it all on our own. Quite often we can, of course. But what’s the rationale for saying no to help? It’s a needless vanity, a failure to recognize change’s degree of difficulty. I know this because behavioral change—talking about it, writing weekly blogs about it, helping others achieve it — is my life.

On the other hand, I – yeah, me - have to pay coach to call me every week to follow up on how I’m doing! I have to walk my talk, too. This isn’t professional hypocrisy, as if I’m a chef who won’t eat his own cooking. It’s a public admission that I’m weak. We’re all weak. The process of being better is hard enough without grabbing all the help we can get.

Here are the three top benefits of having a coach and participating in coaching – from Marshall Goldsmith's mouth to your ears - "they are in fact the best three good reasons why everyone needs a coach:"

  • We get better.
  • We get better faster.
  • Eventually we become our own coach.

Next week: How Do You Fire a Client?