contributed by Dr. Stephen E Bangert, PhD
The other day while watching television I became restless in what I was viewing and began channel surfing. I started with the highest numbered channel, viewed what was being telecast for a second or two (mostly advertisements, by the way), made a mental note of a few programs, and then moved to the next channel.
I caught a glimpse of Tiger Woods’ winning smile. There was Peyton Manning hawking another non football related product. A few seconds of an Oscar winning actress. A recent Grammy winner electrifying the airwaves. And there were more. Some pop heros of the day and other desperate souls trying to convince themselves and others that they are for real.
Then I was struck with the thought that each of these people, who had proven themselves to be outstanding in their career, had coaches on the side line or behind the scenes. As we see the glamor of the moment, we tend to forget the hard work and sacrifice that prepared them for such success. Thus we look up to these people as near gods, at least as long as they are winning or have a hit song or movie, and fail to recognize the coach or team of coaches supporting them.
By now I was more caught up in my own thoughts and less in what was being telecast. I began to generalize the thought of successful people and the role of coaches. Most successful people would quickly admit to a team of coaches in their life. Likely it was a supportive and loving parent early in life, then a teacher, and later an athletic coach or drama coach or debate coach. Perhaps early in their career a mentor introduced them to the corporate culture and how things “really worked”, and later they caught the eye of a top executive who paved the way for a fast track career. Lots of coaches on the sideline.
But what about the average person? What about YOU? Do you have coaches in your life? Most likely, yes! And do you recognize these coaches and their value to you? Well, you be the judge. The facts seem to suggest that successful people have coaches, and that most everyone has a team of coaches available to them, if they wish to take advantage of them.
So what are the qualities of a competent coach and the advantages of drawing on their talents?
The first foundational block has to be a coach’s KNOWLEDGE of the sport, craft, or corporate game-playing. A competent coach is a student of the game, always seeking insights and a greater depth of understanding. They possess a wealth of knowledge and have capsulized it for practical application.
The career advantage for an individual is not having to learn or reconstruct everything from ground up. They can borrow from this body of knowledge, they can solicit the coaches insights, they can stand on the shoulders of others, they can get a head start. The knowledge of a coach can eliminate much of the trial and error. The knowledge of a coach can help identify the critical principles.
And this points to a second foundational block, PERSPECTIVE. A competent coach brings a perspective that is gained over time through an increase of knowledge, practical experiences,
analysis of information and a synthesis of trends.
Taking advantage of a coaches perspective allows one to see the big picture and realize the relative importance of other situations and issues. Thus it helps a person to prioritize. It helps a person to separate the most important issues from the more pressing issues. It helps a person to select a strategic course of action over the immediate tactical course. It helps a person to more effectively reach their ultimate goal.
Related to perspective is the foundational block of OBJECTIVITY. A good coach remains objective in the throws of emotional events. Such a coach is able to steer a course that is true to the facts and base of knowledge. Such a coach is able to sort through the distractions and realize the consequential gains or losses of a given decision.
The cornerstone of these foundational blocks is DISCIPLINE. A coach who personally displays discipline is able instill that in others. More than anything, discipline is a mental toughness. It maintains the momentum when other factors are saying “no”, “stop”, “give it up.” It is the action piece of knowledge, perspective and objectivity.
So, if professionals at the top of their game have coaches, if successful executives have coaches, what should this mean to the average person wanting to advance in their career?
It points to the importance of having another person who can play a significant role in your life. A person you can trust for their knowledge, their perspective, their objectivity and their discipline. A career coach possessing knowledge of business, education and government and how they work. A career coach with perspective, helping you to appreciate the big picture and where you fit in. A career coach who will take the time to understand you and fan the motivational fires, but remain objective in helping you to focus on a proper course of action. And a career coach possessing discipline, a mental toughness that has got them through some scrapes in life, as well as kept them focused when distracted with success, thoughts of having reached a pentacle, wondering if there are higher mountains.
Having counseled many executives, managers and professionals I know it is common for them to express hesitancy when entering the career marketplace. They have been successful in their industry and area of expertise, yet oftentimes lack an understanding of how they achieved success and how their skills, experiences and characteristics hold value for another company. They know they must sell themselves in an interview, yet lack the insight of how to do so. They are not sure how their career fits within another company or industry. They are not sure how to verbally bridge the gap between past successes and future value to another company. And once they receive an offer, they lack confidence in negotiating, even though may have negotiated many multimillion dollar contracts for their company.
It is very likely that you have the same thoughts and concerns as you reflect on your career and a possible job search. Is there a coach in your life?
Choosing a career consultant who possesses the knowledge, perspective, objectivity and discipline to guide, is oftentimes the best investment you can make in your career.