I didn’t have any particular performance issues or other difficulties and everything was going well. I was fortunate enough to be working for a CEO who had valued coaching himself and who felt it would be valuable to provide all his directors with the opportunity should they wish to take it up. I did, and I never looked back.
I had a good coach – not a superstar, not a guru, not someone who writes best selling books or appears on TV shows. I had a good, solid, experienced coach with huge integrity and great insight who showed me warmth and positive regard. It provided me with a time each month in which I had the freedom and the space to talk about, think about and reflect on me, my performance and my career. And to do so with someone whom I trusted and who would not judge me or tell me what to do.
Initially it felt like a huge indulgence, after all I had important work to do, people to see, decisions to make. Time just spent talking about me and myself, well, wasn’t that a little too self-centred, frivolous, even a little self-indulgent? But I very quickly came to realise that what emerged from those reflections and discussions was of critical importance to me and what I was doing with my career and life. I was able to sharpen my performance even more and in such a way that I rapidly saw the benefits in the results I was getting and in the people with whom I was working and leading. I began to see myself differently and consequently to communicate differently, and of course that meant that I met with different responses. In my case, I felt clearer and more focused about what I was doing, and why I was doing it. That led me to behave with more gravitas and authority: when we feel differently, we behave and perform differently – and people notice!
When we make a difference to people’s lives – to how they see themselves, how they believe in themselves, in the potential they begin to recognise – the ‘knock on’ effects are immense, to them and correspondingly to all those with whom their lives touch, whether colleagues, family or society in general.
From an initial experience of feeling a little guilty about the ‘indulgence’ of my coaching sessions, I quickly began to see them as an essential part of my leadership ‘equipment’ and to derive enormous value from them. Sixteen years on I still reflect on some of our conversations and I continue to put into practice what I learned. In my case the impact of coaching was so catalytic that I retrained and became an executive coach myself, and since then I have been able to impart to others what was given to me.
So, it is probably true that no one wakes up saying they must get a coach. However, it is true that when we allow others in to help and support us, good stuff happens!