“if Elon Musk had to ask you for [coaching] advice what would you give him?”
I was asked that in an interview the other day...
The question caught me off guard, it was a good question, thought-provoking and scrutinizing, least of all because it would give insight, not only to my coaching ability, but to my own character.
“That’s a great question” I replied, buying myself a few more seconds to gather my thoughts. How could I give any advice to a billion-dollar man that is addressing three of the most pressing issues civilization has today.
“Well, if he is speaking to me he has likely recognized there is something worthwhile in consulting me…” dammit, way too cocky, what else?
How does one get good at anything without becoming at least mildly obsessive about it?!
“During our personal development, our needs and wants change, he may be great at business but failing in other areas, it’s possible he is seeking a means to become a more holistic individual”, I’m trying desperately to avoid using the word “balance”, it’s grossly miss-used and horribly misunderstood. How does one get good at anything without becoming at least mildly obsessive about it?!
"... A coach is a sounding-board for you to work on yourself."
“Importantly, what I would do first is listen. A coach is a sounding-board for you to work on yourself.” This is all good, and maybe said with better tone would have had more of an impact, however I still thought I was missing the power punch.
Although I was a bit nervous, I felt the interview went well, however that question posed to me did ruminate inside my head well past midnight.
So how does one coach someone else that is more experienced than you? What does a coach really do? Why would you need one at all?
...think of coaching as a bridge between therapy and consulting, ...
Executive coaching theory¹ suggests one can best think of coaching as a bridge between therapy and consulting, learning from past mistakes and building on the knowledge of those wiser than ourselves. Coaching is its own industry with rules and procedures. Coaching has practices and techniques and… this is all still a bit vague.
Fundamentally, a good coach is not giving out advice, they are guiding the client through their own self-discovery and self-development.
Coaches do provide a structure – a development plan, with clear starting and end points. The coach would also assist with setting up goals and actionable steps with the client. In business settings, the objectives of the firm and the client would align.
If you are battling through past trauma, do seek professional help, and if you require opinion on key technical or practical issues, consult the experts. But what about coaches?
Here is an analogy that I am working on that might help. When you want to become an expert in poker you get strategy advice from the best poker professionals, when you want a quality higher education you seek out the best professors and doctors in that field, when you need law advice you speak to the best lawyer you can afford. But which expert do you consult to become the BEST YOU?
The Mirror Analogy
Well, we do talk to ourselves. We have all at some point stood in front of the mirror and whispered or yelled into our own gaze “we did our best”, perhaps “we could have done better” or “it’s not your fault”. Unfortunately, when we hold up our own mirrors often our perspective is too close, we are too hard on ourselves, committing hindsight bias and becoming frustrated or depressed. Too often that mirror reflects all our flaws, or blinds us from the truth. We can see ourselves as a monster, covered in pimples and hated by our school peers. We can feel unaccepted by those that are meant to love us. Or, perhaps the opposite occurs and we are over-zealous and over-confident, with our unrecognised weaknesses spelling doom around the corner. Too caught up in arrogant self-delusion, a catastrophe is just waiting to happen.
Sometimes, their best-intentions, love and calling you “special” meant you were over-protected and now ill-equipped to deal with your current dilemmas.
If we can avoid self-torture or self-grandeur, what next? We often hand the mirror over to friends and family. Although, for some, their mother or father dropped their mirror long ago and it’s been taking years to piece it back together. The image reflected can be grotesque, a hideous misrepresentation of your true self. Sometimes, their best-intentions, love and calling you “special” meant you were over-protected and now ill-equipped to deal with your current dilemmas.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a great mentor, an older brother or sister, a loving grandmother or godfather. Someone who seemed to understand us and offer meaningful advice.
Books present an accessible means into the wisdom of truly great thinkers.
Even with no one around we can read. Pioneers of the past can speak to us and we can pervade their thoughts by reading their prose and poetry. Books present an accessible means into the wisdom of truly great thinkers. Today one can access present day writing masterpieces and discover new ones. Online publishing companies like Inkitt provide means for anyone to share ideas, stories and make their dreams come true. You can read others work for free or publish your own and get feedback on the work you’ve done.
To Get Coaching
A coach is someone who holds the mirror up for you in a way that allows you to see what is really inside you all along. Your strengths, your weaknesses, what lay in the past and what your potential is. They can push you when you need to be challenged, and console you when support is required.
In the business context, a coach is an objective aid to your professional development. As their primary objective is for you to improve and get results, they are there to assist you, without the repercussions a similar talk with your boss or co-worker might have. Imagine, trying to discuss with your boss the problem you have of your boss not being a good communicator? Or addressing conflict with a fellow employee that has anger management issues. The coach-client relationship is a safe and nurturing space to create “3rd alternative solutions”² to relationships in the workplace.
Now, you have been reading, researching and decided that working with someone that has your best interests at heart, is objective and has experience in the executive coaching field sounds like a positive and rewarding option, what comes next?
Setup a meeting and decide if you and the coach have chemistry. If you can feel an energy shift inside you, if are listening attentively, if it just makes sense… then commit. The best investment you can make is the one in yourself.
- Foundations of Executive Coaching at Getsmarter, partnered with the University of Cape Town. Own notes
- Covey, Stephen. The 3rd Alternative. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-1-4516-2626-1.
Featured Image "Library" by Viktoria Arenz