Coaches are called many things—wingman, secret weapon, climbing buddy, sidecar helper, sparring partner, outside jerk, professional nag, court jester, sounding board, skillful prodder, cheerleader, and many more. Of course, none of these were on any docket of occupational titles when I graduated high school. Yet there’s a good reason for all these names! They describe a colorful picture of what a coach is and does.
At the center of the coaching relationship is the helping process. Giving and receiving help is far more complicated a dynamic than expected. Receiving help is a skill. Help is defined here as giving something to another person they cannot give to themselves. In the world of business, there are timing windows in the season of a leader’s career when she’s coachable. She is willing to be wrong and invalidate her assumptions about herself, the world, and others. This type of suspension is a sign of maturity for mid-career business leaders.
Business leaders and decision-making executives go out into the marketplace and collect the check. By creating value for someone else, their customer or their company, the exchange is a check. Thousands of times at earning the check generates a lot of experience. This school of transactions builds confidence from this experience in both scenarios—getting a check, or not getting a check. Learning happens either way. Failures are used as assets.
Perhaps the best education for all entrepreneurs is not getting the check because it points out what’s not working. If responded to with learning, new habits emerge which build new capacities for larger and larger checks. In fact the largest check of any entrepreneur is the reflection of their total habits. If their habits become more valuable and useful, so does their earning power. The one asset above all that an entrepreneur has full control over is her earning power, more than any other such as a home, stock, etc.
Over time the school of transactions builds a comfort level with one’s own ignorance. At about the $200,000 income level, the individual realizes that doubling their income isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about having all the questions. Going to the next level is about investing in one’s strategic thinking, and using this thinking to their advantage by letting go of their comfort, status, and security to reach new heights of performance.
All entrepreneurs in the VIP coach usually began seeking a change and wanted to pull it all together about a year before they enrolled. Why is that? Here’s what I’ve discovered: As they reached their largest check, they became immersed in so many other activities and details that their enthusiasm began to decline. Bigger production means bigger support. And if growth exceeds the limits of support they have, 16 hour days become a normal day. So making any further income becomes intrusive, dangerous, and stressful.
As complexity rises, commoditization simultaneously becomes scary and difficult. Less time selling means more time down in the ditches of the operation. This leads to less creativity and innovation from the entrepreneur. Being drawn into the morass of stuff leads to less time creating value for the marketplace—less differentiation, value justification, and market-leading competitiveness. Pressure gets put on profit margins, and costs become a killer to sustainability. Buyers buy based on their shopping criteria instead of the seller’s value proposition. This tailspin of volatility and complexity is full of innovation-killing time-traps that suck the entrepreneur dry of his own life and beget a life full of apologies to relationships they neglect.
The entrepreneur realizes that he’s now become a prisoner of his own machine. Fed up and out of answers, he seeks help. He finds a coach to define his own needs, not himself. He is strong enough to be weak. He is vulnerable, confused, alone, and stuck in a web of reactions that lead to a sense of powerlessness and eventually worthlessness.
The coach has an interesting responsibility to the helping process, considering these underlying conditions. He must approach it without having all the answers either. This puts a wedge between marketing his coaching services and his delivery method. The client isn’t his project. The coach must be careful not to solve the client’s problems for him, but instead help draw forth desires and decisions that help the client outgrow the problems.
The coach isn’t the expert; he is only one side of a two-sided shared intelligence. The client isn’t the victim; the coach isn’t the hero, lifeguard, or caretaker. The coach’s job is to confront the client’s freedom. Rather than reacting against or responding to life, the client is encouraged to choose what matters to him, and organize his life around creating it.
So the helping relationship is a co-creative mode of interaction that is built on equal business stature. Coaches aren’t friends either. Distance is important for the coach to see the client’s actual situation and current capacity. Like being in love, when a person is too close to the relationship, they lose their peripheral vision.
The entrepreneur begins to see that to reach new levels of capacity; the coach is someone who stands toe to toe with him as a court jester who is committed to truth telling. Coaching makes the entrepreneur honest. And when he’s fluent in what is really going on, resourcefulness prevails! This is most prevalent with affluent coaching clients. They’re important people on guard, and sensitive to who knows them and what they expose of themselves. The coach is like a confessional. The less you see him, the more one confesses what is actually going on. Distance inspires openness, safety, and intimacy. This is why coaching is 100% to be over the phone.
What I encounter during 100 intensive coaching calls per month is the need for people to slow down. The helping relationship is for entrepreneurs to slow down their thinking, and reflect on what is really going on in their business and personal lives. Moving too fast is like living a blurry life, murky, and unexciting, with no sense of collection of what is showing up. One client said recently, “JD this is the first time I’ve really thought within the last 12 months.”
Picture it like an athlete playing in the game and instant replay all at once. She is able to see things in slow motion—the positive, the negatives, new ideas, insights, and what is emerging. Coaching calls are like reception areas for these to come into the nets. When individuals begin to see what has landed on their runway, they find new and different ways of taking in and influence the life they are living. This is the capacity to remain present, rooted in the moment, and grounded in reality. Staying in the moment becomes the antidote to changing one’s history. The coach is the guardian of the present moment and defender of distractions.
Perhaps death is the greatest of all advisers, and a key sponsor of the helping relationship. When Jerry, a coaching client came to terms with his perceived immortality, the brevity of life woke him up. A quality view of life took the place of a quantity view. If time was limited, and life was short, to Jerry every moment was to count. He thinned his life of non-essentials and low-distractions because they were small, and instead considered what matters most to him, and created it. Jerry says that death asks him constantly if he’s carrying out the sacred project that he came to life for.
Simplicity isn’t about having less; it’s creating what matters to us. When we bring what we love into being, things automatically get simple because our hierarchy of importance re-arranges things that matter and other aspects that do not.
We may look at coaching as a temporary fix to help us through a transition, but to depend on another human being for something you cannot do for yourself is a lifelong tradition for leaders today. The reasons for this are because “visibility” has become more important than ever. The entrepreneur depends on quality information from a wider range of sources to navigate her decisions. Everyone has blind-spots! No leader is good at everything and cannot do everything! To grow he must let go and multiply.
Each of us has never seen our own face. We don’t know who we are until we’re seen by others. Being seen is a powerful force. Nothing is independent. Everything in the universe is interconnected. Yet our society conditions us to replace depth, value, and intimacy with consumerism at break-neck speeds, expecting to satisfy a never-ending hunger that we cannot quench without meaning, connection, and alertness. We get more upset losing our cell phones and the internet than our friends and loved ones. And we spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need trying to impress people we don’t like!
We’ve become harder and harder to satisfy as a culture. Doesn’t it give you chills knowing that three people are killing themselves in the world compared to one person being murdered? That is a 3:1 ratio of suicides to murders at the hands of another person. That means three people to one are dying at their own hands! That’s a “spiritual crisis.” And over 50% of employees in companies are saying they’re not inspired to come to work! That’s an awful report card for leaders today.
The way through to making a difference starts with the interior condition of the leader by cutting the divides between three connections: self to self – living by his true intention and gifts, self to others – living by an open heart to create value for others using these gifts, and self to whole – living by that which is wanting to emerge in his own life story as a mystery unfolding, and waive any alternatives to a deep sense of calling or purpose to what stands in need of showing up.
When people violate what is moving from any of these three – self, other, whole, they lose their sense of renewal, humanity, resourcefulness, and confidence. The coach helps you “be there and show up” for yourself, others, and your world. And helps reconstruct the story about what got you here and where you’re going, and remember your power to make a difference; the one you’re meant to make in the world.
To cut the three divides, coaches work on two key interdependent processes at play: The process of becoming aware, and the process of creation. They provide a safe space (container; outlet) for clients to openly observe and gather insights that someone involved with them on a personal and close level couldn’t give them access to.
Business leaders are the most important figures in navigating this kind of commitment. And I believe the helping relationship with a coach is to be a quintessential feature to bringing these leaders’ character into levels that mark a historic cultural shift on our planet.
Get help today and start your journey with your coach! Margaret Mead said that it only takes a few committed people to change the world. Everything—your dreams, aspirations, gifts, and the world is waiting for you to realize that your time has come.
Copyright 2013 John Davidson