I posed a question on LinkedIn, “Can we self coach?” The responses are interesting and, for the most part, thoughtful. Paul Lanigan made a comment that neatly sums up my thinking:
“The whole idea of a coach is to shine a light on what we don’t see.”
I think this is an important concept and why any high performer must actively seek coaching from their manager and even mentoring from people they respect.
There’s a huge amount high performers can and should be doing for themselves. They should always be seeking to learn and improve, but in a systematic way. Some thoughts:
1. You have to have a realistic self assessment. Be critical of yourself, that is, your strengths and weaknesses, your capabilities, your own goals. It’s sometimes tough to do this (hence a coach or mentor is critical). We have to push our own egos to the side and look at where we can constantly improve.
2. You have to take the time to inspect and reflect on what you are doing on a day to day basis. For example after each major sales call (voice to voice or face to face), think about the call and how you did. Did your accomplish your goals, could you have done more? Were you sufficiently prepared, what might you have done better or differently? How could you improve the value you created for the customer in the call? Look at how you spend your time during the day/week. Look at your deal strategies, questioning how you can improve. Look at everything you do in a systematic way. Write down what you might do to improve, how you will do it, what you need to learn and set a time based goal.
3. Watch and observe others–particularly other high performers. See what they do differently. Ask them about their thoughts and approaches. Shamelessly copy and experiment with those things they do very well that you aren’t doing.
4. Constantly seek to learn and improve. Reading, workshops are all helpful. Actively participating in discussion groups or commenting on LinkedIn or other articles helps you share ideas and learn from others sharing their ideas.
5. Look in non-traditional places. We become prisoners of our own experiences, our peers, managers, even our customers do as well. Look in different industries, different disciplines. Find ideas and approaches that you can shamelessly adapt and apply to what you do. I always like looking at industries and markets that are at least two adjacencies away. For example, most of my work is in complex B2B–technology, industrial products, services. I learn a lot by looking a CPG, Retail, and Fashion. Look at other disciplines. For example, we can learn a lot from manufacturing, engineering or development.
6. Find a mastermind or some other peer group — other high performers that are looking toe learn as well as share their experiences.
7. Ask for help! It may sometimes come from the most remarkable places.
Where’s Your Blind Spot?
We must always look to learn and improve. If we know what we don’t know, we can develop a plan to remedy that. But there’s always that big question mark. What is it that we don’t know what we don’t know? What is it that we should see but are blind to?
At all levels we need coaches and mentors. It’s their job to shine a light on what we don’t know or can’t see. It’s their job to help us understand and develop a plan to continue to learn and improve.
We need to look for coaches and mentors less for answers, but for the questions we should be challenging ourselves with but haven’t yet discovered.
Jim Fiorini had some great thoughts, paraphrasing them:
Ask to be managed and coached. Tell your manager you want to sit down for pipeline, deal, call reviews and whatever. Actively seek their advice and input. Don’t let them off the hook.
If your manager won’t do it, then do everything you can do to move to a manager that will Do not accept or work for a manager that doesn’t want to coach–you will never improve, you will never achieve your full potential. You owe yourself more.
There’s a lot that each of can and must commit to to continually learn, grow and improve. But you can’t do it by yourself. You need someone to shine a light on what you don’t see.