That’s what I’ve concluded after 35 years of working with CEO’s and senior executives.
Honestly, I’ve been a skeptic for most of my life because I didn’t recognize the critical role of regular and unbiased feedback in maximizing performance.
If you think about it, we all grew up with coaches, in Little League and Pop Warner football and in every sport I can think of.
Cheerleaders had a coach and so did the drama and debate clubs.
The best teachers and professors are not simply instructors. They are coaches, too.
Mostly they are coaching us, observing and monitoring, and coaching some more to bring out the best in us … to encourage us to take ownership of the course material, to be curious and eager to learn, to expand our thinking beyond the material required for the exam.
Coaching brings a different perspective to an issue.
For mothers and fathers, coaching is also a major part of our repertoire.
Preparatory courses for the SAT’s, bar exams, M-SATS are all derivations of coaching, helping us prepare to do do our best on our journey.
How do these countless examples apply to business executives?
After all, we’re all adults, seasoned professionals many of us. We already know how to play the game.
When you’re on the playing field, though, it’s hard to see if everyone’s doing their job, covering their duties and responsibilities, playing with the passion and discipline that winning requires.
A football analogy works perfectly in this situation.
No matter what the quarterback may see, the coaches in the press box have a different perspective.
They’re high above the field and see the challenges from an entirely different vantage point that inevitably alters the diagnostics as well as the solution.
It’s not much different from watching any kind of game in person, taking in all of the action, smells, sounds … but, when you grab your binoculars, you see a much different scope of the action and see something entirely different than you would without them.
We’re heard about this all of our lives – “two heads are better than one” – and all that.
We’ve also learned that for every traffic accident, each observer reports it differently.
We remember that playing “gossip” like we did in grade school distorts the original observation into an unrecognizable offspring of reality.
Yet, there’s a lot of value in kicking around ideas, concerns and conflicts with an independent observer whose unbiased feedback is focused only on your success.
It’s refreshing to work with a keen observer to receive unvarnished and unbiased observation without fear of reprisal or judgment. You can momentarily set aside the internal politics and interpersonal dynamics for that moment to help bring clarity to your vision and to help you see things in a more intentional way.
Most likely, there is no one in your organization to whom you confide your most gut-wrenching decisions without jeopardizing your relationship, your privacy or even your job.
We have a love-hate relationship with accountability.
None of us really likes to hear about our shortcomings, what we can do better, where we haven’t followed our values and convictions.
Yet, at the same time, there’s nothing we appreciate quite as much as the discovery that we can do better, that we may have overlooked answers deep inside of us, and that we have a chance to make a course correction to improve our performance.
Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, Olympians … the list is endless.
Why do we accept that these elite athletes all have a coach to improve performance, correct small hitches in their mechanics, even guide them to better nutrition, workout regimens and positive thinking?
Brando, Pacino, Hoffman, DeNiro, Hackman, Streep, Hepburn, all went to acting school and continued to work with acting coaches throughout their careers … to hone their skills, develop new roles and dialects and prepare for a major movie or special scene.
We can watch and be moved by their brilliance, discipline, creativity and talent.
You can say it’s tradition in the sports and entertainment worlds and you’d be right. But, these adults can surely fire their coaches if they don’t provide value.
But, they don’t, or if they do, they replace them with another. Why? Because they add value and bring out the very best in them to allow them to to reach world-class performance levels.
If a coach helped these icons ascend to the top of their profession –