My Biggest Career MistakeJan 11, 2023
Biggest career mistake to date…not getting a coach sooner!
I’ve made plenty of mistakes throughout my career that span from my early career overconfidence to inadequate management of people at the start, to ultimately allowing myself to become so stressed I experienced burnout. But do you what to know what I consider to be the biggest mistake of them all?
Not getting coaching from a third-party coach sooner!
I only hired a coach once I was a senior executive and realized I wasn’t going to keep growing and developing if I didn’t get some outside support. What I recognized after getting a coach was how much more I could have been growing and developing if I’d had support sooner! I discovered the powerful experience coaching provides and the impact it can have on your overall development and wellbeing. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on all those years and how powerful an impact it was having on me in just a few weeks.
I always assumed (never a good idea) that because I was so devoted to my own development as a leader in the Human Resource and Talent Management space, I didn’t need an external resource to help me. I was so very wrong. Having an external coach provides so many additional benefits to our development that we can’t get through our own learning, training, reading, or even from our boss or peers.
Why is having a coach so important?
A third-party coach doesn’t know your boss, peers, or business. They aren’t interested in whether you hit your numbers or how often you are sick. They only care about helping you make progress on your goals and challenges. Their only interest is in seeing you be successful. They aren’t competing with you or judging your efforts against some arbitrary performance standard. They only want to help you feel good about what you are accomplishing and achieving in your life.
Foster Growth & Development
The primary reason most people ultimately seek out a coach is to either address a serious personal/emotional issue or challenge, or to identify ways to increase their growth and development. A coach is particularly helpful in accelerating an individual’s growth and development. Coaches are equipped with tools and skillsets that are meant to perpetually challenge you and push you in your growth and development. They are trained in how to work with clients to set manageable but challenging goals and then support them in the process of achieving them.
I truly believed I was growing and developing at the fastest rate I possibly could throughout my career…until I got a coach. With a coach, I could actually work on specific skills and talents more intentionally and grow them more quickly. I experienced rapid growth in my self-confidence, self-awareness, and ultimately my emotional intelligence. By having a coach, I achieved more growth goals, developed more skills quicker than I ever imagined, and was able to do so while experiencing greater joy in the process.
A coach’s only purpose is to support you in your growth and development. They don’t have a personal agenda to see you promoted (or not promoted), to give you more work (or take work away), have you feel good or bad about yourself. The only agenda of the coach is to help you make real progress on the things you want to work on. This means a coach will not judge you or reject you. A coach shows up no matter what and roots for your success. They don’t get angry or frustrated with you. Instead, they keep encouraging you through the hurdles and challenges. A coach helps you to keep going even when you most feel like giving up.
I can’t count the number of times I felt like giving up as I wrote three books (in the last year), left my past job, started a new business, and completely transformed my life. As a new entrepreneur, there were days I didn’t want to get out of bed. As an author, there were days I was terrified of rejection and whether people would ever buy my books. My coaches helped me to keep going, to keep working at the challenges and not to give up. Without their support, I might not have made all the progress I have in the last year with writing books, creating and launching apps, developing courses, speaking on stage, and so much more!
One the biggest impacts of having a coach is the outside perspective they bring to your life, experiences, growth, and development. Because they have no past experience with you, they can bring perspective to the experiences you are having, challenges you want to overcome, and goals you want to achieve. Most coaches have significant personal life experience they bring to the coaching relationship. This experience allows them to provide you with additional viewpoints and help you gain perspective on your own experiences.
When I first started working with a coach, I truly believed the way I was performing was normal and to be expected. As I got perspective from the coach, I began to recognize the way I was performing and my work was way beyond what most would consider normal. I was extending myself beyond what was reasonable and didn’t even realize it. With the help of my coaches, I was able to begin to see my life from a totally new vantage point – one outside my current workplace. This helped me put into perspective my actions and choices in a way that never would have happened without working with a coach.
In our workplaces and current lives, most of the time we get the same suggestions over and over again. The solutions we are offered are the same ones we’ve heard before, tried, and failed. If we’d been successful, we wouldn’t be back in the same situation looking for guidance. A coach on the other hand, can bring creative and unique solutions that you may never have experienced or considered before. They have knowledge, perspective, and experience that you’ve likely not encountered and wouldn’t have if not for having a coach.
I had been struggling with stress, exhaustion, and overwhelm most of my career. Starting with law school, I learned to barely sleep at night, work 16-to-18-hour days, and to push through any emotions to “just keep swimming.” I carried this approach from law school into my career and applied it to my work and later to having a family in how I would approach my children. Everyday became a grind of pushing through and fighting my way through life to succeed. Upon working with a coach, they provided me with creative solutions I’d never considered before. They introduced things like cold showers, balanced breathing, and taking time for journaling to deal with emotions (so they wouldn’t deal with me instead!). I needed new strategies for managing stress and living my life. I needed creative solutions to my challenges that I never would have received if I hadn’t sought out an external coach.
In my experience, the thing we spend the least time doing but probably need to be doing the most is taking time for reflection. In order to gain insight and then translate insights into action, we must take time to reflect on our experiences in life. Often, we are so busy moving from one task to the next we fail to slow down and truly reflect on where we are going, why we are going that way, and how we feel about our choices. Without reflection, we are quite literally hindering our growth and development.
Time spent working with a coach is perfect for slowing down to reflect on what is happening within us. Why do we keep arguing with our spouse or parent? Why do we keep exploding at our children? Why do we feel like sleeping all the time? Why are we angry or cry every Monday when we are going back to work? By working with a coach, we can begin to unpack these challenges and reflect on what is really causing our behaviors. Coaches can help you unpack your own experiences in ways that lead you to discover the best answer for you by just guiding you through reflection.
Accountability without Fear
One of the most important elements of achieving our goals or overcoming challenges is by taking personal accountability. We must take personal accountability of what we are trying to achieve if we are going to be successful. By working with a coach, we have the opportunity to take personal accountability, have someone witness it and keep us accountable, while not negatively impacting our careers. A coach can provide regular follow up and support that actually increases the likelihood of accountability rather than hindering it.
The truth is all workplaces of a certain size have some degree of politics within them. Politics can unwittingly be causing fear and preventing psychological safety in the workplace. When people don’t feel safe, their willingness to take accountability or allow visibility to their progress toward goals is likely to be negatively impacted. Unfortunately, when we take personal accountability in some situations in the workplace, it can have negative consequences for our careers. We may fear that if we do not achieve the goals we set, we won’t get our raise or get promoted. Therefore, we set goals that are more achievable rather than challenging to obtain. We may also be less likely to solicit input on our progress looking for suggestions if we fear retaliation for doing so or being behind where we need to be.
Ability to be Totally Honest
Again, if a workplace is unsafe or has a culture that promotes competition or a lack of integrity, we may struggle to actually be totally honest or have others be honest with us. A coach is able to provide us with completely honest feedback – good or bad – that will help us in our growth and development. Their feedback isn’t going to impact our career, income, or promotions. Therefore, they can be honest and help us to see sides of our selves we might normally hide or not want to address.
As I worked with a coach, they were able to help me to see parts of myself that I knew were there but hadn’t want to work on. I was never comfortable soliciting or receiving feedback in some of these areas – they were just too sensitive, and I feared how they would impact my career long-term. With my coach, I was able to hear them, learn from them, and identify ways to strengthen and overcome some of these challenges.
I am sure there are probably even more reasons than those I selected here. What I can tell you from my experience is that I have grown more in the last 18 months, I’ve had a coach that I could have ever possibly done on my own. If you are like me, you’ve probably never considered getting a coach or maybe don’t know much about coaching. Coaching seems to be either a world you are very familiar with or have no experience with at all. If you are thinking about whether coaching is a good idea for you or something you want to consider trying – I am here to tell you YES, it absolutely is worth trying!
Want to learn more? Message me directly on LinkedIn and we can set up a discovery call or an introductory session together!
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