A couple of weeks ago, when talking to a client of mine, I encouraged him to think about working with an executive coach. He listened, and then asked, “Do you think I need a coach?”
I understood the question underneath the question; he was asking whether I saw him as being a poor manager or leader. Unfortunately, even though working with an executive coach has become much more common over the past couple of decades, there can still be a lingering assumption that coaches are for people who are in trouble…failing or not capable some important way.
My immediate response was, “I think every leader needs a coach.” He looked skeptical.
The interesting thing to me: if he had been an athlete, he – and anyone who heard me – would have considered my response 100% normal and acceptable. All world-class athletes have coaches; we assume that hurdlers, shot-putters and skiers need someone skilled and objective to support their ongoing improvement. We recognize that they might fall into bad habits, or be hampered by a negative mindset, or be overworking certain parts of their body, or not playing to their natural strengths.
Why is it different for business professionals? Managing and leading a group of people to get excellent results, while creating an open and supportive culture that attracts great people and calls out the best in them…that seems more challenging and complex to me than pole-vaulting or long-distance running.