Leaders: Are You Coachable?

groupthink

In my consulting and coaching business, I often ask the question “are you coachable?” It is amazing how many times the prospect says “well, yes I believe I am.” After a few sessions with input and feedback, it becomes apparent they really are not coachable. How do I know? It manifests itself in many ways.

Business owners and professionals at all levels sometimes struggle with being coached. Success and achievement creates a false sense of not having any need for change. If you are getting results, why interrupt the methods that got you there? That may be a good mindset in the short run, but long term success requires growth.

To find good examples of being coachable we can look directly at athletics where the concept of coach and student are most notable. When you explore the story of the truly great athletes (think Michael Jordan or Jerry Rice), you will find stories of tireless pursuit of perfection. Regardless of the season they just had, these guys worked relentlessly to improve their stamina, skills, and techniques.

Recently Jerry Rice, football great and now, NFL Hall of Famer, was being interviewed. He was on the driving range at a celebrity golf outing. Rather than merely slap some golf balls around, he was on the range with both his caddy and a coach. When shots were not going the right place he was asking for guidance and advice. Golf isn’t even his game, yet the discipline of looking to perfect a skill was at work. His desire to do well at whatever endeavor was before him drove his will to be better. That’s being coachable.

Here are the a few thoughts about deciding if you are truly coachable.

  1. Do you routinely seek advice and counsel to improve some aspect of your professional or personal life? Or have you learned it all and know it all? Being open to the pursuit of growth as a professional is key. The best individuals in any aspect of life will be constantly trying to improve. Whether that includes technical knowledge, insight, or wisdom, the effort is there. Those who excel believe there is always more to learn or be.

  2. When you get advice do you act on it; following through with using the information to achieve more? Or do you discount the information and talk yourself out of action? Using what you learn is important. In leadership, it takes practice. Once you learn and understand a skill, you must apply it to your tool kit. By using your newly found understanding, you help to create confidence in its worth. Just as athletes work to build muscle memory for critical physical moves, leaders can build “influence memory” to work to their advantage.

  3. Do you seek follow-up from the coach to be sure you understood the coaching and that you are properly performing the actions that were recommended? Or do you move on without ever doubling back for refining advice? Even the best coaches require feedback from the client to know whether the teaching and training is working. Be proactive in giving that feedback to your coach. When you realize you are working on a new dimension of your training, open up the communication with the coach. Let them know what feels right or needs better explanation.

Make Your Decision

If your current professional or personal situation is not producing the results you expect, then perhaps some coaching is needed. But before you simply engage a coach, ask yourself whether you are truly coachable.

Why Do I feel the Burnout?

Business leaders must learn to recognize their own burnout and be able to administer self-healing for it. Nothing can derail your sense of balance for work, life, and faith worse than a case of extreme burnout. It is interesting that some of the most popular and most frequently shared articles I have written have to do with being burned out or losing your enthusiasm.

Is it possible that those feelings are some of the most prevalent mindsets? If so, why? What is it about our work life that causes this sense of frustration and discouragement?

burnout

There is no doubt that the loss of enthusiasm can significantly impact work-life balance. According to PshychologyToday:

“Burnout is not a simple result of long hours. The cynicism, depression, and lethargy of burnout can occur when you’re not in control of how you carry out your job, when you’re working toward goals that don’t resonate with you, and when you lack social support. If you don’t tailor your responsibilities to match your true calling, or at least take a break once in a while, you could face a mountain of mental and physical health problems.”

The Symptoms

First, let’s remind ourselves about the classic symptoms of burnout.

  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness
  • Physical symptoms like chest pain, dizziness, etc.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger

That list is pretty scary. While anyone can suffer a temporary bout with any of those symptoms, prolonged experience with them is trouble. It can be a sure sign you are in a burn out zone.

“If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, this should be a wake-up call that you may be on a dangerous path. Take some time to honestly assess the amount of stress in your life and find ways to reduce it before it’s too late. Burnout isn’t like the flu; it doesn’t go away after a few weeks unless you make some changes in your life. And as hard as that may seem, it’s the smartest thing to do because making a few little changes now will keep you in the race with a lot of gas to get you across the finish line.”

The Remedies

Sherry Bourg Carter, Psy.D. suggests these remedies:

  • Take an inventory. Make a list of all the situations that cause you to feel stressed, anxious, worried, frustrated, and helpless. Don’t rush through it. It’s not a race; it’s a process. In fact, you should consider it a work in process, adding to it as things enter your mind.
  • Next to each item on the inventory, write down at least one way to modify that situation to reduce its stress, and then begin implementing them into your routine. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate changes or feel immediate results. Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s unrealistic to expect it to go away overnight. Consistent implementation of positive changes into your routine is the best way to see improvement.
  • Just say “no.” While you’re “recovering,” avoid taking on any new commitments or responsibilities. I know you have to live in the real world and there will be some things that you just can’t get out of doing. But high octane women have a bad habit of saying “yes” when they can say “no.” Resist that urge.
  • Delegate as many things as possible, even if the person you’re delegating to may not do them as quickly or as well as you would.
  • Take breaks between big projects. Burnout puts your mind and body in a weakened state, so avoid jumping from one stressful, time-consuming project to the next in order to give your mind and body a chance to recover.
  • Control your devices. Gadgets, such as iPads, computers, and smart phones, can consume large amounts of your time and energy. Turn them off as much as possible. (See Connection Overload and 12 Steps to Recovery for more information on how technology can hi-jack your life.)
  • Socialize outside your professional group. This can provide fresh perspectives, stimulate new ideas, and help you discover previously undiscovered resources.

relaxation

  • Resist the urge to take work home. Yes, I realize you have a job to do and at some point the work has to get done. But if you’re like most high octane people, you like to be a superstar, racing around, showing how fast you can get to the finish line. When you’re recovering from burnout, you can’t be on the Indy 500 racetrack. You have to slow down a notch until you can safely get back up to that speed.
  • Reinforce effort, not outcome. Not even the best players hit home runs every time they get up to bat. Remember to reinforce yourself for trying rather than only for the end result.
  • Consider a support group. Although a support group may be a therapeutic group, it doesn’t have to be. It can be a professional organization that provides support or mentoring, or a group of casual friends getting together to vent and share ideas. Whichever you choose, a support group serves two purposes: 1) sharing feelings often reduces stress, and 2) getting together with others reduces isolation, a common consequence of burnout.

Finally, a word of general advice–rediscover your passion. Nothing is more rewarding than knowing you are working and living in the center of the thing(s) that are about your biggest passion. Find it again, go there, and be restored!