I love this saying: The only difference between warm water and boiling water is one degree.
Most of the conversations I have as a recruiter from an entry level employee to the C-level revolves around finding opportunities to take them to the next level. At times, the mistaken belief is the only way to find a promotion is to interview for it. The other option would be to re-evaluate your current work habits and performance, good and bad, to find the one degree to get from tepid performance to red hot and become promotable with your current employer or more marketable to other potential new employers.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. If you’re strong in one area, it can create a weakness in another. The art of being self-aware and really knowing your own weaknesses is an extremely difficult exercise but the high performing executives I’ve talked to have been able to look at themselves and actively focus on their weaknesses and eliminate them. They’re really good at taking an honest personal inventory and really pressing those around them to provide honest feedback on areas they can improve upon. They take to heart performance reviews and never let the same issue twice come up. They’ve learned to do this themselves but sometimes some of us have to get help from someone to achieve this.
Very few managers really take to heart the bullet point in their job description to manage and improve their team. Wait, the sentence sounded really bad, please hear me out. Their focus is on improving performance of their team by providing feedback, tools and guidance to their team but there are times when a manager doesn’t have the time nor the aptitude to improve “soft-skills” such as public speaking, gaining credibility in a meeting, proper work habits and gaining a growth mind set. Here’s an idea for those who want to improve: work with a coach to gain those skills to improve those weaknesses and have your current employer ask you to move to the next level.
There are coaches and instructors for driving, golf, baseball, home organization, cooking, skydiving, dog behavior, painting, etc. What I think is hilariously missing are some of the most important and most challenging activities where we need help such as parenting or a professional business and performance coach.
There are times, if you have the self-awareness to know you need to work on something but you don’t want to turn to your manager for help, where it makes sense to work with a coach on job performance or the skills needed to perform at a high level in a business setting.
I had to take my own advice recently. I started my own recruiting firm and I was too focused in the start up stages to be scared. Being scared came a few months after it was up and running. All of my insecurities of “doing my own thing” came focused on one activity crucial for growth: business development. For years and years, I performed this activity with little to no fear but all the sudden it became incapacitating for me to make a call and try to gain new business. Instead of looking forward to the potential of a new project to recruit on my mind was focused on fear and worrying the name and logo I chose were stupid or if I the website I designed would make a good impression.
Even if I had a manager I could turn to it’s doubtful I would go to them and say I was afraid to make a business development call. Imagine a medical device sales guy talking about being afraid to his sales manager, it’d be a short conversation and the salesman would likely be on the job market. I had to fix it and I wasn’t able to do it by myself.
Over the last year I’d been reading a blog by an executive coach named Jeff Boss. His focus on coaching was taken from years of experience and lessons learned from his time in the Navy Seal all-star team called DEVGRU (Seal Team 6). If that credential isn’t impressive enough he contributes to Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur and just released his first book. I called and arranged a time to talk and I was more than a little hesitant to begin talking about my fear of making a phone call with a guy who jumped out of planes (at night, over hostile territory, loaded with gear, wearing night vision googles and an oxygen mask) but he was super humble and really focused on working with me to re-frame that activity to something which was more of a growth minded mindset versus something which created fear. Imagine having a resource where the first question of the call is: “By the end of the call what do you want to achieve or solve?”.
Sometimes we need to get out of our ecosystem of advice givers or managers and move to a professional to help us improve ourselves to the point where we approach our work differently and more effectively. I imagine a point in the future where I’ll look outside to provide input on hiring top performers, more effective leadership and provide the opportunity for my team to work with a coach to improve themselves if they so desire. It’s an investment which will provide a return. For someone new to management it’s a great opportunity to get input and avoid rookie mistakes.
I’ve paid for coaches for my kids to learn tennis and improve their swing in baseball. The idea of hiring a coach for me to become better in my professional life has been a bit of a game changer. It’s a cost which provides a financial return and I view it as an investment. Spending a little money to improve my work productivity or increase my income is a dividend which will pay for itself year over year.
Sometimes you have to look for help from someone outside of the organization you’re with to find the one degree to get you to the boiling point.
If you’re interested speaking with Jeff, he offers a free consult. His contact info is below:
The variety of topics he can coach on ranges from personal development, organizational leadership, team leadership and adapting to changing business conditions.