Why should you go through the time and cost of finding a coach when you can read up on google, ask your mate or just teach yourself? All you need is time and energy, right?
As a teenager, on a school trip to Sheffield, I got the chance to go ice-skating for the first time. I’d always loved the idea of playing ice-hockey, but with the nearest rink a 90-minute drive away I’d never really had the chance. I tentatively stepped on to the ice. Fell over. Struggled up and clutched the side for grim death. Slowly I shuffled around the edge, deeply enviously of my friends who had managed to stay up, effortlessly gliding away.
I tried again and again, falling over, getting up, clutching the side, falling over again for about an hour. Exhausted, and having barely skating anywhere, it was time to leave. I loved it! When the chance came to go again I jumped at it…skating a little more confidently, a little quicker…falling over just as much but getting a teeny tiny bit better. The nearest rink was still a long way from home, but I would go a few times a year, fall over and not getting any better.
The Next Generation
Fast forward 20 years and I took my kids Jon (6) and Zoe (4) ice-skating one day in Manchester. I was still hopeless, but as Dad I had to be an expert, puffing out my chest and showing them how it’s done! We’d watched Peppa Pig practising, it was as simple as push, push glide!
Now there were several of us falling over, not getting anywhere, tired but still having fun. It was clear we were not getting anywhere, nor would we.
New Year, New Challenge!
Over Christmas, we were talking and Jon and Zoe said they would like to try something new. As I now live just a few miles from an ice-skating rink I suggested ice skating classes and they agreed. They started at level one with a fully qualified NISA coach who had them tip-toeing across the ice in minutes. She showed them how to put their arms out wide to balance. She taught them to their hands on their knees when they felt unsteady. After about 20 minutes, she asked them to sit on the ice and practice standing up. Of course, they fell over, but they were learning the skills they needed to develop.
This is where the power of coaching comes in. Most of us, with enough time and determination, can become ok at most things. But is being ok good enough for your business and career? Do you have enough time to do all the practice required?
When you studied at University were you sent to the library without guidance? Or for your accounting qualifications were you given a bag of receipts, a pen and a calculator?
That’s not to say you couldn’t have learnt something yourself…but how long would it take? And how good would you really be?
In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell shares his thesis of the ‘10,000 hour Rule’. (NB coincidently, one of his studies examined why the majority of Canadian Ice Hockey players were born in the first few months of the calendar year). Put simply (and there is more to it than this) his claim is that to become an expert in anything, you must practice for 10,000 hours.
To put 10,000 hours into perspective, that’s the equivalent of 5 years full-time work. Do you have that time on top of your day job? K. Anders Ericsson (who’s research Malcolm Gladwell’s book was built on) in fact said you need to focus on Deliberate Practice. In his 1993 paper, The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, he found that leaders typically took 10,000 hours of practice to become experts, but the differentiator was the Deliberate Practice, not just the time that was taken.
Ericsson found that stepping outside of your comfort zone, attempting activities beyond your current abilities, receiving feedback from a teacher and tweaking your performance was how experts developed their skills.
I could have spent 10,000 hours ice-skating and after a while, I probably wouldn’t fall over as often – I might even have some control. But I would probably still lack the skills to quickly turn and adapt to play ice-hockey. Any bad habits I’d picked up would still be there.
With just a few hours of coaching, Jon and Zoe are better than me already. They’ve spent much less time on the ice, however, they are being taught by an expert. They are deliberately learning certain skills. I never practised tip-toeing. And I only practised getting up because I fell over so often.
The Power of Coaching
This is the supremacy of a great coach. An expert in their domain. A skilled communicator. Someone with a passion for their area of knowledge.
A coach doesn’t take away the hard work required, but they can make sure that your hard work is not futile. They will make lots of minor corrections to keep you on track. Your coach will give you feedback on what you’re doing well, and where you need to practice to improve.
The same is true of a business coach. Seek an expert in your industry. Learn from their experience, from their mistakes. Your coach will already have made and seen these same imperfections repeated hundreds of times. Your coach will help you focus your efforts on deliberate practice.
Your coach will help you achieve your goals.
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