I’ve used a variety of coaches over the past 25 years.
More than anything, I’ve used the coaching to hold me accountable, keep me on track, and increase my productivity.
They’ve all been experts in one aspect or another of running a business. They’ve all been good, and I’ve really enjoyed my time with them. I’ve learned a great deal while I worked with each of them.
I’ve been more productive when working with these people than at any other time. Coaching relationships have worked for me.
At least, they’ve worked for a while.
Here’s my pattern:
New coach comes on board. I’m jazzed.
We meet and develop some big plans. We then break the plan down into action steps and spread them out over time.
We set a meeting schedule—usually weekly for an hour or so.
At each meeting, we review progress on the schedule of tasks.
I get things done. In fact, I usually spend the day or two before the meeting scrambling around to get things done in time for the meeting.
This pattern continues for about two years.
Then something changes. The accountability element of the relationship changes. I stop scrambling and show up at the meetings with things unfinished.
I think that things slip slowly, over time. First, there will be a meeting where I drop the ball on one of the tasks due, and nothing will happen. I’ll realize that I can get away with being less than perfect. I imagined I was going to be held accountable, and I was, but not 100% accountable. I got away with failing to complete my work.
A few months pass, and I slip even more, and the accountability element isn’t really there.
After a while, I’m canceling meetings, learning how to distract the coach from holding me accountable, and becoming less and less productive. It’s fascinating to watch me wiggle out of my responsibilities to myself. It teaches me a host of lessons about managing others (but that’s a discussion for another day).
Eventually, the coaching relationship stops working for me. My productivity returns to my original level.
The first time I went through this cycle, I wasn’t sure what was happening. I figured the coach wasn’t very good. Eventually, I switched coaches.
Then I found myself repeating the pattern. That’s when I realized that coaching, while it doesn’t keep me on track for a really long time, is incredibly powerful for a year or two. I get lots of stuff done. Having been through the process quite a few times now, I better recognize the shortcomings of the process and my personal failings as well.
I’ve opted not to worry about what doesn’t work for me with coaching and focus on what does.
For a year or two, I gain a significant productivity boost. That boost is well worth the fee of a few thousand dollars a month. I accept that I need someone to keep me on track.
I suspect coaching is different for everyone. We all react differently to others holding us accountable. For many of us, coaching is a win. We learn more about running our businesses, and we gain productivity.
Go into a coaching relationship with your eyes open. Accept that it won’t go exactly as planned. Recognize when you’re making progress, even if sometimes it’s not exactly the progress you’d hoped to make.
Coaching works. It’s valuable, and it’s especially helpful if the only person holding you accountable is you.