When did you last seek feedback about your professional performance? Not the kind of feedback that consists of hearing “nice job” after a presentation but real, meaningful feedback.
Many of us tend to believe that once we reach a specific point in our career – after gaining a certain amount of experience, years in service or a prestigious title – that coaching no longer behooves us. It’s easy to believe that they way we rose to our current level of professionalism and authority will continue to work just fine. But just like professional athletes and musicians, trends change, the competition gets better, and if we aren’t careful, complacency can result in becoming obsolete.
We all need coaches, but not all of us are willing to admit it. Think of every professional athlete, musician and singer you know. They all have coaches. No matter how great you are, or how on top of your game you may be, coaching is needed to get better. Coaches keep us from developing bad habits or slipping back into old ones. They hold us accountable to our desire for success. They don’t let us cheat or take a quick way out. Coaches force us to do the work necessary to get stronger, better and more influential in our career fields.
Could you imagine Michael Jordan telling his coach, Phil Jackson, that he was good as he was going to get and no longer required coaching? How many Super Bowls would the New England Patriots have won if quarterback Tom Brady thought he had nothing to improve upon and instead operated on his own perceptions?
What makes a coach invaluable to professional success is their perspective. They sit on the sidelines, watching and observing with scrutiny. They then parlay that into honest feedback while requiring accountability. Coaches are intentional about tuning into your weaknesses and working with you in a way that helps you grow and improve.
Here are four ways to get started with your coach:
Choose a manager, a co-worker, friend or peer with whom you feel comfortable receiving feedback. Ask them to be your coach – to help you spot weaknesses in your actions and behaviors that may lessen your influence. Request specifics. Permit them to be honest, without holding back. Establish a time and day to meet routinely. Before meeting, write down your questions and your feedback needs to help you stay focused. Let them know what specifically you’re trying to improve so they will know where to concentrate their efforts.
A coach provides honest feedback of what others see and hear when conversing with you. Ask for specific input and learn precisely what you did right versus what needs correction. Be open to the feedback and understand that how we perceive ourselves is not always how others perceive us. Feedback highlights your strengths and identifies your weaknesses.
In each meeting with a coach, maximize the feedback you receive so you can see the connection between what you do and the influence you have. Ask questions to solidify your understanding of the feedback. This will prevent a misunderstanding and help you focus on specifics.
You’ve asked for help, so it’s up to you to honor the help that is offered. Establish recurring meetings that focus on specific areas you wish to work on. The American Society of Training & Development (ASTD) found that we are 95% more likely to complete a goal if we make an appointment with someone and stick to it. Come prepared with questions. In the end, commit to the specific coach-recommended areas you’ll focus on before the next meeting. Share how you plan to address these behaviors and what you commit to for the next meeting. Also, promise to provide proof. If your coach has provided specific feedback, don’t just commit to change – prove it. Record yourself on the phone, in presentations and in meetings. Demonstrate how your coach’s efforts and time are helping you.
The same ATSD study found that we are 65% more likely to stick to a commitment when we give our word to someone. To be successful, following through on a commitment to your coach requires pre-work. For example, if you want to be more accountable for arriving at work on time, it requires waking up earlier. That means going to bed earlier and doing fewer chores before work. Honoring your commitment means thinking through the steps that lead to your success in delivering your promises. Make time for your obligations and ensure you’re prioritizing in everything you do.
If you want to up your game and increase your influence in the workplace, it’s up to you to seek someone who can provide the type of feedback necessary to focus your efforts. With this feedback and an ongoing commitment to improvement, you can start improving other’s perceptions and become an influential power performer in your workplace.