Years ago, I worked as a consultant for an international communications training company. During my certification process, my presentations were videotaped. By that point in my career, I considered myself a seasoned speaker, comfortable onstage speaking in front of others. I believed I was a good communicator, that is until I watched the video playbacks.
I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought.
The very next thing I did was hire a speech coach. After watching my videos, he turned and asked me, “Would you want to sit through one of your presentations?”
It was hard to hear and admit the truth, but it was necessary to get better. I’ve learned so much since that first gut punch.
Working with a coach, mentor or trainer isn’t easy. It’s a love-hate relationship created to grow your skills and strength. We hate that they push us so hard, but we love the results that come from the work. I have worked with many coaches – business coaches, speech coaches, vocal coaches, athletic coaches and more. They push me past my limits, sometimes while I kick and scream along the way. Each time, the results were well worth the pain I endured throughout the process.
One thing I learned over the years in working with these coaches is that they are the fast and effective secret to getting better at anything. In “The Making of an Expert,” researchers K. Anders Ericsson, Michael Prietula and Edward Cokely state:
“You need a well-informed coach not only to guide you through deliberate practice but also to help you learn how to coach yourself. They help you accelerate your learning process…The development of expertise requires coaches who are capable of giving constructive, even painful feedback. Real experts are extremely motivated students who seek out such feedback.”
It’s easy for business leaders to underestimate the effect their communication skills have on their ability to influence others. We rarely seek advice from others trained to help. Maybe it’s our ego, pride or fear of perception that stand in the way of getting the coaching needed to improve. Some things that coaches ask us to do are uncomfortable, but it is in the discomfort that we grow. It’s in the pressure that we become refined and polished.
If you are ready to have more influence in your personal and professional life, it’s time to hire a coach. Finding a credible coach who is right for the job takes homework. According to International Coach Federation research, the number of coaches worldwide has grown from 47,500 in 2012 to 53,300 in 2016. It’s critical to find the right coach who is experienced and capable of helping you the right way. Before you hire just anyone, consider these five essential coaching hallmarks:
- They Tell the Truth.
A CEO I once mentored admitted to both loving and hating me. He felt comfortable enough to tell me exactly how he felt. When I asked why he hated me, he said: “You are the only one in my professional life who tells me how it is.” Good coaches tell the truth – the good, bad and ugly of it all. They don’t hold back to spare your feelings or ego. They know their success only comes from your success, and honesty is imperative to getting there.
- They Walk the Talk.
If you wanted to hire a personal trainer to help you get in better shape, would you choose the one you just witnessed double-sizing their #5 at a fast-food drive-thru? Of course not. You want a coach who executes on their advice and lives it out in their daily choices. They need to be knowledgeable, credible and experienced in what they teach.
- They Never Stop Learning.
Coaches are always seeking new research, studies, methods and options. They find better, more effective ways to teach their clients and improve upon their own skills. Before hiring someone, ask about their latest seminar, book or educational training. If they are committed to their improvement, they’ll be committed to yours.
- They Expect All-in Commitments.
Good coaches know their success stems from your success. They will not take a half-hearted commitment to excellence. They will expect you to do the work, no matter how painful it may be. A credible coach expects you to be open to negative feedback and criticism, not just praise. They are going to demand that you do the work, even when it’s not convenient.
- They Will Never Promise a Quick Fix.
Habits are created by years of action repeated time and again. They aren’t easy to break and typically require psychological rewiring to undo. Trustworthy coaches are in it for the long haul. They know old habits die hard, and setbacks will occur. If you consistently do the work and commit to the coach, they will commit to you even during trying times.
If you want to have more influence in your personal and professional life, it’s time for your gut punch. Hire a coach who can help you uncover areas of opportunity and work with you to improve. Commit to your relationships and your reputation to do the work necessary to get better. You may hate the process, but you will love the results. If you want to have more influence in your daily life, choose to put a great coach in your corner.