I spent a little time doing some professional coaching for a few individuals while here in Austin and it dawned on me that it is very rare indeed to have much success when a coach approaches someone who needs coaching and tells them that they need it.
The right attitude and perspective is desperately needed on the side of the coachee (one being coached) to come to a place where they accept the reality that they can’t do it all by themselves and that the best answers do not always necessarily lie within their own formulations.
Two examples popped up in the last few weeks which highlight this important difference:
1. Ready, Willing, Open
This first person I consider a friend, someone whom I’ve had the pleasure of having a relationship for a number of years, starting back during the time that I moved to Austin to pursue a career at Dell, which was about 2006. A few years later this person would accept a new job at a upstart technology company that has since moved way beyond startup-phase and is now publicly traded – I even interviewed there as I was exiting Dell; I eventually ended up as an executive at Fox.
But the culture had changed, the original CEO was out and things were being tightened. Although my friend had incredible job security as a linchpin within the organization and consequently has received high yearly reviews it just wasn’t the same anymore. He had no need to move until his old manager, which had left the company and joined another, began recruiting him for an open position that would scale his pay by at least 25% and fast-track him to the executive circle.
My friend is incredibly humble and asked my wife permission first to contact me for some professional coaching and advice – he told her that I was one of the few people he trusted who had navigated these particular types of waters before. I was humbled and in return took that phone call without question.
We talked for a little more than an hour, walking systematically through the options and uncovering core motivations in light of pro/con points. At the end of the conversation I told him strongly to accept the new role with most things being equal and enjoy the ride upwards.
I loved my time with him because he had the right attitude, he was ready, willing, and open to advice from someone else. The best coaching occurs when I don’t have to coach attitude, just the practical matters of performance and opportunity.
2. Willing, Open, But Not Ready
This second person I also consider a friend and who I got to know about the same time as the first. His career path has been and will most likely continue to be in stark contrast to the first but he is in (and has been) in a similar position as the first for the past year or two.
There lies the immediate difference. I have told this second friend many times to call me if they have any questions, need any advice, and if they need any support in making decisions. I am not dogmatic about my advice or perspective nor am I guaranteeing to provide any solutions to their quandary – rather, I am presenting myself as a willing and open ear.
This person is willing, open, but not ready for that type of advice. In fact, this person has never called me – in rare form, it has been myself calling them to get updates, renew the friendship, and continue a relationship. Notwithstanding other issues and circumstances, this person has everything they need to make the critical decisions necessary for his (growing) family and his career.
His decision to make no decision has been grinding him down, gnawing at his conscience, and in the end simply wasting time. He’s blessed, for sure, to have a job that pays well that continues to put food on the table and a roof over his head but it is not was he was created to do and it’s passionless; is there anything more tragic than a man without passion?
Both examples came within days of each other and I couldn’t help but review the different scenarios and meditate upon the consequences. We all need help – we just need to understand and believe that taking our own advice isn’t always the best option.