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Ordinary People Taking Action
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Over the past week, I coached four extremely smart and successful executives. When I share with people that I coach high-level executives, I’m often met with surprise, as if people don’t quite see the value in what I do for a living. To explain, I often use the analogy of a professional athlete. Professional athletes never engage in a game without their coach, nor would anyone expect them to. Executives, like professional athletes, have reached the pinnacle of their career. They, too, are at the top of their game. So, why do we continue to be surprised that executives might benefit from coaching as well?
Coaches collaborate with their players.
Coaches strategize with their players.
Coaches challenge their players.
Coaches cheer on their players.
This is the kind of support I offer executives; it’s what all coaches do.
When I worked for The Woodmark Group, one of my jobs was to plan the annual Summit. In that role, I sourced keynote speakers and hired facilitators for the breakout sessions, and I often had the opportunity to talk to them about their work. Very few could really communicate their value and impact to the business. The exception were those facilitators and speakers who had experience on a sports team. They could easily, almost without thought, communicate the value of and importance of leadership, collaboration and successful teams.
I had the honor of speaking with Reggie Rivers, a former Denver Bronco player. In fact, Reggie was the keynote speaker for the Summit earlier this month. He is phenomenal. While on the phone, Reggie shared with me that he views teams from three perspectives:
I shared Reggie’s three perspectives with an executive I’m currently coaching. It was a transformational moment. She said, “Oh Amber … that’s it. My downfall, my mistake, I haven’t and don’t celebrate successes – big or small – I don’t celebrate successes.”
Rather than jumping in to reply, I often find it effective to simply let quiet space fill the room during my coaching sessions. After she made her comment, I didn’t say a word, for several minutes. There was complete stillness between us. You could hear a pin drop – if we'd had a pin to drop – it was that quiet.
“And, I don’t let others celebrate successes.”
More silence. The beauty of coaching is in knowing when to allow stillness to be.
The executive went on to share her favorite memory of being a part of the track team in high school. During a race, her foot caught on a hurdle and she fell. The crowd was quiet for a few minutes while she regained her composure. When she stood up, they cheered. She decided to finish her event, knowing that she was going to be dead last. She remembers the fans cheering her on for the entire remaining length of the race.
She continued to share with me the magic of the fans – and her teammates – cheering her on when she felt like the ultimate failure.
I asked her what her favorite memory was of being on that team during a time of success. She shared with me that in her senior year, she won first place at state – in hurdles. She remembers the fans cheering her on every step of that race too. She won, they screamed and cheered.
This executive must have said thank you to me twenty times today – for bringing the awareness that she needs to celebrate with her team more – successes and failures. The irony is that I didn’t do very much. As her coach, all I did was pose a few questions, introduce a couple of new words and phrases, and offer a slightly different perspective. She did all the hard work.
I thanked her for doing the work. And, I told her that I thank Reggie for the perspective that he shared with me that I was then able to pass on to her.
Sometimes, coaches are just there to guide you, gently, to a place you already know you want to go. You just need a little help getting there.