Five things that tell you you’re ready for some coaching or mentoring.

I am often asked the question ‘why do people, but particularly leaders, pay you to coach them? Can’t they develop themselves? Doesn’t it just show that they are weak or lack ability’. There are a number of ways to answer that set of questions! My most used though is — seeing the need for developing yourself and then having the courage to ask someone for help is actually a sign of clear and strong leadership. You are showing an ability to see not just strength but also the ability to recognize where there needs to be improvement, as well as, acknowledging that true leadership accepts that they are not the answer to everything and that they always need to be growing, evolving and changing themselves.

However, we are not always ready to be coached or mentored. So how do we know when we are ready. Here are 5 signs that tell you are ready for coaching.

You want, and welcome, honest and constructive feedback.

It is easy to hear feedback that tells us how great we are, but it is much more difficult to receive feedback that actually points out where we might need to improve. It is even harder to ask someone to give you consistent feedback and then help you to implement things that help you to grow and change.

I am often surprised by people that will put themselves through the pain and insecurity of asking for honest feedback but not act on it. The value of having a coach or mentor is that they have no agenda but to help you improve. Their role is to give you feedback, or help you to listen and hear the feedback of others, help you evaluate what is being said and then find ways to implement it.

You sense the need to improve and keep improving.

Understanding the concept and principle that we are lifelong learners is a crucial and precious understanding to acquire.

I worked with an organization that had as one of their five non-negotiables that they would always be committed to ‘up-grading’ and improving in both character and practice. To help achieve this they built a lot of their organizational structure around the need to learn, implement and evaluate. Now, many companies have a commitment to training but this was more than training, this was applied and evaluated training. It really isn’t enough to be trained, to gain the knowledge — it has to affect you, change you and improve you.

So often we develop ‘cultures’ in our organization that at best upgrade us to do the job better, at worst give lip service to training and improvement. To get people committed to ‘upgrading’ it needs us to have a more wholistic approach improve the whole person not just their ability to do their job.

When I’m asked to help evaluate the effectiveness of an organization, or to help an organization to improve its growth or to help them manage significant change, one of the first things I look at is their training/upgrading structure and effectiveness. Most often I find that staff do the training because they have to but it actually affects their productivity very minimally. We need to build ‘organisational cultures’ that understand, value and are committed to the need to constantly improve people themselves, as well as, the ability to do the job.

You want to understand your uniqueness.

I believe everybody is unique and has a unique contribution to bring to the table. The problem is that most people don’t understand their uniqueness or that they can make a difference. So, if you are dissatisfied with who you are, or sense there is more, or just don’t know what you want to do, then you are ready for some coaching!

You feel stuck in a rut

Many people are dissatisfied with their life, their job, their marriage or all of the above! They feel stuck. Often, we need a different perspective, to ask different questions or to ask the same questions but with a slightly different emphasis. We need someone to challenge and press us to see issues and then implement change consistently. If that’s you, you are ready for some coaching.

You are in growth situation.

When things are going well we don’t always think we need help, but often that is the time we need most help. Often what has brought us the success, the growth, is the fact that we have stretched ourselves to capacity, we have put it all in. What we fail to see is that we need to grow again to take it further, or even maintain it. If you continue to live at full stretch eventually something will break, and that can be something that is important to you but not necessarily directly connected to the success arena.

I remember a time when we were seeing incredible success and growth, I was travelling a lot and seeing real impact in what I was doing. I worked from home a lot and one day my wife and I were in the garden talking about an issue that wasn’t hugely important to either of us but it became an argument. At one point my wife looked at me and said ‘Ian, I’m done — I can’t live like this anymore’ and walked into the house. Now, anyone who knows my wife will know this is really out of character, it’s not the kind of thing she says. It hit me like a 10 ton truck. What did she mean? Did she want a divorce? My head was swimming. I went into my office, which was in the garden, and I just wept. I was in shock. I was also quite indignant that she could say such a thing — didn’t she realise how hard it had been to get here, what was she thinking! I decided I would call my mentor at the time, I was sure he would help me sort her out. I rang him — he was in the States at the time. It was an interesting conversation. I outlined what had happened expecting him to start giving me ‘wise council’ on how to handle my wife. He listened and then asked me ‘Ian what have you done to make her so angry?’ I couldn’t believe it. ‘I said what do you mean’. The next 2 hours or so were really uncomfortable, as he helped me to grow and stretch, as he gave me a different perspective, asked hard questions and questions I didn’t even want to hear let alone answer.

The following months were also quite painful and challenging as he helped me to apply and adjust the new understanding I had come to, as well as helping my wife help me to change some habits and routines around my family and work. I was in a growth situation and needed some mentoring and coaching to sustain it and go again.

In conclusion, I want to encourage you to commit to a lifetime of learning and change and growth, and look for people that can help you to achieve that goal.

(by the way my wife was shocked when I told what went through my mind — she was just really exasperated by the situation not looking to get out of it!!)

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