21st Century Alchemy: Everyone needs a coach – not just sports stars!

It doesn’t matter if your career is sky-rocketing or has tanked, it doesn’t matter if you’re still in high school or a superstar with 20 years of experience, it doesn’t matter if you’re an intern or the CEO, regardless of where you are and what you’re doing, professionally or personally, anyone who is serious about getting better needs both a coach and a mentor.

Alright for athletes …
Eric Schmidt (Google and Apple) once said: “Every famous athlete, every famous performer, has somebody who’s a coach. Somebody who can watch what they’re doing and say: ‘Is that what you really meant; did you really do that thing?’ They can give them perspective. The one thing that people are never good at is seeing themselves as others see them. A coach really, really helps.”

Bill Gates (Microsoft) said: “Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast, or a bridge player. We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

Coaching and mentoring make sense if you’re an athlete or you’re doing something competitive. Your coach would focus on improving your form and technique and building your stamina and you’d spar or play against your mentor because in some ways they’re better than you.

But useless for us?
But sadly, many of us don’t have the same mentality when it comes to our daily lives or our career. We say: “I’m doing just fine” or “I got this” and when things are going well, it’s probably true. But what happens when ‘doing just fine’ is no longer enough – when it’s no longer satisfying? What happens when you experience setbacks and obstacles? What happens when you don’t know how to move forwards?

It would be utter nonsense for a football team to NOT have a coach. It would be utter nonsense for any team, department or company to not have a coach either. It would be foolish for a professional athlete to not have a training or sparring partner. But it would also be foolish for a professional [fill in the blank] to not have a training or sparring partner too.

But most of us don’t. No matter how well intended, most of us hate advice and criticism. Most of us are petrified at performance evaluations. Why? Why are we so unwilling to receive and respond to good advice on how to do live our lives and do our jobs better? Is it pride? Is it fear?