Have you ever met a person and said to yourself, “I want to know everything they know”?
That happened to me recently with one of my clients. I was hired to help his company revamp their core values, so I spent a great deal of time with him and his team. As I watched him interact with his people, I admired how great he is at things I’m not great at: setting financial goals, strategic planning, execution, and painting a clear vision.
I asked how he got to where he is: Who were his mentors? Did he have coaches? Could he introduce me to anyone who had helped him who could maybe help me? (I’m not shy about asking questions like these of the people I admire. I’ve learned that the worst thing they can say is no.) He asked me about the areas in which I want to grow, and then he made a surprising offer: To coach me, for free, every other week for an hour just because he believes in me and my company and wants to help. I was speechless.
The thing is that I already had an executive coach who I had been working with for over a year. I hired him to help me find balance in my life, and he’d helped me tremendously. But I knew it was time to move on. Our sessions were no longer challenging; they had become fun and easy. In a way, that’s a good thing: The best coaches help you get to a point where you don’t need them anymore. They also help you pinpoint other areas you need to work on, even if they’re not the right person to help you with those things. The problem was that I knew what my other weaknesses were and that my coach wasn’t the right person to help me work on them, but I was in no hurry to find the person who was. Why? Because starting with a new coach is hard. It means facing new things you suck at. But I know the drill: Facing your weaknesses is the only way to grow. So when this CEO I admired so much offered to help me in the areas still holding me back, I took the opportunity and chose growth.
Our first meeting went as expected. Sixty minutes of a brutal reality check. A mirror in my face of all the things preventing me from reaching my potential, and therefore preventing my company from reaching its potential. Being asked questions I’ve been putting off because they overwhelm me, like, “What do the next 10 years look like for your company?” and “What’s your growth plan?” and “What are the metrics you use to define success?” Maybe answers to questions like these come easy for you, but for me they do not. I was totally overwhelmed . . . but in the best possible way. I was thankful to finally be addressing things I had been putting off. I left our session feeling less alone in these challenges, knowing I have a partner who is going to hold me accountable to figuring this stuff out.
I left with homework—lots of it:
Create a growth plan and vision for my company
Tweak the structure of my organization so that I can get more done and empower the leaders within my company to take ownership of things I shouldn’t be owning in the first place
Refocus our projects for Q4 (right now, we have 8 projects, and he wants us to narrow them down to 3 so that we can better focus and have a higher chance of success)
Identify metrics that will help us measure our performance in Q4
If I was overwhelmed, imagine how my team felt. He instructed me to bring a majority of this homework to them as a lesson in delegating. Me stepping back means they must find the courage to step up: Whenever I get uncomfortable, they have to get uncomfortable too. But we chose this. We are committed to growth, and we know that the only way to get anywhere is to be open to doing things differently, even if it feels wonky and not fun at first.
Working with this new coach has reminded me how important it is to have coaches and accountability partners. Not just in business, but in other areas of our lives too: Struggling to get in shape? A personal trainer can help. Struggling in your marriage? A therapist can guide you. It doesn’t mean we have to work with these people forever, but sometimes we need an external push in order to get on the right track. If you don’t have the budget to hire someone, do what I did when I was starting out: Go to the library and read books in the areas where you need to improve. Form a mentor group of your own with friends and meet once a month to talk about your challenges and hold each other accountable to working on them. Ask people you admire if they can help you or point you in the right direction.
Growth opportunities are all around us, but it’s much easier to stay comfortable and complacent than it is to take them on. The thing is that if you don’t feel challenged, if you aren’t uncomfortable, if you aren’t frustrated, if you aren’t feeling pushed and stretched and overwhelmed, then you aren’t growing. And if you aren’t growing, you aren’t on a path toward reaching your full potential.
You are worth it, and your life deserves you showing up for it. So get out there, check your ego, ask for help, put in the work, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Always choose growth.