Coaching Yourself: The Blind Leading the Blind

If I were a younger man (and some days I think I am!), and if I had ambitions to ascend the corporate ladder to the C-suites, I wouldn’t hesitate to seek out the services of a good executive coach. Here’s why…

Even though most of us by now have pretty good self-awareness and know our strengths and weaknesses, when you try to coach yourself, it’s like the blind leading the blind.

You can’t see what others see. And you certainly can’t see what you’re hiding from yourself, your own blind spots.

Self-deception exists in everyone, and often for very good protective reasons. But it rarely allows one to grow and develop to one’s full potential. A good coach will help you see the barriers you put up that stop you from influencing others like you could.

Some things can’t be learned on one’s own. We need another set of eyes and ears. In order to develop what’s called executive presence and reach the top of your field, you’ll need to develop your abilities to:

  1. Accurately read people and predict their behavior
  2. Influence their perceptions of you (create trust and credibility)
  3. Persuade those of opposing views to come over to your side
  4. Create and maintain a personal leadership brand that broadcasts your positive reputation far and wide

Those are some very sophisticated skills to have in your tool-box. To my knowledge, they don’t teach this in MBA programs.

Let me give you an example. A large firm hired “Ted” to run one of their divisions.  Ted is bright, thinks strategically, effectively leads cross-functionally, and gets good results. However, two-months into his contract, the senior management team called in a coach to work with him.

An engineer by training, Ted got disappointing feedback on his 360-degree assessment. He wasn’t coming across as confident, personable, and decisive. People found him awkward and visually “clunky.” He seldom asked questions when he should be asking a lot.

Ted has great qualifications and competencies, and is not showing his strengths to their advantage. He is emotionally aware, and has good insight into himself. However, he lacks social intelligence in areas of situational awareness and communications skills.

In short, he  needs a good coach to work with him on his executive presence.

There’s no way you can train these social skills except on the job, in the field, and behind closed doors with a qualified coach to help guide, practice, and teach. The rest is up to Ted to try out new things, perhaps out of his comfort zone, in order to learn new habits.

It’s rare that you can read a book and be so motivated and inspired that you make lasting changes. I read a lot of great books that have sparked my own growth and development, but without discussing and applying practical changes, and getting feedback and practice with a coach, it’s all just an intellectual exercise.

What do you think?

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