Leaders Need a Coach

Article by Dr. John Townsend
Every once in a while an article is written by someone else that explains the value of what you do clearer than you could. This is an article by Dr. John Townsend who has teamed up with Dr. Henry Cloud to create Cloud-Townsend Resources. They have written many books including Boundaries, Changes that Heal & 9 Things you Must Do. Here is an article by Dr. Townsend entitled “Leaders Need a Coach.”

If you aren’t getting some sort of coaching in your particular area of leadership, you probably should consider doing so. A high percentage of people reading this article are likely getting some form of coaching. In fact, it is the norm today to have a coach, and almost aberrant not to have one. Coaching has been proven to be not only highly effective, but practically necessary, in helping leaders to reach the next level.

What is a coach? While there are many definitions, it is essentially a person trained to help people improve their lives in specific ways. A coach knows how to help you improve your business, become a better leader, or meet personal goals.

I personally have received coaching for a long time, and have benefited greatly, both professionally and personally. I can’t imagine not having some sort of structured relationship which intentionally focuses on my growth and success.

Advocacy. A coach is for you. His role is to help you get where you want to go. He functions as an advocate – someone who is on your side. Leaders often find themselves surrounded by people who are seeking personal gain, or have some other agenda behind their advice. The objective nature of the coaching position protects the leader from these hidden agendas. The coach wants your best, and your best alone.

A structure. The coach has an orientation and structure she has studied and is competent in. She has a philosophy of improvement. She knows what leaders need to do, and how to provide the resources they need to be successful. This structure is what distinguishes coaching from friendship, support and encouragement. It may include these elements, but the structure takes you much further. Friends won’t usually ask you to report back to them on a homework assignment, but a coach will. She operates much like a football coach; designing the plays that will help you to win the game. She knows what to anticipate, and what the outcome likely will be.

Individual understanding. The best coaches are very good listeners. They know that real success doesn’t come from a cookie-cutter approach, but from an individualized understanding. While the overall coaching structure may apply to all clients, a good coach actively listens to you and understands your individual situation and context. There is a great deal of room within the framework of the structure. He then tailors the approach to you, rather than tailoring you to the approach. He also digs beneath the surface, beyond the symptoms and behaviors that are going on.

To illustrate, let’s say that you have a difficult time completing tasks and projects. You are a great starter, but somehow you find that things never get finished. You know you could be achieving at a higher level, but those unfinished things are holding you back, and you want your coach to help you resolve this. There are several possible causes of your problem, such as: allowing others to dictate your schedule, living a chaotic life, having a tendency to rescue others, being attracted to the urgent over the important, becoming bored in being diligent, experiencing a personal crisis, fearing failure, or fearing success. A good coach will listen and get to know you. He will uncover with you the real theme that is holding you back, and then set up the steps to help you get past it.

A process orientation. Achieving lasting change and improvement takes time, so don’t expect instant results. In his book Outliers, cultural and business expert Malcolm Gladwell says that truly exceptional people who make a difference have had around 10,000 hours of experience in their field of expertise (pp. 35-68). Real success involves real time. A coach understands the process, and uses it for your betterment. Together you develop the path, set the incremental goals, deal with the obstacles, and keep things accountable. Your coach keeps you in the process of life and leadership change.

If you want to find a good coach, talk to others who are getting good coaching and experiencing improvements in their lives. Coaching relationships tend to be very personal, so asking people you know personally is the best first step. Ask them what the experience is like for them.

Coaching can help you make the changes you want to see; it can also help you make the changes you haven’t yet recognized, but need to. Best wishes on the process. God bless you.

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