I’ve coached doctors, lawyers, and millionaires. I’ve coached seasoned and newly minted Fortune 500 executives, as well as struggling and successful entrepreneurs. They all have one thing in common.
They all have blind spots. Every single one of them. Not one person on a planet of 7.7 billion people can see through the smokescreen of fear, doubt, anxiety, and mind-made illusion with absolute clarity. We tend to think things are harder than they are, and there are times when we pick the path of most resistance. It’s pretty common to lack the self-awareness to overcome challenges in the easiest, most effective manner without support.
Professionals hire coaches and mentors. Amateurs need to do it themselves out of pride and ego, and often experience unnecessary struggles. Professionals know that they can’t see all things always, and they understand fear is false so they let down their defenses. Amateurs operate from fear, so they are afraid to admit to themselves and others that they aren’t all things.
Even the most successful athlete in the history of professional football, Tom Brady, points to his coaches as the reason for his continued success. He knows there’s things he can’t possibly recognize in his motion, delivery, and footwork that his coaches can easily spot.
“I want to lead,” Andy said, frustrated that his leader’s preferred leadership style was a smothering micromanagement that often reduced his opportunity to lead his own team.
Andy is a high-end financial fund manager, is financially well-off, and has lived all over the world. When empowered, Andy is effective in motivating and leading his team toward world-class performance. However, since he was smothered, his team’s performance suffered.
“Why aren’t you leading?” I asked, in an attempt to understand.
“Every time I try, my boss trumps me and I slink in my chair,” Andy replied, embarrassed.
“Andy, what would happen if you really took charge and inserted your own authority without being disrespectful?” I continued.
He sat in thought, and after a few minutes responded “I might be embarrassed by my boss in front of my team. I might even get fired.”
“Is your team performing?” I asked.
“No. We could do better,” he fired back quickly.
“Can you lead them to do better? Have you proven you are effective?” I fired back just as fast.
Andy sighed, paused, then said “Certainly. Every team I’ve managed has been successful except this one.”
“And your boss is in your way. Can you do better?” I asked.
“I know I can without a doubt,” he said with confidence.
I paused to let that thought soak in. After a few seconds I said “So is your overall performance suffering because you are not stepping in? Doesn’t this impact your reputation? Doesn’t lack of team performance amount to your poor performance because of your boss?”
“It is,” he said, beginning to understand the severity of the issue.
“So let me switch gears for a second. Let’s say you get fired. What happens?” I asked.
His face began to express concern. He said “I can’t get fired. I can’t allow that to happen.”
“What if it does?” I dug.
“It’ll be the first time I would have gotten fired. My wife would freak out. I’m afraid that we’d lose our lifestyle” he responded.
“Let’s say you do get fired. How many months of expenses do you have in savings and investments?” I questioned.
“I’m not sure,” Andy said.
“Take a stab. A month, 6 months, a year?” I asked.
“Way more than a year. A few years,” he said after he realized the situation wasn’t as bleak as his mind and emotions convinced him it was.
“So how about your market credibility? How long would it take you to reach out to your network to find another position?” I kept digging.
“I’d have a job in 2-3 months. In fact, I’d probably be able to move to where my wife and I really want to live,” he said with even more relief in his body and voice.
“So let me sum this up. Your team’s performance is suffering because your boss is in the way, your own performance is suffering because of your team’s performance, you’re confident you can do better if you had the full authority, if you assert yourself you might get embarrassed or fired, if you did get fired you’d be fine financially for years, and you are confident you’d have a job in 2-3 months, and you might even be able to move where you want to live. Help me understand why you are shrinking to your boss,” I said as I sat back pretty happy that my line of questioning was nearing completion.
“Wow. I guess I hadn’t put all of that together. I am so afraid of getting fired that I’m getting in my own way. If I don’t assert myself I’m likely to get fired anyway, so why wouldn’t I get in between my boss and my team?” he responded, looking much more relaxed.
Andy was living in his fear, doubts, and anxiety instead of seeing the situation clearly.
There’s a visual that I like to share with my prospects and clients. Imagine a guy trapped in a room with 4 walls that he can’t see over. There’s a secret door, but he doesn’t know where it is. There’s another guy standing outside of the room, and he knows that the guy is stuck. However, written on the outside wall are the instructions to get out of the room. There’s no way to see the instructions from inside the room. Only someone standing outside can see clearly.
Coaches and mentors can see things more clearly because they haven’t bought into the limitations that the client thinks are real, even though they are just illusions. Since the coach or mentor is not living inside the mind and emotions of the person trying to solve the challenge, the entire challenge is clearer and easier to navigate. The coach or mentor can often see an easier path towards the destination you desire—not because you are broken, but because you are human.
Professionals have coaches and mentors too. I have three coaches. My coaches have coaches. There’s so much value in making things easier for yourself. And doing it yourself is never admirable when isolation includes unnecessary challenges. Get over yourself.
Thousands of years ago Confucius said it best: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” The more support you have around you who want for you what you want for you, the easier life gets. Why do you want it to be harder than it needs to be?