You can be coached to a new level

Like many South Africans, I was delighted at the incredible achievements of Wayde Van Niekerk at the Rio Olympics.

This likeable and humble young man is only 24 years old and has a coach 50 years his senior.

Tannie Ans, as Ans Botha is known, is credited with bringing a no-nonsense approach to Van Niekerk’s preparations, with spectacular results.

Early in their coaching relationship, she switched Van Niekerk from the 200m to the 400m, and the rest is now history.

In a race lasting just over 43 seconds, Wayde smashed Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old 400m record to take Olympic gold; became the first South African sprinter in nearly a century to win gold and become both World and Olympic champion.

The impact of a coach can be considerable, not only in the sporting arena, but also in one’s personal, business and entrepreneurial life.

Here is how a business coach can help you:

* You will grow, outside your comfort zone.

A good coach like Tannie Ans will challenge you to push yourself beyond the limits that you have determined. They will give you a gentle push to explore yourself and your ideas more, while giving you that tough love not to quit.

* You will be held accountable for great solutions and results.

One of the tragic realities of our modern day workplace experience is that you have a lot of people who are “coping and surviving” in the workplace. This points to disengagement and to mediocrity.

Many times the mediocrity is through lack of accountability. This may be reversed through engagement with a coach who will gently, yet firmly keep you focussed and accountable.

* You will have someone who helps you play to your strengths and manage your weaknesses.

A good coach will help you to get to a better version of yourself, not by trying to replicate themselves, but by soliciting more of the “real you”, with all your strengths engaged. To live this way is highly impactful.

* You will have support and encouragement.

You’ll be amazed at the things you can accomplish when you have someone who believes in what you’re doing.

Having a support system around you in an environment of encouragement can help lift you up when discouraged.

Successful entrepreneurs are often asked what they attribute their success to. There are the expected answers like hard work, acting on opportunities, managing risk and gathering the resources, but one they all agree on is the value of a supportive environment. Coaches can play this vital role.

* Establish BHAGs – this is an acronym for big, hairy audacious goals. Audacious goals are the ones that scare us to death, but a coach can help you grow, set and get great goals.

With a good coach you can unlock the methodology and motivation to achieve new things, they will also strongly encourage you to think bigger, jump higher and really go for what you want.

I have seen the value a coach can bring to a client. I have also seen, however, that not all clients are equally “coach-able”.

Here are five attributes that I consider contribute to the client’s coach-ability:

* Listening proactively. Stephen Covey lists this as one of the seven habits of highly effective people, which is to seek first to understand then to be understood. Learn the grace of listening until you have understanding.

How willing are you to suspend disbelief and criticism so that you may hear, listen and understand?

* Being curious. One of the late Steve Jobs’s greatest qualities was his intense curiosity.

“Curious people always have a range of interests and a broad base of knowledge in many disparate fields and subjects,” says Nolan Bushnell, author of Finding the Next Steve Jobs.

Curiosity drives entrepreneurs like Jobs to learn their companies inside and out, and to never stop looking for ideas to improve their businesses.

* Action orientation. At the centre that I run, we make extensive use of “Growth wheel” in coaching.

This helps clients make decisions and take action.

One of the challenges entrepreneurs face is the overwhelming number of decisions they must make and the action they must take.

I have seen that those clients with a bias towards action tend to derive greater benefit from a coaching intervention.

* A good slice of gratitude. This attribute is about focusing on what is working, what resources I do have, rather than what’s not working or what I don’t have. It is being intentionally mindful and appreciative of support.

Again, I have found that gratitude in others is infectious. It opens up a solutions perspective and blunts the edge of fear.

* Always be learning. One of the many principles I learned when I worked for Raizcorp was to “always be learning”.

This describes an attitude that refuses to believe you have “arrived” but you are rather in a consistent state of learning. Beneficiaries with this mind-set are a pleasure to coach.

Here’s to many more people such as Wayde and Tannie Ans in the entrepreneurial world.

* Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College.

His column appears once a month.

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