How having a Sales & Leadership Coach dramatically improved my business, my results, and my life.
The Missing Piece
Over the last 12 months I have made many significant and positive changes in my life. In fact, just this weekend I was creating a new vision board. I did this same activity at the same time last year. When I was finished, I laid the two versions (this years and last year’s) side by side and was again reminded of how much growth has taken place. Even writing about it makes me take a deep breath in and release a sigh of gratitude. The only word that comes to mind is “wow”.
I have shared a lot of this journey on social media. I have been flooding Facebook and Instagram with pictures of meditation practices, underlined paragraphs from books, and personal development challenges. Most recently I’ve even ventured into blogging to further explain some of the ideas that have given me clarity, peace, and perspective in hopes that it might help others find the same.
It was recently brought to my attention however, that I have inadvertently omitted a piece of the puzzle. I haven’t yet shared the primary catalysts helping me to act on (for example) starting said meditation practices, reading those books, and creating my personal development challenges.
This is the story of that missing piece.
It’s written more from personal experience than many things I post but that is by design. It IS my personal experience. So, take what you can, leave what doesn’t fit, but I encourage you to read with an open mind and consider if something like this might be the catalyst you’ve been missing too…
Through a series of unexpected and serendipitous events, I found myself introduced to the idea of hiring a Sales and Leadership coach.
If you knew me, you might think me an unlikely candidate for coaching. You see, I am a bit of an overachiever.
The program was described to me as “accountability coaching”. If you were to read my resume (filled with impressive stats and aggressive advancement) or visit my home (where you’d find shelves packed with self-help and business books as well as dozens of marathon and half-marathon medals) you might assume that things were going ‘pretty OK’ in the accountability department. In fact, when I told my father about wanting to get involved in a coaching program I believe his exact words were “I think you are literally the last person on the planet that needs this.”
(Don’t feel bad, I don’t think this is the first time he’s been wrong.)
Or – maybe that was a fair assessment. I mean really, maybe no one “needs” coaching. Just like no one “needs” to live an extraordinary life or accomplish goals beyond their wildest dreams… maybe. But I have never been satisfied with average.
However, here’s the common misconception and the thing I am asked about most often from those privy to my involvement in this… As a person “not satisfied with average” you’d have to guess that I’m ambitious from the jump.
And you’d be right.
So, why coaching?
Here’s the paradox with being an overachiever. When you are an overachiever, the world makes it really easy to be lazy.
This might sound counterintuitive, so allow me to illustrate.
Let’s say you and I both work for a company that measures our value and production in the number of pies we can bake in a day.
Let’s assume that an average producer bakes 100 pies per day. Let’s also imagine that you and I are both ambitious overachievers and, as such, we can bake 125 pies per day – no problem. We can basically do this in our sleep.
It stands to reason that with slightly more effort we could probably bake 150 pies per day, but if everyone is in jaw-dropped-awe at our 125 pies are we really going to shoot for the 150? It would take an awful lot of personal inspiration and motivation to do so. Might as well ‘phone it in’ and let everyone be impressed as is with our 125 pies.
This is a lazy approach, for sure, but no one ever seems to notice.
Achievements and accomplishments are relative. It’s all about pushing beyond your own personal best – if you’re inspired to do so. It’s all about challenging yourself and finding out what’s possible for you! Not comparing yourself to the average.
Spoiler Alert: Comparison to anything outside of yourself is a bit poisonousness anyway.
I started coaching because I knew that I could bake more metaphorical pies. I knew that the world had made it too easy for me to be lazy and that if I wanted to discover what was possible it was up to me to make a change.
I paid for the program myself. Aside from my rent, it was the single most expensive monthly charge on my credit card statement. You know when people talk about the price of something and then say, “it was the best money I ever spent”? I get that. This was the best money I have ever spent. No question.
One of my first assignments was to work on my personal vision. I had to answer thought-provoking questions about where I was going and why. I created a list of 40 goals I aimed to achieve before the age of 40 (arbitrary numbers – just because it’s catchy) and I was tasked with creating a vision board.
This may sound cheesy but stick with me… This process made me realize something. Somehow, I had spent the past few years going through the motions and feeling my way around in the dark. I hadn’t even realized I was living this way. My eyes adjusted. I had grown accustomed.
This make it feel like someone had finally flipped the lights on. “Vision”; literally.
My coach was asking me to dig deep and answer these important questions but he had no dog in the fight. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like any time I’m talking “vision” or “goals” to anyone who cares enough to hear them it seems they always have a dog in the fight. They’re always tied in. My achieving or not achieving X goal affects them in one way or another. There had been no unbiased participants in a conversation about my personal vision. Until now.
I could answer these questions and craft my vision however I chose. Me. Solo. And my coach would hold me accountable to this exercise and make sure it was accomplished on a deadline.
Suddenly it wasn’t selfish to spend this time reflecting and dreaming. It was necessary. It was an assignment. But the teacher didn’t win or lose based on the content of my work.
I was forced to go inward and untangle some things.
Did I mention I thought I signed up for sales coaching?
But, as I would learn, it’s all the same.
Of course, I learned strategies specifically designed to help me within the four walls of my office as well.
I have been in management and leadership for nearly ten years but the year I spent in coaching was the year I truly learned how to manage and lead.
It’s not that I was terrible at this before. I had actually been quite lucky throughout the decade. I employed a strategy of reading a few leadership books per year, had discovered Success Magazine audio CDs before podcasts were the norm, and had picked up some good instincts on how to navigate through the maze of hiring, training and developing – but I probably couldn’t tell you how or why I made the choices I made.
It was as if I was accidentally picked as a starting player on a soccer team and although I had never actually learned the rules of how to play soccer, I managed to score enough point per game that no one noticed I couldn’t read the playbook.
Coaching helped me to learn the rules, read the playbook, and improve the plays being run.
I was no longer winning through luck and might. I began winning through skill and strategy – which, you know, is quite a bit more sustainable.
As a sales professional, I began to really learn how to hone my craft in an honest and technical way. It’s not about selling more for self-centered reasons or financial gain. It’s about learning to connect faster and more sincerely with prospects, determining if they’ll genuinely benefit from your product or service, and helping them feel supported in the decision to move forward and become you client or partner, or not.
As a leader, my experience in coaching taught me how to hold others accountable through love.
That’s right. I said the “L” word. Roll your eyes if you must but this was a game changer for me.
Tough conversations stopped being tough which alleviated a ton of stress in my world and allowed me to show up and be present when working with my team. I learned (like, really learned) that holding people accountable and not accepting less than their personal best is the kindest thing I can do for them. It is my ultimate service.
I began to feel more at peace at work, interactions became deeper, our relationships strengthened, and our results improved.
I could tell you that I learned about time management but that’s not completely true.
I learned that “time management” is an excuse we use when what we really need to improve is our “self-management” and I learned self-management strategies that increased not only my results and production but also my sense of control and happiness both inside and outside of the office. I now get more done and manage far less chaos. It’s fantastic.
Finally, if I’ve used too many words that make you uncomfortable like vision, service, love, and peace – let me hit you with some facts and figures because that’s a language I am equally fluent in.
During my time in coaching I grew my revenue by 89%, my business hit all-time highs in production and my teams consistently landed in the top 10% of the country for New Business Acquisition.
I can boil this all down to one word; accountability.
We all need it if we ever hope to answer the question: “What’s possible?”
The overachievers, the veterans, the newcomers, and those simply (or not-so-simply) seeking more – we can ALL benefit from someone holding us responsible for achieving our own personal best.
So, how many pies can you/your business really bake in a day?
PEACE & LOVE
PS – For information about the coaching program I used or, you know, just to chat about accountability 😉 feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If your life experience is anything like mine you know that the opportunity and urge to compare lies latent at every turn. Every car that passes on the road, every swipe through a news feed, every semi-filled shopping cart navigating through the grocery aisle seems to be begging for an assessment. Crying out for an evaluation. And, most importantly, demanding of a final grade in the form of ‘better than’ or ‘worse than’.
While there may seem like a clear cut winner in the game of ‘whose is better’ we need to get real – this is a lose:lose scenario.
First of all – we are outrageously sloppy in these reckless comparisons.
Let’s imagine that instead of pitting my whole foods shopping cart contents against yours I am comparing two branches of a particular business and have to present this information to investors.
Oh, I know. Those are very different scenarios.
But what makes them so different?
For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the need for accuracy.
If I am just casually comparing two “objects” like your vanilla almond milk versus my organic coconut drink (or, more likely, insert: “relationships”, “journeys”, “lifestyles”) I don’t pay much attention to the accuracy of my assessment. Apparently I don’t hold myself to the same esteem as I do imaginary investors. All that’s at stake for me is my self-talk, my emotional state, my self worth… no big deal.
Can you believe how ridiculous that is? We’d never stand in a board room, unprepared, in our yoga pants and flip flops, look at a quick power point slide summarizing the profitability of two branches, shrug, point, and label one as “better”.
No way! We’d do the work.
And here is why comparisons are a nightmare – allow me to set the stage:
Hang with me in the board room for a minute. It’s empty. The presentation is not until tomorrow. Yoga pants are acceptable for approximately eighteen more hours. We have more than just a single power point slide – we have a conference table full of reports and data – everything we could ever want to know.
Branch A is making $100,000 in profit per year – Branch B is making $185,000 in profit per year – and tomorrow we will have to say something intelligent as to why that is.
Before we can call one “better”, we need to dig. We also need to level the playing field. We have to get those businesses to look as much alike as possible.
This process always reminds me of something I learned (and admittedly no longer use) pertaining to fractions. Remember when you had to find a common denominator before the fractions were even allowed in the same room as one another? Same thing. Quite literally we need to find common denominators everywhere!
I need to know if the branches are in the same market.
If not, are they in comparable markets? (if not I need to make adjustments to the data in attempt to level-set)
I need to know how they’re preforming against themselves during the same period in the prior year.
I need to know what that profit looks like broken down by month.
Is it on an incline or decline?
Where are the patterns?
What are the leading indicators? What are the lagging indicators? Are external factors impacting both branches to the same degree?
How long has each branch been operating?
And those questions are just skimming the surface.
Order a round of Venti Triple Cappuccinos – we could analyze data all night!
Now let’s go back to Whole Foods – or FaceBook – or wherever your comparison weak spots are… do you ask ANY questions to validate your “conclusions”?
Or are you busy telling yourself a story to support your careless estimations?
It is said that COMPARISON is the thief of JOY. I say #preach.
Do we apply any of the measures we take when looking at a business into the conversation when looking at something in our day to day lives? Do we assess ourselves vs. the version of ourselves we were a year ago? Do we pat ourselves on the back for our positive trends and learn from our declining trends? Do we make adjustments based on external factors? Do we ever attempt to level set!?
Here’s why you’re absolutely guaranteed to fail when comparing any aspect of yourself to another – there is literally no way to level-set human experience.
While I can apply facts, figures, percentages, formulas and equations to get those two branches into the closest state of accurate measurement, there is no way to do this for people, relationships, possessions, perceived lifestyle and/or perceived levels of ‘happiness’ because there is no one, absolute, shared reference point.
Even comparing something as trivial and low-risk as our favorite movies is arguably pointless because I have not seen all of the movies that you’ve ever seen – and vice versa. Our reference points are inherently different – in EVERY aspect of our lives.
This is why I argue that judgements are lazy.
We see something that, on the surface, appears better than the reality we know intimately.
It’s apples to oranges.
…And if it were just a waste of time that would be problem enough! However we know the effects of judgment and comparison run much deeper than efficiency. Our self-worth and self-esteem are impacted on a daily (maybe even hourly!) basis. NEEDLESSLY!
I am not suggesting we stop comparing tomorrow – that sounds like a fast track to disappointment because we’ve been playing this game our whole lives. What I’m suggesting we consider is this: How many questions do we ask before making a comparison or judgement? How much accuracy do we demand from ourselves? How much effort do we put into leveling the field?
With each new urge to judge simply consider: Am I SURE this is apples to apples?
The additional questions may slow us down to help us realize the error in our ways.
Comparison is a nightmare. Judgement is lazy. And if we demand accuracy we’d learn there’s no such thing anyway.
“We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.” – Marshall McLuhan*
Do you have a goal or dream that you’re ignoring because you’re not sure you’re worthy of it? Have you ever considered one of your aspirations only to think “but who am I to accomplish this?”
This is your wake-up call!
That goal or dream is yours for a reason! It’s calling you to fulfill it! And the fact that you have it, the reality that it ever danced across your brain, that’s the goals way of telling you “you’re enough!” and “start moving!”
Allow me to recap the serendipitous conversation that jolted me awake to this same conclusion…
I was chatting with a girlfriend and I was telling her about my attempt at starting this blog. I was explaining how it’s been a serious challenge to come up with topics to write about.
Luckily for me she replied with the BEST. THING. EVER.
She said “I know, I’ve thought about writing a blog too, but seriously, what would I even write about? Kindness!?”
The reason this was so helpful for me was because I would never in a million years think to write about kindness – and I still don’t intend to! Don’t get me wrong, kindness is fantastic and I am a fan! I just don’t care to be the Subject Matter Expert on Kindness – but she does!
She made that “but seriously, what would I write about?” comment so authentically that it was a total ‘fish didn’t discover water’ experience. My friend was innocently projecting her natural inclination and interests onto me (and the rest of the world)! I could practically hear her thought process of “writing about kindness wouldn’t make me special – anyone could write about kindness!” #mindblown.
So I started to wonder… how often do we keep quiet because we think “well surely everyone is thinking this”?
How many blog posts go unwritten because we shrug and ask ourselves “who wouldn’t write a blog about ‘kindness’?”
Me! I wouldn’t! So, please – you write it – we need you!
I feel like this epiphany has Seth Godin written all over it. This is my favorite quote from the book “Linchpin”:
And this is a quote that I have displayed on my vision board:
And yet even as I write this I am still working through it myself. It’s not easy to discover the water as a fish – but we must keep trying!
Are you ready to take on this challenge with me?
Consider these 4 steps to get started:
- Share your goals and dreams. Authentically share the things you expect people will hear and react with either a “well, duh, me too!” or a “you really think you can do that?!”
Ok. Right. That’s probably scary. So start small. Grab a trusted friend who’s into self-development too and do the exercise together! Each come up with something you feel is a “moonshot” and something you believe “everyone” (including you) wants. Share and see what happens. My guess is that you’ll end up learning something interesting about your friend and encouraging him/her to go after what they want! I bet that they’ll hold up that same mirror for you.
- Take steps (any steps) toward your goal! I believe we grossly overestimate the competition and underestimate ourselves. I think we also miscalculate the length of time and level of pain it will take to accomplish what we want. The only way to correct these errors in judgment is to step into the arena. See the competition firsthand and throw yourself into the training regimen. Don’t overthink. Just act. Just move. Remember, the very fact that the goal is whispering in your ear is reason enough… because that same goal is not whispering in mine!
- Practice intentionally taking a step back. Practice awareness of the water. Remember that the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable. Don’t dare let that go to waste!
- Embrace abundance. We need to know that there is ‘enough to go around’ in order for this to work!
If I operate from a place of lack (i.e.: there are a finite amount of goals that can ever be accomplished/wishes granted/dreams fulfilled) then I will believe that you accomplishing your goal decreases my odds of achieving mine.
I would guess this is one of the reasons we miss those golden opportunities for encouragement so often! If I project that you have the same dreams as me (if I believe you want to blog about ‘kindness’ too) and I believe there are a finite number of dreams fulfilled, then I will be less likely to be open with you about my plans, goals, and insecurities thereby giving you no opportunity to help and encourage me (and tell me that you don’t actually want to blog about ‘kindness’… at all).
When you understand and embrace abundance you understand that someone doing the exact same thing that you hope to do – even if they’re doing it with a greater skill level than you’re currently at – only increases your opportunities to be great!
The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync didn’t steal market share from one another… they expanded the market. (Forgive that ridiculous analogy… but I do think it applies.)
There are an unlimited number of dreams that can come true.
The world has made it so damn easy for you to be remarkable.
Please, do not settle.
Step back. Look for the water. Be you. You have work to do.
PEACE & LOVE.
*I know absolutely nothing about Marshall McLuhan so I am not certain if this is the correct attribution. I googled. This is what I came up with.