By Angela Civitella
As an outsider looking in, making it to the top of an organization and becoming part of the leadership team can seem pretty glamorous. It’s a sign of accomplishment, mastery and even power. But the one secret that all great leaders know is that just because they are at the top of the ladder, learning never stops. In fact, at this level, it’s more intense than ever. That’s why most great leaders all have coaches.
It’s kind of ironic when you think about it. The people you assume don’t need coaching are often the most open to it, and the people who need it the most never even consider it. A coach is more than a person who helps you master your skills. He is a sounding board, experienced, a trusted guide, knows the ins and outs of business and people, can spot problems before they become catastrophes and can bring you to a new level of success that you couldn’t reach on your own.
Here are 10 reasons why it’s imperative that as a leader you commit to being coachable and foster a lifelong learning mindset:
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. While any leader must be hardworking, innovative and determined, the fastest path to achieving greater success is to build upon the success of those who have come before you. Instead of starting at Square 1 and trying to reinvent the wheel, learn what has succeeded and what disasters to avoid from your coaches and leapfrog past the hurdles they faced. You will be able to blaze new trails much further along the road to success if you don’t have to retreat the paths that were already taken by others.
Expanding the Legacy. If you are rising through the ranks in a well-established business, you must consider the fact that you will be representing, continuing and expanding upon the legacy and reputation of the institution. You will be at the reigns, but the business is also larger than just you. Learning from your predecessors and anyone with knowledge of the history, philosophy and values of the company can help you fit your vision and talent into the overall framework of your business.
Learn to Build Teams. The strongest leaders understand delegation. Even the perfect conditions or best-laid plans can lead nowhere without a strong team to carry them out. As a developing leader, observe those who have assembled the most effective teams. Try to be the best team member yourself and be receptive to advice and coaching. This will help draw the blueprint for how you select and manage your own future teams.
Student to Teacher. While most of us would (maybe not so) secretly like to be enshrined as the best that ever was or will be, in reality it is best to be part of a continuing successful operation that will be able to sustain a company indefinitely. Be an apt student and an astute teacher to make sure that there are no weak links in the chain.
Networking. One of the benefits of receiving coaching is that you are likely to be exposed to many important contacts who will be beneficial to you. Never underestimate the utility of a good network. Encourage introductions through your coach and maintain contact with them. You never know when they could be of service to you in the future and it helps to build as many bridges as possible.
Pathway to Goals. Having a vision of your goals is one of the essentials for any effective leader, but you might not have figured out every single step of the path yet. Having a coach may help guide you in the right direction and help point the way toward what you hope to achieve. Having thorough conversations with your coach about what you are trying to accomplish may stimulate ideas and provide resources that you were previously unaware of.
Step Outside the Comfort Zone. Most of us tend to find a routine that we more or less stick to. We may start to go to the same places over and over or approach each challenge in a similar way. This can make the process go faster, but it can also leave us spinning our wheels and going nowhere. A good coach can help lift us out of the static pattern and get us walking forward instead of walking in place on a treadmill.
We Are the World. A great situation for having a coach is when you are doing international business in unfamiliar territory. Every country, region, sector or city may have their own customs and methods and it will be of enormous benefit to have a guide to help you learn the ins and outs of doing business in these areas.
Flow and Adapt Like Water. When you have a coach, it helps to be receptive and adaptable. Become like water and be able to take any shape. Don’t try to be rigid and assume that only your own methods will work for you. Learn without judgment, then take whatever will benefit you from the experience.
Never Stop Learning. Even if you are the CEO of the biggest corporation on Earth, never think that there are no higher mountains to climb or that the only direction to look at others is down. The tricky specter of success will rarely stand still for long and it has a habit of pulling the rug out from under you right when you think you can stand still. Remain humble enough to listen to others, even if they are not at the same level of success as you, and never stop learning. There will always be some improvement that can be made, some unexpected opportunity or some threat on the horizon. Let every step you take be a new step into a larger world.
Angela Civitella is a business executive and leadership coach. She is the founder and CEO of Intinde, which provides one-on-one business leadership coaching with offices in Montreal, Bosto, and South Florida.