Post by Tanya Maslach, contributing Women On Business writer
Athletes are a funny breed. I know. I am one. Not a recreational, once-a-week-gym-rat kinda girl. Iâ€™m the kind that drive you crazy with boredom (or shock) with my stories of an incredibly gripping swim session (2 miles of back and forth), or 50 mile bike rides, followed by 5 mile runs â€“ sometimes all done after a morning surfing session. Iâ€™m the one that gripes about her aching gluteus maximus (my butt) and burning shin splints, but still finds the wherewithal to go run a half marathon race (13.1 miles).
The problem is exacerbated because Iâ€™m married to an athlete. Itâ€™s a very dangerous cycle really. Our need to stay fit while playing outside like kids keeps us doing such crazy things, but also tests the patience of our dearest friends. Now that I mention it, itâ€™s been awhile since many of them have answered our calls, texts and repeated attempts to get together. Anyway, our health keeps us out of the doctorsâ€™ offices. Well, mostly. The chiropractors love us. As do the massage therapists.
This last weekend I ran an early season half marathon race. Was a big one for me mainly because Iâ€™m making a supreme attempt to rewire my brain. In my quest to change some bad mental habits, Iâ€™ve sought out the partnership and guidance of a friend and athlete who just so happens to rock it in all the areas I aim to be great: family, sport and work. Her name is Julie Dunkle, and she agreed to run with me during this race. Her role? Coach and â€˜pacerâ€™ to keep me on track. Sheâ€™s become my trusted coach, advisor and constant source of inspiration. I knew it was going to hurt at some point. Iâ€™d done these before and Iâ€™d done this particular race, so I could almost tell you down to the tenth of a mile when I was going to start crying and whining. What was different this time? I was running with someone who I believed knew what I needed to do, when, and how. I believed in her ability to help me do my best.
The result? A personal best time on the course. Faster split times (mile by mile) than I thought possible, and new learning to be even faster and stronger the next time.
What does this have to do with business?
Well, first of all, performance matters. And in this economy, I donâ€™t care what people justify away – good coaching isnâ€™t an expense. Itâ€™s an investment in your greatness. Individual and business. You get to decide how and where you get it. Ultimately, it comes down to one question: Do I want mediocrity or excellence? And be honest with yourself about how you define the difference.
A couple lessons Iâ€™ve learned from the best coaches (sport or otherwise) â€“ including my friend Julie:
1. You need to be caught doing the bad thing when youâ€™re doing it.
Then, you need two things: a.) suggestion for what to do instead of what you did and b.) your opinion on what happened and how you want to move forward based on your end goal. Julie did this magnificently. When I found myself cruising to 8:00 minute miles, mid-race, she pulled on my elbow and said, â€œYouâ€™re running 8:00â€™s. Can you keep this up?â€ with two phrases, she brought me back to my goal and reminded me that patience was key. End of story. We slowed it down a bit.
2. You need to give your coach permission to catch you doing something wrong, and then invite them to keep catching you.
Unlearning is harder than learning. Those little networks in our brain we call â€˜habitsâ€™ have taken time to develop. And they CAN be rewired â€“ it takes energy. So eat some good stuff (energy!) and refocus. This is about getting better. Nobody said it would be easy. But it sure starts feeling awesome when you get it right just once, cause then you just want to do it again. And againâ€¦
3. You need to ask for tight focus.
Find one behavior youâ€™re going to relearn. Then drill down to specifics â€“ all the way to the â€œwhat-do-I-do-whenâ€¦â€ pointers and use them religiously.
4. You need someone whoâ€™s better at what you want to do than you are.
Since weâ€™re talking business here, your coach should understand and practice the skill and behavior you aim to do better than you do now. Period. And while theyâ€™re with you, you should be finding someone else you can learn from after your coach leaves.
Notice, all these pointers start with YOU. Duh. Coaching is about you, not your coach. They are not there to make things happen for you. They guide you and facilitate the greatness to eek out of you, bit by bit. You may have to do all the work, but you, your teams and your company reap all the rewards. Lap it up. It feels good.
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