Somewhere in the wiring of American society, business professionals have been taught to be self-reliant, and that reaching out for help and guidance is a sign of weakness. That mindset is archaic and has no place in the playbook of successful leaders in the 21st century; in fact, the truth is quite the contrary, and it’s time to jettison this outdated belief system once and for all. Virtually all major athletes in the world surround themselves with advisors and coaches who support them in improving their mindset and their performance. Why wouldn’t successful leaders and executives – and those who aspire to be — not take advantage of that same kind of support?
In my own career path, I was fortunate (and wise enough) to seek out counsel and engage mentors from the start – and I started out big. When I was a junior in high school, I was a member of a group called Future Business Leaders of America, and we were encouraged to seek out a mentor who inspired us from the local business community.
Growing up in Cupertino, California, Apple was like the Wonka factory in my backyard – even as it was just getting started. I always had quite a bit of moxie, so I set my sights on asking Steve Jobs to be my mentor. He frequented a couple of the same local cafes that I went to with my mom, and one day I approached him. I explained my situation, asked him if he’d consider being my mentor, and I guess he saw something in me that resonated with him, because he agreed. My life and career were forever changed as a result.
Years later (well into my career at Apple and beyond), I sought out additional mentors as my path evolved and I became a consultant and a trusted advisor myself. Over the past 12-15 years, I’ve been honored to call the likes of Alan Weiss, Alan Cohen and Rich Litvin mentors, peers and friends – each very much operating at the top of their game, sharing their wisdom, insights, experiences and guidance, saving me untold years of mistakes as I forged my path.
Truth be told, it was while watching Dr. Phil in the early 2000’s (after Oprah discovered him and launched his TV show on her network) that I was inspired to be certified as a coach – in addition to my work as a consultant. I saw the difference he was making in the lives of those he worked with on the show. He was a master at re-framing their challenges and their mindsets around new possibilities, opportunities, beliefs and habits that he helped those he counseled to move in a healthier and more positive direction that gave them relief, hope and a whole new lease on life.
I was inspired and decided then that I was capable of doing the same thing; nothing short of transforming the quality of other people’s lives – and I haven’t looked back since.
As a executive leader, there are a host of benefits of working with an advisor or coach, starting with the fact that we often operate on auto-pilot (sometimes for decades) with a set of beliefs, habits, and mindsets. We lack perspective and objectivity because we’re looking through a limited lens, and with that constrained view, we often fail to see new possibilities and opportunities to address challenges that crop up daily. We also lack perspective relative to how others view us in our interactions and our overall performance. So feedback and guidance are not only welcome, but necessary in terms of enhancing and optimizing our efforts and the impact we can have when we have more clarity.
Bottom line: Most of us want to show up in alignment with our values, we want to improve our performance and productivity, and we want to be effective leaders, colleagues and peers. A great advisor or coach can support us with all of the above to our own advantage, and also to benefit those in their circle of influence at the same time (both professionally and personally).
It can sometimes be tough for successful overachievers to embrace the fact that they can benefit from sourcing advisors and coaches who can support them in changing their behavior and in trying new approaches. However, once they realize the impact of being more effective and in moving to the next level in their career progression (and in creating a more balanced life with greater impact), then it’s a matter of finding someone who’s a great fit. That’s best done by research and word-of-mouth referrals from peers and trusted others.
If you are a high-performing leader, working with advisors and coaches who can improve your mindset and your performance can give you a powerful competitive advantage in work and life.