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Who coaches the coaches?

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There’s a very old TV commercial for Volkswagen, which won the gold prize at the Cannes festival in 1964. Well before your time (and mine too!), but it asks a great question: “Have you ever wondered how the man who drives a snow plough, drives to the snow plough?” The answer was that he used an ultra-reliable VW Beetle, of course. I’m interested in the philosophy of the question, and how it applies to my own work, because how does someone who coaches others find their own coaching? In other words, who coaches the coaches?

Ultimate goals

There are very few activities where we can say the ultimate goal has been reached by someone. Perhaps walking on the moon, or climbing to the peak of Mount Everest for the first time. But then later there will be someone who walks on Mars, and there are many people who have ascended Everest, only quicker, or by harder routes, or without oxygen, and so on. So really, ‘ultimate goals’ are an illusion. Perhaps after you have been President of your country you may decide to kick back and relax, but more likely there will be books to write, foundations to start, and whole new challenges ahead of you.

Being the expert

Nevertheless, we set ourselves up as experts in our field. Not only as an expert, but as the expert. This is based on truth, of course. For example, I have over twenty years’ experience in running enterprises, and advising others in startups and new businesses. I therefore have a huge well of learning and knowledge I can draw on, just as any other expert in any other field does. When we have a consultation with a high-level surgeon, we rightly expect that they will have vast resources of knowledge to back up their examination. We also expect that their knowledge is not ‘frozen in time’, from the days when they were a junior doctor, but that they have been constantly learning ever since. They are up to date.

Business coaching seems to be the exception. Entrepreneurs and business leaders seek out their ideal Coach, and certainly can gain a huge amount from them. However the process that has got the Coach to the point where they are now, can often be ‘frozen in time.’ They have spent years and years thinking about their angle, developing it, and applying it. Now it’s time to roll out the program. OK, all good, but how current is their offering? For example, in the post-covid 19 economic crisis, any Coach who has built their reputation on 10x and 20x revenue increases may have to find a new line, and fast!

Everyone has their blind spot

The truth is that however experienced we are, everyone has a blind spot. You know how you’re cruising down the freeway and someone drives past, and just for a moment they disappear from view in all your mirrors? – That’s your blind spot, and we all have them, in all sorts of ways. Your blind spots stop you being effective, and even expose you to danger. If you aren’t aware of your blind spots, then your success as an entrepreneur will be greatly reduced.

Mostly business leaders learn about their blind spots through making mistakes. Eventually they make the same mistake often enough to figure out for themselves that they have a blind spot. Awareness means they can start fixing the problem. Business leaders also go to Coaches to discover where they are weak, and what traits need attention. Which takes us back to the question of the man who drives the snow plough…

Keeping learning current

A business leader’s learning is only going to be as strong as the Coach they work with. And the Coach is only going to be effective if their own learning is current. Keeping my own learning current means constantly dipping into articles and thought-pieces in journals and online magazines. I need to be aware of trends and new developments. For example, I was vaguely aware of cryptocurrencies when they first started, but I didn’t get up to speed at the time. Bad mistake. Soon I had clients asking me for advice about cryptos, and I had to scramble to educate myself. Fortunately I succeeded, but I don't intend to fall behind the curve again.

So at the base of my info pyramid is the daily absorption of a wide range of market-related articles. Usually I can skim through, because I am probably already aware of the subject. Moving up the pyramid, I reach the much more specific information which I get from business books. As I have described recently, for me this involves a reading schedule which is usually over a six month cycle. I read specific books to address specific topics, where I am aware that I have blind spots which need attention.

Match fitness

Reading books is something I can do for myself: learning from masters of business where I can absorb their thoughts at my own speed. The next level of the pyramid involves actually attending the webinars and talks of other Coaches. There is always more to learn, and I spend time and money in learning from others. This is the peak of my pyramid, the place I go to reach ‘match fitness’ - as athletes describe their readiness to compete.

Why do I do this? Because my goal for my clients is always to help them reach their next best version of themselves. They will achieve giant leaps over time, by making small steps now, and eliminating their blind spots one by one. Without that, true success is not possible. So to help others achieve that, I also have to walk the talk. I have to progressively reach for the next best version of myself. Learning should never stop and get ‘frozen in time’. It’s a lifelong commitment, and Coaches need Coaches too.


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