Self-Coaching Keeps You Moving Forward When You’re Going It Alone

Training for a marathon is the ultimate example of self coaching. There is no one there to get you out of bed in the morning when it’s raining or -20 degrees outside. If you want to do 20 miles, you have to put in the work. When you hit the wall at the 20-mile mark you have a choice, right there, to stop or go forward. The outcome is up to you. The self coaching conversation you have in those moments is critical to determining if you will succeed, or ultimately fail. The same is true for being a great leader. Leadership does not come naturally to everyone. You have to put the work in to develop your leadership skills. And sometimes that means you have to do things that you just don’t want to do, but you know you have to do to be successful. If you don't take the time to develop yourself as a leader, you will miss the opportunity to really make a difference for your organization and the people within.  This is why the concept of self coaching is so essential to becoming a great leader. You have to know how to coach yourself forward.

I am known for being an avid golfer, but not many people know that I used to run just for fun. For my 40th birthday when I was the Executive VP of Marketing and Sales at the Pepsicola Company, I made the decision to run the New York City Marathon so I could check it off my bucket list. Why? I wanted to accomplish something that required a lot, and I figured if I didn't do it when I turned 40 I never would. The training runs provided a great time to clear my head and check my mindset. I decided that for my final long training run I would run the 20 miles I drove every day to Pepsico Headquarters, and then also attend the company picnic following the run. So preparing for my big run, on my way home from work, I hid water bottles along the route to make sure I stayed hydrated. I thought this was a great plan, but sure enough, when I started out on the run the next day I realized that I couldn't remember where I hid each water bottle. I could not for the life of me remember the geographical markers along the way. The run was miserable, but I finished it, and showed up at the company picnic extremely dehydrated.

Thankfully, I ultimately did end up running the New York City marathon, and now I keep a picture of my finish in my office to remind me of what I can accomplish when I put my mind to something. But even more importantly, that I had developed the ability to coach myself all the way to the finish line.

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What do I mean? Well, in order to be a self coach, you not only have to have a great understanding of yourself and your capabilities, but also understand where you need to improve and grow. But you can’t stop there! You have to put a plan in place -- create a roadmap -- for leveraging your assets and strengthening your weaknesses as a leader. Self coaching isn't just about having a pep rally in your head to finish the race. It’s also about building that roadmap to physically guide you, step-by-step, to the finish line. The mental and physical work are both equally important. To accomplish both you have to have what I call a “self coaching mindset.”

Do you know how to self coach? Is this a skill you practice? Do you need help developing this mindset to reach your finish line?

Turn Insight to Action

Being a good self coach requires time to reflect. As a leader, we are often too busy to take time to reflect on our day. Take time to do that tonight. Think about yourself, what self coaching conversations did you have? Were they positive or negative interactions? The first step to truly being a great self coach is to build that self awareness.

October 20, 2021