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Blog/March 28, 2013

From the World of Sports to the Business World: Leveraging Strengths through Coaching

What do Michael Jordan, Bart Starr and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have in common? Certainly, they are all successful, championship-winning athletes. They all share a common drive to excel in their respective sport. In addition, they have benefitted from having terrific coaches to help them along the way. Michael Jordan had Phil Jackson and together they won 6 titles with the Chicago Bulls. Bart Starr had Vince Lombard, and they won 3 titles in Green Bay together. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had John Wooden in his college days at UCLA and they had 3 championship wins.

The world of sports has long embraced the role great coaches play in increasing performance. The world of business has slowly moved in that same direction, especially in recent years. Executive coaching seeks to achieve many of the same results — to increase performance, help individuals more effectively leverage their strengths and shore up areas where they might be weaker. Executive coaching is not about applause, motivational speeches or most of those clichés that come to mind when thinking about athletic coaches, but it does achieve similar results. Just like Jordan, Starr and Abdul-Jabbar could not have reached their peak levels of performance alone; we cannot achieve our full potential of leadership without some guidance and feedback.

Executive coaching is a one-on-one partnership between you and a professional coach to meet your specialized needs and goals. Executive coaching is personalized to help you create strategies that work for you. Executive coaches provide an external, objective point of view. There is often great value in having someone outside of the organization provide a different perspective, ask questions and collaborate with as you work to improve your leadership skills.

Most people who have worked with an executive coach (myself included) can give numerous examples of how their coach helped improve their performance. Personally, my coach asked pointed, thought-provoking questions that helped me think differently about my leadership and what I needed to do to improve. As leaders, we all have blind spots — areas we can further develop, but are unaware of the need. My executive coach helped me shine a light onto some of those areas and create an action plan to improve my performance. The outside, different perspective was invaluable to me (as it is for many executive coaches).

Given today’s uncertain, constantly changing environment, we are all looking for ways to work smarter and to improve our ability to lead. Training, workshops, seminars and conferences are helpful, but none have the personalized impact that working one-on-one with an executive coach has. Remember, the greatest athletes relied on their coaches to help take them to the next level. Similarly, the best leaders are those who are constantly striving to learn and improve. While the world of athletics and business are different, there are some parallels that do not change — we are all better off when we have someone in our corner, helping us to improve.

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