Over the last decade or so business coaching has gone from a niche offering to more of a mainstream norm. Whereas in the noughties, when somebody said they had a coach, people might get a strange look and often there is a perception that there is a significant area of weakness or perhaps even psychological dysfunction. However, there has been a significant maturity of this position and in some areas, if you have never had a coach it shows a lack of development and psychological immaturity.
So why is it that there is this significant shift? Firstly, psychology and understanding of the unconscious is still a very new science and the initial ideas of how the brain works only started to be expressed around 100 years ago by Freud and the psychoanalytical world.
Neuroscience which is the actual scanning and understanding of the biological substrates of the brain only really began in 1995, a mere 25 years ago. As people have started to have experience with psychology, psychotherapy, behavioural science and coaching, more and more people have accepted its validity. On top of this, Hollywood, Netflix etc. have used psychology both in terms of character development and underlying storytelling e.g the main character in Homeland is bipolar. Many stories include AA, alcoholic anonymous meetings, for example, Denzil Washington in the movie Flight.
The combination of what might be called hard science i.e scanning the brain, general development within the academic world and significant exposure through books, television and movies has led to a greater acceptance of the need for psychological interventions.
My personal experience is that within the business world before the financial crisis of 2009, psychological interventions were still viewed in a fairly negative way by many individuals in the business community. From then on there is a realisation that something had gone significantly wrong with individuals greed and fear, pushing the envelope so far that it was a serious possibility of the entire system failing. Adding to this, people started to understand that although therapy and psychology were used initially to help people deal with issues from the past that were seriously affecting today, for example a traumatic childhood. It became clear especially with the advent of positive psychology et al that people that were functioning at a perfectly ok level could improve to function extremely well.
In essence, just like Roger Federer, Michael Jordan and Usain Bolt all have coaches and will admit that they would not have achieved what they did without the coach. So too business leaders like Eric Schmidt of Google, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, all used the same coach Bill Campbell to help become the titans of industry that they were. We’ve previously looked at the options available to CEOs including coaching.
The brain is a muscle like other muscles of the body, although more complex, sophisticated and fragile than for instance a bicep or thigh muscle. But just like if you want to have the fastest legs or strongest arms you need to make sure your muscles have the right amount of vitamins, exercise and rest so too your brain needs the right amount of vitamins, exercise, rest and also knowledge and relationships.
What a coach will do is provide the right kind of input and push a person’s brain to function at the highest level. My experience is that once people experience good coaching exactly like athletes they will make sure to always have somebody helping coach them.
Today the question often is not so much why people should have a coach, the question really is why does anyone NOT have a coach. You will not find a serious athlete in any sport that does not have a coach. I predict that within 10 years you will not have a serious business person that does not have a coach and many will have more than one. Just like athletes might have a nutritionist, sport masseur and functional coaches. So too in the future it is likely that people will have multiple business coaches for various areas of development.
In summary, our knowledge of how the human brain works, especially the unconscious component of it, and how much of our behaviour is not driven by rational thought as the initial economic models suggested, more and more individuals and companies have to embrace the concept of coaching. If you are a CEO or SMT member that wants to achieve the very maximum of your potential, as Eric Schmidt is known to have famously said ‘the best single advice I ever got is to have a coach’ This is especially true if you are a VC backed tech company that is aiming to get 100 percent or more year on year growth.