The type of life you lead is absolutely, one hundred percent, a direct result of the choices you make. There is nothing more annoying than someone continuously telling me they are ‘so busy’, ‘life is so crazy’, I can’t believe people keep ‘asking for more’, my team are ‘on edge’ right now, it’s not if ‘they will break’ but when.
So why do coaches, the captain of the team, continue to make choices that overload the system in the belief that the more we do, the more productive we will be and that the athletes and team will be better for it? It is all fine if you want to just be mediocre, develop a tired culture and see talented people flow through a revolving door.
Have you ever noticed that highly successful people, in general – as there are some crazy outliers, seem to have it all together? They remain calm under pressure, are great at juggling a hundred balls at once, manage a cohesive team, time is effortless and success seems to follow them like a magnet.
You might think highly successful people have no life outside of work, they sleep less than five hours a day and must have a real disconnect with their family. It is generally quite the opposite and they live their lives like a high performance athlete.
In general, highly successful people are rock stars at delivering efficiency. They are extremely effective at cutting out worthless and non-practical aspects of life such as watching reality TV shows, attending every meeting, accepting all invitations that come across their desk, and indulging in activities that don’t support the end game.
Time is used wisely and effectively. They set small goals each day that have a definitive time period, which creates urgency and a drive for completion. You will find that they keep goals and projects less than three months to ensure they are highly motivated and are less affected by other distractions.
Successful people are in control of their schedule and methodical about balancing their calendar. Scheduled meetings are limited to less than twenty percent of their week. They are very particular in setting aside blocks of time with no distractions so they can absorb information, allow their creativity to flow and focus their attention on the most important action items.
They are accountable to themselves and take control of situations rather than laying blame on someone else or something external.
The strengths of their team are established, gaps are identified, and everyone in the team knows their role. Team members are empowered to use their strengths for the good of the team and ensure everyone is paddling in the same direction.
So what’s next for you? First you need to identify what are the non-negotiable’s in your life and at work that if you took them away would reduce performance and affect the desired life.
Then take a hard look at yourself and identify the things in your life and work that if you took them away would not have a negative effect on the way you want to live your life and the goals you have set? Once you have identified those, set out a plan to slowly eradicate those aspects one at a time.
Next establish what could be taken out of daily work activities to free up more time for growth and innovation, or to enable your mind and body the adequate recovery time so that everyone can turn up every day and deliver high performance. As per the first step, you need to work out a gradual plan, with an end date, to remove the activities.
To ensure that you become a ‘Rockstar of Efficiency’, you then need to form consistent habits over a period of 6-12 weeks, so they become ingrained in your every day life.
Life is short, maximize your time on this earth and make a small difference every day. Remember everything you do and every decision you make comes down to a choice. A choice that you have total control over!
What’s your efficiency secret?
4 Ways To Overcome Coach Loneliness Link Beyond The Comfort Zone Link High Performers Cultivate More Powerful Traits Link Are Leaders Born? Link A Step Ahead Of The Game Link I Make No Apologies This Is Me! Link
COACH loneliness is a real problem affecting the sport industry. Have you ever felt lonely, isolated and there is no one you can speak to, as a coach? Well, you are not alone!
COACH loneliness does hinder your job performance and productivity. As a COACH you have a high level of responsibility, pressure to deliver results, expectation to remain calm, relentless rigour to turn up and an increasing level of confidentiality. Has COACH loneliness invaded your life?
COACH’s may find it difficult to speak about their biggest challenges, complex problems or strongest fears with their co-coaches, committee members or if working in national sport organisation, the high performance manager. They also struggle to confide in their friends outside of the coaching environment as they feel they don’t have the depth and breadth of understanding the challenges that they face. There is also the risk of sharing information and doubts as it could catalyse rumours.
The lack of privacy that has occurred, as a result of technology, has opened the door to greater public and media scrutiny, and therefore a grey area of what is and isn’t private and public life. To compound this, there are also developing expectations that COACHes should increase their transparency, vulnerability and openness to become a better coach.
“With great power comes great responsibility”. SPIDERMAN
As a result, COACH’s quite often experience social isolation as the number of people they can confide in shrinks. Sometimes the number of people COACH’s confide in reduces to a level where they don’t feel comfortable speaking with anyone about the important topics, things that keep them up at night and the tough decisions that need to be made. This occurs because they find it difficult to make it relatable to people who are not experiencing the same challenges and also the risk of confidentiality being breached.
When pressure comes on and issues arise, many COACHes will try and fix them without reaching out for help, both internally and externally. Poor decisions and escalated problems can occur, and it is at these times when you need to depend on people you have built trust and relationships over a number of years.
According to a study completed by the University of Chicago, social isolation affects human behavior and how the brain operates. fMRI scans showed there is a decrease in the activity of the parts of the brain associated with rewards and seeing things from other people’s perspectives in lonely people versus non-lonely people. The research suggested that loneliness might be accentuated as lonely individuals may seek to “find relative comfort in nonsocial rewards”. (Cacioppo et al. 2009)
In the PNAS Journal in 2015, research by Cole et al, identified how flight-or-fight responses triggered by perceived social isolation (PSI) and loneliness can lead to illness and premature death. PSI and loneliness can adversely affect sleep patterns, stress hormones, inflammation in the body, production of white blood cells, and executive function, learning and memory (Bergland, 2015).
As a COACH, it is critical that you learn how to overcome the feelings of loneliness to improve your health, home-life and work productivity. It is important to proactively build and develop emotional connections with a broad range of people, as it leads to increased collective positive emotions and well being.
The important question is – Who can you speak with when the going gets tough and the challenges become overwhelming?
Here are 4 Ways To Overcome COACH Loneliness:
1. BUILD A TEAM OF MENTORS
These are the people whom you can consult with when faced with challenges and problems where the answer may not be clear. They are people who are curious, like to ask questions, be prepared to listen and at times make you feel uncomfortable by challenging you to consider other approaches. It is valuable to have a diverse range of mentors, who aren’t just like you. You want people who you trust their advice and opinions, but most importantly will provide the hard truths and perspectives from a different angle.
Personally I ensure that my mentors come from different industries, cultures and age ranges. Having a mentor who is younger than you is just as powerful as having someone older with lots of wisdom. Who are the 3 to 6 people you need in your life that give you the confidence, clarity and perspective you need.
2. CREATE WORK-LIFE INTEGRATION
Successful COACHes are congruent with their values and character whether they are at home or in the COACHing environment. Work is part of life, so the theory of work-life balance may not be the best approach. Work-Life Integration is all about understanding that work is part of life and we need to effectively manage the boundaries between when we are working and we are doing other components of our life. Your body and mind needs the space to recharge, rejuvenate and reimagine.
Having space in your life for relationships, exercise, freeing your mind and other passions is important in providing opportunities for an outlet, growth, success and diversifying your perspective. It also can provide motivation and inspiration not only to yourself, but other people when you have a passion or two outside the workplace. The relationships; whether family, social or work-related, in your life are important. If you have a partner and/or children then it maybe useful to find time with your family before they go to bed and create a cue to ensure you are present when spending valuable time with them. What changes will you make in 2020 to ensure that you have an outlet and focus outside of COACHing?
3. JOIN A COACH SUPPORT GROUP
Having a COACH support group or mastermind is different to a team of mentors who you are likely to consult and confide in individually. COACH support groups meet on a regular basis, whether that is weekly, monthly, quarterly or even yearly. It’s a group that is likely to be diverse in nature and provides the psychological safety to discuss, brainstorm and challenge solutions to problems, ideas or challenges that people in the group face.
These groups provide a sense of belonging; an honest feedback mechanism where they act as a nurturer, mirror or provider of truth; and can also function as celebrator, motivator and inspirer. They enable you to find clarity and most importantly perspective. An extra bonus is that support groups allow you to form connections that help alleviate stress, anxiety and improve mental health. What COACH mastermind or support group will help you go to the next level in 2020?
4. EMBRACE THE INCLUSIVITY OF COURAGE AND VULNERABILITY
In the past vulnerability may be seen as a weakness, when in fact it is actually a strength. We grow through adversity, changing our environment and challenging the status quo. Courage and vulnerability are inclusive. Without vulnerability we cannot be courageous and without courage we cannot find the strength to speak up and be vulnerable. As a COACH it is ok to say you don’t have an answer, that you were wrong, are feeling a lack in confidence and that other peoples answers are better.
Having vulnerable discussions helps to build psychological safety within your team or between stakeholders. Vulnerability cultivates trust and respect from others, while creating the space for others to speak up about problems, issues or feelings they have. It fosters discussion about key problems and allows people with different perspectives to provide solutions that may not have surfaced before. As a COACH you need to lead by example by taking the first step to showcasing that vulnerability is positive and a key pillar to growth in your coaching group and life. How will you let your guard down, put your ego to the side and create a space for vulnerability and courage to flourish in your work or COACHing environment?
It is important to remember that we do not succeed on our own. There is no instant solution or cure to COACH loneliness, and it requires patience and time to create a strong support network and environment. It is important to that as an influential leader that you identify and build strong team of mentors and support group for valuable guidance when there is uncertainty, difficulty confronts us and we need to celebrate successes in life. Take the time to reflect and then recognize how the 4 Ways To Overcome COACH Loneliness can you help you rise up and become a better COACH in 2020.
If you need someone to talk to or would like to join a sport coach mastermind group, then please go to the World Sport Coach coach services page.
Cacioppo et al. (2009) What Are the Brain Mechanisms on Which Psychological Processes Are Based?Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2009; 4 (1): 10 Link
Bergland, C. (2015) Loneliness: Perceived Social Isolation Is Public Enemy No. 1 Psychology Today, 23rd November 2015. Link
Comerford, C. (2018) Loneliness: The Executive Challenge No One Talks About. Forbes, 7th July 2018. Link
Beyond The Comfort Zone Link High Performers Cultivate More Powerful Traits Link Are You Seeing The Big Picture? Link Are Leaders Born? Link A Step Ahead Of The Game Link I Make No Apologies This Is Me! Link
Nature (our DNA) and nurture (environmental influences) both need to be taken into consideration when trying to understand how a leader is formed. The way I like to look at whether leaders are Born or Made, is by looking at leadership capability through the concept of a bell-curve.
At the bottom of the curve, there are ~10% of people that will struggle, no matter how hard they try, to be a good leader. Their DNA is just not wired to lead and every amount of training is unlikely to get them to a position where they can lead effectively. On the top of the bell curve are the ~10% of people who are born to lead. They are born with an innate instinct to lead. As they grow and develop they tend to continue getting better and better.
The other ~80% of people in the middle have the potential to be good leaders, if not great leaders. They have to be prepared to work really hard on their leadership skills, especially self-awareness. This involves learning how to take a ‘birds-eye-view’ of yourself, be open to asking for feedback and developing great listening skills.
However, I do believe that the world’s most exceptional visionary leaders are highly likely to only come from the ~10% of people who are born leaders.
To try and understand some of the discussion points around whether leaders are born or made, let’s look at some of the theories and evidence that support either side of the coin or both sides.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. They are the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.”
Ronald Reagan (Adapted)
According to the Great Man Theory, popularised in the 1840’s by Thomas Carlyle and Trait Theory, people inherit certain qualities and traits, which are aligned with leadership. People are born with different qualities that predispose them to be a leader, which is similar to someone who with the natural qualities of a gifted musician or talented athlete. They will naturally excel and thrive when confronted with the appropriate situations, whereas other people will struggle. The most exceptional leaders, don’t become overnight successes, they were leaders from the onset.
Behavioural Theories emphasise that the process of teaching, learning and observation allow people to become leaders. They believe the concept of leadership is something that can be learnt, like a skill through training, practice, perception and making observations over a period of time. But, to what level can a person achieve, from a leadership point of view, if they don’t have the natural charisma, ability to influence, natural integrity, and ability to motivate and inspire?
“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”
Some people are very good leaders in certain environments, but not others. They may lead well when they know and trust a small team they are working with, whereas they struggle in a larger team of people they don’t know so well. Even exceptional leaders are only effective when they are in specific locations or environments, for example they could be in a family, societal, community, national, or global environment.
Leaders, sometimes, don’t always stand out from the crowd. They are the quiet achievers, who have an uncanny ability lead people away from the limelight and in a very subtle way. Their quiet, softly spoken and under-the-radar approach may have a profound effect on the way people behave, how they perform and decisions they make.
“Leadership is not magnetic personality – that could just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’, that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”
There are bodies of research that imply that 30% of leadership is genetic and 70% is learned. Although the percentage of genetic versus learned is likely to vary quite a lot between individual leaders, but it still implies that there is a major learning component to leadership.
Many leaders, tend to have an extroversion trait. They also tend to have high levels of empathy as well as social and emotional intelligence, whereas IQ is not always an important characteristic for a leader. As I discussed earlier, introverts can also be great leaders.
“Leadership is an observable, learnable set of practices. Leadership is not something mystical and ethereal that cannot be understood by ordinary people. Given the opportunity for feedback and practice, those with the desire and persistence to lead can substantially improve their abilities to do so.”
JAMES KOUZES & BARRY POSNER
Great leaders tend to be in constant growth, as they aim to improve every day. They tend to seek new experiences and a greater understanding of themselves.
People who are adjusted, social, ambitious and curious are more likely to become leaders. Their curious nature leads them to learn through mediums such as books, informal training from coaches or mentors, interpretations of life experiences, websites, observations, listening and formal training in an academic type setting.
“The leader must be able to know what followers want, when they want it, and what prevents them from getting what they want.”
Leadership is a reflection of who you are and how you want to improve the world for the better. No matter whether leaders have come from a background of hardship and personal struggles or they have endured leadership through an abundance of resources, everyone can continue to develop their leadership skills through deliberate practice and experience.
Developing as a leader is no different to any other expert, where they grow through deliberate practice, struggle, sacrifice, hard work, and regular self-assessment.