A formal definition of the word “coaching” is a form of development in which an experienced person, called a coach, supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance. To put it bluntly, I love to coach, whether that be the single season my daughter played soccer, training new employees while working in retail, or striving to help others reach their goals in present times. Although I am not formally trained as a business coach, I do have a passion for the subject. I think it’s why I love the role of Business Development Manager so much, because regardless of what I am doing, it allows me to help others. That is where the idea for Coach’s Corner was born. By combining my enjoyment for writing and my passion for seeing others succeed, I hope to use this column as a consistent way to support others and motivate those striving for particular goals or attempting to overcome certain hurdles that may present themselves.
One of the biggest hurdles I have faced recently as a father of 2 daughters (ages 12 and 15) is that they seem to become extremely uncomfortable with the idea of asking for help, primarily at school. It is a common occurrence for my youngest child to run into difficulties with her homework, only to find out she refused to ask questions during class, thus setting her back as she tries to grasp the lesson. It continues to confuse me how she could be so afraid of her teacher, until I look at what we might experience as adults and the similarities between the two. Much like the question I always ask my daughter in regard to her teacher, why does it seem like adults still hold onto some of that same fear when it comes to asking questions from their superiors? I can tell you from past experiences in my career that a lot of the explanation has to do with how minds are trained similar to that of a dog. Think about it for a second. When you bring home a new pet, you normally start training the animal on what’s right and what’s wrong, and while there is surely an accident along the way, the pet eventually trains its mind to know how to get your attention, how to signal it needs to go outside, etc. There was a moment in the earlier stages of my career where I experienced something similar, and it took years to retrain my mind to think and react otherwise.
I worked for a company that had a product catalog 3 times the size of those old Sears catalogs from the 1980s. Inside, it had every little connector, cable, and electronic device you could possibly think of. As a new employee on the job, I was given this catalog as a “bible” to the job and told to “learn it.” Nonetheless, I was inquisitive as a new hire and would regularly ask my manager questions about what part was appropriate for the job I was working on. Without fail, my boss would always start his reply with “Rob, I know we have reviewed this,” before eventually guiding me on the solution. I would sit at my desk left to think how there was no possible way he had reviewed every part on every page in that catalog. To compound this even more, I had more than a decade of experience under my belt, so I came into the role with a decent foundation to start with. My mind then became trained to not go to that boss for future questions, because I did not like being made to feel as though I was always wrong or forgetful. While that experience did not completely eliminate my ability to ask questions, it certainly set me back some because, much like my daughter, became intimidated at the thought of asking because I didn’t want to be made to feel as though I was lesser or not good enough.
How many of us have experienced a similar situation recently and how did you approach it? A lot of my solutions to combating this continued fear also rely on businesses to enforce an “open door policy” to asking questions, looking for ideas, etc. I am fortunate to work for a company with those exact enforcements. I also subscribe to two different methods with how I parent my children and I employ these exact two methods on a daily basis in my career:
Method 1 – Rip The Band-Aid
Regardless of what the fear may be, I have learned that most times it is appropriate to just rip the proverbial band-aid, withstand the initial rush of fear, and then reap the rewards in the end. By training your mind to “fight” instead of “flight” and message your boss or speak up on a call with the question, you will find the situation was never that bad to begin with. I’ve used this model when having to deliver less than positive news on a project, errors that I may have made, or yes, even asking a question or stating on a call “I do not understand.” The hurdle is always going to be getting over that self-induced rush of fear and just blurt out your question. However, I promise it will be worth it and you will even be respected for speaking up.
Method 2 – Worst Possible Outcome
This method was something I actually just used yesterday with my oldest daughter. She is studying for her written driver’s test (Yes, I am losing my mind!) and was making herself “nerv-cited” as she calls it – a blend of nervous and excited. I said to her, calmly, “Ok, so I know you think this is a big deal, but what is the worst possible thing that could happen?” She replied, “Well, I could fail the exam.” I countered back with “Ok, and if you fail, what happens?” to which she said, “I retake it in 7 days.” Instantly she smiled and you could tell she cleared her own mind. When we sit calmly and rationalize with ourselves, 90% of the time, we find that the situation is never as negative as we make it seem. Why be so afraid to ask a question?
Entering my 7th year in Pro AV, I can assure you that these methods can be applied to most roles. Whether that be on the job with a client and needing to re-draw a proposal/BOM, on a Teams call with your executives and not understanding the direction given out, or even asking for help and not wanting to be viewed as “weak” or “ill-suited” for your role. Asking questions is a commendable characteristic and while I did struggle with it early on, I now pride myself on speaking up rather than risk making future errors or missing out on opportunities.
I hope this first edition of Coach’s Corner helped some of you with current or past dilemmas you may have faced. Much like my children and how we were taught in school, if you have a question, it is normally a safe bet that many others are wondering the same thing. If I can be of any further support on this topic or others, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.