Okay, so you’re ready to stretch? You want to boost your performance as well as your value in the marketplace? You want to put your career on a more upward trajectory?
You’d love to have one of those highly touted personal coaches. But you find that they’re too expensive? Or unavailable? Or both?
There’s good news. By following the right approach, you can get helpful coaching every day of your life. And at a price you can afford.
The recipe for success can be found in Take Charge of You: How Self-Coaching Can Transform Your Life and Career.
Combining their years of professional coaching experience, David Novak and Jason Goldsmith give you a self-coaching toolkit that includes do-it-yourself exercises, thought-provoking activities, and insightful questions to ponder as you maximize your personal growth and professional development.
Who are these guys? Novak is cofounder and former chief executive and chairman of Yum! Brands—owner of more than 45,000 restaurants including KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. Under his leadership, Yum! grew from a $4 billion to a $32 billion market cap. Goldsmith is performance coach to some of the world’s top athletes, including NBA, MLB, and NFL stars as well as Olympic gold medalists.
No matter where you are in life or in the workplace, here are some insights you can put to immediate use.
Rodger Dean Duncan: Aside from obvious monetary considerations, what’s the advantage of hiring yourself to provide coaching on personal growth and professional development issues?
David Novak: The biggest challenge most people face when it comes to getting coaching that can help them grow and improve is that there simply isn’t enough good coaching in the world. Daniel Goleman, who wrote Emotional Intelligence, has said that of his six leadership styles, the coaching style is used least often in our high-pressure economy. Leaders feel like they don’t have time to coach, and most aren’t trained to do it well.
Right now, a lot of people are looking for a job upgrade. They’re competing for the best roles at the best companies. For anybody who is looking, showing off your self-coaching skills is a great way to impress a potential employer. Leaders know self-coachers will ease pressure on managers and will get up to speed faster and be more successful in the future.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have a good coach in your life or career, taking advantage of the opportunity requires you to have the right mindset and the right self-knowledge. What do you want? What brings you joy? How do you handle setbacks? Answering those questions and being open to feedback and insights from others requires self-coaching work.
Duncan: What are telltale signs that someone is a good candidate for successful self-coaching?
Novak: The most important sign is ambition. That word can get a bad rap, but all it means is wanting a better future. That might mean something better in your career, something better in a personal passion or hobby (I use self-coaching all the time to improve my golf game), or something better in your health or your relationships.
Here’s a personal story. I have three fantastic grandkids. My relationship with one of them, Claire, was solid, fine. I wanted it to be amazing. So, I used self-coaching strategies to understand what was getting in the way and what behaviors I could change to deepen our connection. When I did, I realized that she didn’t like it when I would tease or joke around with her. That’s my approach to the world, but not hers. So, I told her I would stop, I used strategies to help me stop, and our relationship has become amazing.
If all you’re interested in is maintaining the status quo, there’s no point to self-coaching. Self-coaching is a method of personal development. To be a candidate, you need to be interested in growth, see the need for it, believe that it’s possible, and be willing to take action to achieve it. Self-coaching can help you develop this kind of thinking, but you need a foundation.
The fundamental question is, do you want something bad enough to make the changes necessary to get there?
Duncan: If a person decides to engage in self-coaching, what safeguards should be taken to avoid self-deception? In other words, how does one recognize and deal with personal blind spots?
Novak: Developing your self-knowledge is the foundation of self-coaching. The more you work at it, the better you are at recognizing and dealing with blind spots.
Usually, when we come up against a self-deception, it’s uncomfortable. It makes us feel vulnerable. For instance, thinking about our weaknesses and times when we haven’t been at our best is uncomfortable. Thinking about moments we’ve failed is uncomfortable. Retreating from the discomfort is the path to self-deception.
The framework for self-coaching can help you push through it instead. It can help you reframe your thinking about issues you haven’t wanted to address in a way that makes it possible to tackle them. It helps you be more vulnerable with yourself and encourages you to see the world the way it really is, not how you want it to be. In many ways, it’s the solution to self-deception.
Duncan: What do you tell someone who wants to engage in self-coaching but doesn’t want to go it completely alone?
Novak: Coaching yourself doesn’t mean that you should expect to go it alone. The opposite is true. I had good self-coaching skills that I leveraged throughout my career, but I was also fortunate enough to have many amazing coaches who helped me along the way. Self-coaching helps you figure out who you need to learn from and when.
When I first became CEO, my background was weighted toward marketing and operations. I didn’t have a lot of experience working with the investment community. So, I used a few contacts and did everything I could to get a meeting with Warren Buffett. I traveled to Omaha, and over lunch I asked him everything I could think of about how to deal with investors and Wall Street analysts, what he would do if he was me, and more. What I learned from his coaching was invaluable.
Developing your self-coaching skills helps you build a coaching mindset, which helps you spot opportunities for growth wherever you are in your career or life. It helps you identify people who can offer the most support and opens your mind to the feedback they offer. It also helps you spot good coaching skills in other people, so you’re more likely to find the right person to help you when you need it.
Being a good self-coach can grow your ability to coach others, which improves your ability to coach yourself. It’s a virtuous circle.
Duncan: Thanks to so-called “motivational speakers”—whose message is more high-octane rah rah than realistic advice on personal improvement—some people are skeptical about the notion of self-coaching. How do you persuade them that they really can access their untapped potential?
Novak: Most of us want to grow and improve and achieve our goals. The difference between wanting to and actually doing it is understanding our personal motivation and then turning that motivation into action.
Often, people don’t access their untapped potential because they don’t know what it is they actually want, what brings them joy. If they do, they don’t know what steps to take to get there.
Katy Milkman wrote about our tendency to assume that other people know what we know and think how we think in How to Change. We don’t go looking for frameworks or solutions to our “action” problem because we assume that if we’re struggling to make it happen, other people are too. We believe they don’t know any more than we do about goal achievement. That’s just not true. Some people have turned growth and development into a habit. I have and so has Jason Goldsmith, my partner in this work, and so have all the people I’ve learned from and been inspired by over the years.
What most people are missing is a framework that helps them take personalized and necessary steps to bridge the gap between motivation, insight, and action.
Duncan: In starting new paths to self-improvement, you recommend that people identify their joy blockers and joy builders. What exactly are those, and how does identifying them help launch a successful self-improvement journey?
Novak: Joy blockers are simply those things that get in the way of your happiness and enjoyment in work or life. Joy builders are those things that feed it. The important step is to be specific and unapologetic.
When I left Yum! after 16 years as CEO, I had to make a choice about what I was going to do next. I didn’t jump onto the obvious next thing. I spent time deeply considering what brought me joy in my work and life. The answers were clear: my family, developing leaders, and golf. The last one might seem like it doesn’t deserve equal footing with the first two, buy why hide something that brings you joy? I’ve devoted myself to growing and achieving in all three areas and my life is full of joy.
To be motivated enough to put in the effort and energy that growth requires, we have to be working toward something we really want, and the process of getting there needs to generate more joy in our life. Joy feeds our motivation and our confidence that what we’re doing is working and is worth it.
Duncan: Much is being said these days about mindset. What role does mindset play in navigating the path to self-improvement?
Novak: Mindset is essential, whether you’re coaching yourself or being coached by somebody else. We describe the coaching mindset as being open to anything and everything that can drive your growth or progress toward your goal. This takes effort, because the human brain likes to focus on those things that seem certain, not possible. It also focuses on the future, trying to make predictions.
Developing a coaching mindset helps you be more present and calm yourself so you can focus on opportunities all around you. Instead of relying on preconceived notions of what should happen, you’re searching for insights. This expanded way of thinking and seeing the world reveals so many opportunities for growth and achievement.
Duncan: You write about changing “nots” into “not yets.” Tell us about that.
Novak: Changing your nots into not yets is the favorite reframing tool of my coauthor Jason Goldsmith. Reframing is an approach to overcoming the tendency to focus on the negative, to get sidetracked by small failures, and to lose confidence. It helps you re-orient yourself to the coaching mindset by looking at setbacks as opportunities for growth and more progress in the future. Anything worth going for will come with challenges.
That’s where “not yets” come in. When you doubt yourself and start thinking, “I can’t do this,” Jason asks you to add “yet” to the end of the statement: “I can’t do this—yet.” “Can’t” is absolute, there’s nothing more to talk about. But if you haven’t done something yet, there are more questions to ask, more possibilities to explore.
This is just one of many reframing tools, and we need a lot of them because we fall back on limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging thoughts every day. To return to an earlier question, reframing isn’t a method of self-delusion. It’s a way of getting to reality-based thinking that isn’t overly positive or overly negative. Try this technique now on one of your limiting thoughts. It’s incredibly empowering.
Duncan: What seems to be the most common roadblock to personal improvement, and what’s the key to getting past that roadblock?
Novak: Our minds are our biggest roadblocks to improvement. With our thoughts and beliefs, we get in our own way. When Jason and I talk about elements of self-coaching that we think are most important, I always turn to joy builders and he always turns to reframing. They’re both tools of developing a positive orientation to life and our ability to control our future.
I’ve had big, public failures in my career. I’ve had moments when I was almost fired because I developed tunnel vision. I studied journalism at state university. I never got an MBA. Was I a likely candidate for becoming CEO of one of the largest corporations in the world? No. But that’s not how I thought about it. I just kept coaching myself into and through the next opportunity. And before I knew it, I was in that role at only 46 years old.
That’s the power of getting out of your own way, of overcoming the assumptions and predictions that what you want can’t happen or will take too much work. If you really want it, it’s worth it.
Duncan: So, you regard self-coaching as an essential leadership skill?
This column was first published by Forbes, where Dr. Duncan is a regular contributor.