On May 26, 1967, The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – their 8th studio album. And it was 20 years ago, today, July 4, 2000 – Independence Day – that I became a professional coach!
A Quick Look Back
Back in the day, I was working as vice president and corporate officer at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, accountable for insuring the operational integrity and fiduciary control of the telecommunications systems and programs needed to run their two trading floors and the twin 40-story office towers of the CME Center.
Man, what a high-stakes, pressure-packed experience THAT was! When even the slightest hiccup could cost traders literally millions of dollars, you had to be at your best, 24x7x365. Executive management, the Board of Directors, vendors, staff, and CME members – even the Commodities Futures Trading Commission – all called it “mission critical.” Rightly so.
To get a feel for why, imagine how disruptive it is for you, personally, whenever your email service down for any period of time. Now consider the impact of a systems outage that could literally shut down global financial markets. Welcome to another workday!
So, in a nutshell, a large part of my job was to insure that sort of thing never, ever happened!
The Technology… or The People?
So how did someone involved in all that end up as a professional coach?!
At the time, coaching was still a very new thing. But it immediately made a whole lot of sense to me.
My ‘aha!’ moment, if you will, was when I realized that my true value as a leader had very little to do with me being a technology expert.
No, my value as a leader stemmed from my being able to meaningfully help the real technology experts consistently perform at an increasingly higher levels in support of our operations, notwithstanding all the pressures and challenges they faced on a moment-by-moment basis.
My path forward became crystal clear – to continue to build and sustain organizational success – and personal sanity! – I needed to shift from “boss-as-expert” to “boss-as-coach-and-mentor” so I could bring out the best in those I worked with.
And when the time was right, I left the CME and began the next phase of my career so I could continue to focus on helping others succeed without my having to have all of the operational responsibilities in tow.
What was as clear to me then, as it is to me now, is that there are a lot of smart, capable people – a LOT of them – who are privately struggling with how to be more successful at work, and in life. People who know in their heart of hearts that they could do so much better if they just said one simple thing to themselves: “I gotta getta coach!”
“I Gotta Getta Coach! I Really Do!”
Admittedly, I wasn’t part of the first wave of modern-day professional coaching. But I quickly learned that I was being trained by those who were.
I also quickly learned that a large number of those smart, capable people were using the Internet to look for coaches. So I created a company (and website) that spoke directly to them.
“Hi. I saw your company on Google,” they’d say, “and, well… I gotta getta coach! I really do!”
Well you certainly came to the right place, I’d respond, and away we went!
“Let’s Get You Some Leadership Traction”
For many years, the #1 question I’d get from people was, “What IS coaching?” and how it worked.
So our initial discussions took the form of helping them experience coaching as a process that could help them finally address those self-limiting thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that kept holding them back from living a more gratifying and fulfilling life.
And all was good!
About 10 years in, though, coaching was becoming quite popular. And, as such, the #1 question shifted from “What IS coaching?” to “What can coaching do for ME?” In other words, it became more about the outcomes FROM coaching than the process OF coaching.
So this, coupled with my particular interest (and skill) in helping leaders and organizations with their professional development needs led to me create a new division, called LeadershipTraction, which spoke to the outcomes to be derived from our working together.
That Was Then, This Is Now
COVID-19. Companies changing how they work and what they stand for. More people working from home. The Black Lives Matter movement. The upcoming elections. Many, many unknowns.
While the particular challenges may be new, that there are challenges remains a constant. So I remain optimistic about smart, capable people wanting to do the right things in the right ways for the right reasons, even more.
Which brings me back to my 20th anniversary as a professional coach and the gratitude and appreciation I feel.
Thanks to my clients, mentors, coaches, colleagues, friends, and family who have helped me learn and grow these last two decades. I, literally, could not have done it without you and I am immensely proud of what you all helped me achieve.
Now, who needs a little leadership traction?!
Post ScriptI hope this post has helped you learn something about yourself. If so, please make a point to share your insight with others as a way to "lock in" your learning.
While you're at it, I'd also appreciate you telling them about LeadershipTraction and the resources available, here, on-line, at www.leadershiptraction.com including:
• my other blog posts
• my leadership tutorial downloads
• my newsletter archives
• the curated content on my LeadershipTraction Facebook page
• and, of course, my book, Leadership Haiku
P.P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I'll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.