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Counselor Commentary: Find Your Coach

Of everything Peyton Manning said in his ASI Chicago keynote speech last week, one of his most interesting quotes was this: “I still want to be coached. When you stop wanting to be mentored, I think you’re in big trouble.”

You might think that Manning – one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time – would reach a point where he’d tune out advice. After all, it would be natural for today’s elite athletes to do that. Yet, what has always made Manning unique is his intense preparation. He will soak up all the video, all the reports, and all the information he can before he gets on the field.

With that in mind, Manning explained that he’s recently spent more time with one of his college coaches, David Cutcliffe, saying “he sees some things in my game that other people might not.” Manning admitted that Cutcliffe tells it the way that it is – meaning he’s not afraid to highlight mistakes, however small.

Manning’s thirst to have someone be blunt with him is something we should all desire in the business world. It will do you no good – in fact it will do you harm – to surround yourself with “yes” men and “yes” women, who stroke your ego and applaud your every move. You’re doing yourself and your company a disservice if you follow your great accomplishments with complacency. Manning’s advice: “Invest in a coach that can help you continue to grow.”

Wherever you are in your career, from the most respected CEO to the most junior salesperson, you should ask yourself: Who can be my mentor? Who can I talk through big decisions with? Who can I trust to be straight with me? Who can help me get better at what I do?

This is not to say you need to hire a motivational guru to coach you up. You might find an old college friend, a sibling, or even a business competitor would be a great coach. In a mentor, you don’t necessarily need to look for someone with sales or marketing expertise as much as a person who’s willing to listen, give you a different perspective, and won’t shy away from being direct. Your coach should also be encouraging, not judgmental, and be a voice, not a decider.

If you’d prefer a professor business coach, though, there are benefits to hiring one. You can lock in an hour each week just to chat about whatever’s on your mind and avoid the small talk pleasantries. The best coaches have been in lots of challenging business situation themselves and can relate well to your emotions – good or bad.

Whoever you pick for your coach, here’s one last piece of advice: Don’t be defensive if you don’t hear what you want from a mentor. You may do things really well, but there could also be a better approach you haven’t thought of. Remember, the great ones – even a Hall-of-Fame-bound quarterback like Peyton Manning – are always looking for an edge. Don’t miss a chance to find yours.