executive coaching


Be Elite: Build Your Personal Team

I grew up playing tennis and still follow it. Over the years, I have noticed that players used to have one coach at best, but today they are assembling larger and varied teams to support them in their quest to be the best they can be. Novak Djokovic, who just won Wimbledon and the US Open, is known for the significance of his team. Top players often employ a coach, a fitness trainer, a physiotherapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, nutritionist, chef, and whomever else they believe they need to excel.

These are people who have expertise in specific areas that are important for players to perform their best. They provide motivation, develop training and recovery programs, deliver informed feedback so players can make important changes, and help them recover more quickly when they get injured — all towards the end of helping them reach their goals and meet their potential.

So, why don’t we all assemble teams of experts to help us make progress in the areas of life that are most important to us? In my work as a performance coach and psychotherapist I see three common misassumptions people that stop people from getting themselves the help they need to be their best.

1. “Getting help means I am weak or deficient”

Some people are afraid that getting help acknowledges some kind of weakness, and this insecurity is incredibly undermining to peak performance. No matter how good you are you can still do better. Certain kinds of support in particular have been stigmatized in our culture; therapy is a primary example, and to a lesser but similar extent, executive coaching. Former Google and Alphabet CEO, Eric Schmidt, reflects on the suggestion he get an executive coach:

“I initially resented the advice, because after all, I was a CEO. I was pretty experienced. Why would I need a coach? Am I doing something wrong? My argument was, how could a coach advise me if I’m the best person in the world at this? But that’s not what a coach does. The coach doesn’t have to play the sport as well as you do. They have to watch you and get you to be your best.”

The notion of coaching seems to be gaining acceptance in the tech world where more and more CEOs are seeing that it can give them a helpful edge. Having people help you does not mean you are weak or deficient. It means you are smart and willing to do what it takes to achieve your goals.

2. “Don’t want to spend the money”

Some people are open to help but do not want to spend the money. I am consistently surprised that people are willing to spend money on almost everything but their personal development. Spending money in this way is an investment in ourselves and will pay dividends tenfold. We must invest in ourselves. Your personal team does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. It is possible to find quality people and not break the bank as long as you’re ok with these folks not being on your full time payroll or travelling with you on your business trips.

3. “I can do it myself”

Some believe they can do it on their own. If you think about this from the perspective of an athlete, this notion is fairly ridiculous. You cannot see yourself in ways that others can and you cannot possibly be an expert in every area that is important for your overall success. The truth is most of us have never thought about ourselves as elite performers, with specific activities in which we want to excel, much less someone who warrants having a team of people helping us be our best. But in fact, we can put together our own roster to help us be our best.

Here are some areas and recommendations you might consider in building your personal team:

(Note: I do think that real people will be most effective for building your team in the areas you want to grow in, but I recognize that cost, preference, and ease may make it sensible to use an app for support so I’ve tried to recommend some quality ones here as well.

If health and fitness are important to you → consider a trainer (whom you can find at your local gym) or a nutritionist (some medical plans will cover this). You can also make some smaller investments, such as getting a massage once a month. App suggestions: NYTimes 7 Minute WorkoutStravaMy Fitness Pal

If your mental health and happiness are important to you →  consider getting a therapist. If you already have a therapist and are seeking more ways to emphasize this, then consider taking courses in mindfulness, yoga, or art. App suggestions: Talk SpaceHeadspace10% Happier

If your work and professional development is important to you → consider getting an executive coach. Your company may offer coaching or may reimburse you as part of your professional development allotment. Coaching can be done in-person or via phone/video conference. App suggestion: There are some attempts underway to scale coaching with technology but I’m not sure there’s a replacement for having someone who gets to know you (warts and all) and can give you real, honest, and caring feedback for your growth. But if you’re interested you can check out Better Up.

If your relationship is important to you and needs work → consider a couples counselor. Don’t be afraid to enter the self-help section and read well-received books like Finding the Love you Want, and use an author’s expertise to help you and your partner grow for each other.

If being a great parent is important to you → seek out a child and adolescent psychologist. If you travel a lot and want to still read aloud to your child, consider an app like Kindoma that aims to close the gap.

If your wealth is important → consider adding a financial planner or a good real estate broker to your life team. You can also seek out a variety of financial management services or apps, such as Mint or You Need a Budget.

> Start building your team

The first step to building a team that will help you succeed is getting clear about where you want or need to make progress. Take some time to think about your values and what in your life is most important for you to get better and succeed at. Next, find yourself an expert in each of those areas (ask your friends for referrals to find the right people). Develop a relationship with that person so they get to know you and how to best help you. Work with that person to reach your goals. Go to that person when you need support. Change that person if it’s not working or you need something different.

You don’t need to be an elite athlete to build your personal team. As Bill Gates says, “Everyone needs a coach.”

So who do you need on your team?

Additional Resources

Living Your Best Life is a new blog series aiming to answer the question, How can I live my best life? This twelve-month series explores this question through the topics of productivity, leadership, motivation, psychology, family, wellness, and society.