“Talent is only half the equation.” That’s been our slogan for a while now and it speaks to our belief that you can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t know how to use it then you’re only going to get halfway there. The other half is what we’ve built a company on — coaching people how to dictate the course of their future by giving them knowledge, tools, and support to turn a craft into a career. So when I came upon Dr. Atul Gawande’s New Yorker article exploring the benefits of coaching in the professional realm, I was intrigued to say the least.
Now, I’m admittedly an easy target for this kind of article, given that the subject matter is one of my life passions and I also tend to get excited whenever I find a platform to hold a conversation on the merits of coaching. But, Dr. Gawande’s article struck an unusually deep chord with me, mostly because of his provocative theory that coaching will cease to be a luxury, instead becoming a necessity in order for professionals to succeed in modern society. That’s a pretty bold statement, but I can clearly see the root of such an argument, which is that “few people can achieve or maintain their best performance on their own.” In fact, if I didn’t believe that to be true, I wouldn’t be in business as a coach (and, just to prove a point, I continue to use a coach myself).
Many artists, at one time or another, have used the services of a coach to strengthen their craft. It seems natural, doesn’t it? Need help with monologues? An acting coach can help you with that. Want to strengthen your grasp on three-act structure? A writing coach can guide you through the process. Looking to segue from ballet to modern dance? That’s right, find yourself a coach. But what about everything outside of your craft? Are you setting goals that are in line with your ultimate career vision? Are you managing your time as efficiently as possible? Do you feel confident in your abilities as a networker? Are you able to balance your career with the rest of your life?
Those are some pretty big questions, and the truth is that there are a lot more to ask yourself when it comes to your career as an artist. My point is not to overwhelm you, but to illuminate how much there is to consider and to give you an idea of the kinds of things that coaching can help you with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with artists who had never taken the time to answer these questions for themselves, which ultimately meant that they weren’t addressing some issues that were critical to their careers (and their lives as a whole, because the two are not mutually exclusive). As a coach, it’s my job to not just ask these questions, but to help my clients learn how to naturally ask themselves these questions. Of course, the work doesn’t end once those questions are answered — in fact, the answers are just the beginning.
The majority of the work that I do with clients is exemplified in Dr. Gawande’s article, wherein he describes his coaching relationship with a peer of his who observes Dr. Gawande’s surgeries and then goes through an evaluation process after, helping identify areas that could be improved, setting goals for improvement, and discussing strategies to reach those goals. A successful coaching relationship is all about honesty — on both ends. A good coach needs to be honest about what a client can improve upon (while highlighting what is working) and the client needs to be honest with themselves about their fallibilities, which is not always an easy thing to do. But the most successful clients of mine are artists who are able to identify their weak points and are constantly striving to better themselves, in both their craft and the business side of their careers. And here’s a little secret: those who perpetually work to better themselves in all the areas of their career (not just their craft) tend to be more content and happier in their lives.
In the end, coaching is about support. It’s someone on the outside helping you do the heavy lifting by keeping you aware, providing knowledge, tools, and accountability, and pushing you to be the best version of you that you can be. It goes without saying that I truly believe in the benefits of coaching, but I’d like to hear what you have to say about it. So, if you’ve coached with me or with anyone else, I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments and let us know how you’ve benefitted from the coaching experience. Can’t wait to hear from you!