From the Coach’s Desk – Plugging away by yourself isn’t good enough

How joining a group coaching program can lead to dramatically better results

By Scott Charlton

Summary

This article explores the benefits of learning and coaching in a group situation, concluding with application to professional practices.

My swimming comeback

At the start of my triathlon phase several years ago (actually let’s make that many years ago!) , I had to face facts – being more of a floating log than a Thorpedo was going to hold me back. Undeterred by a lack of swimming for many years, I headed for the pool.

Solo Man. Early days proved to be very difficult but eventually I built up to swimming 300 tortured metres a session. I was on my way!

Yet as I was doing my solitary laps, I couldn’t help but notice that the squad members in other lanes were clearly playing a different game – fitter, faster and having fun. Later, I heard Olympian Duncan Armstrong describe such sessions in terms of “Hard work is where the fun starts”.

My first couple of triathlons were a rude awakening – clearly, a slow, plodding style wasn’t going to cut it amongst the uber-swimmers. Out in the deep water, people swam across, over and in front of me in a mad scramble of arms, legs and chopped up water. I eventually reached the shore pooped and many minutes behind most of the field. A fresh approach was clearly needed!

Getting with the program. I joined a squad shortly after, mixed in with other swimmers who were clearly better than me. Far from being demoralised, it was inspiring to be amongst such high performers. Many squad members took a genuine interest in my progress, which was particularly motivating when it came to attending sessions on cold winter mornings.

The outcomes I achieved were nothing short of amazing. By the time my triathlon phase had run its course, I was swimming up to 3 kilometres per session – 10 times what I’d been doing on my own! More than this, the program had me doing high quality work, rather than my previous plodding. This proved to be the major reason for shaving 20 minutes off my previous time in one particular event.

Most noticeably there were many elements to the program. For example, there were –

  • Training aids to improve different aspects of one’s stroke
  • A variety of routines. (I well remember the day we started with a 1500m warm up!)
  • A stop watch to monitor lap times and track overall progress

The Coach. Integral to the program was Coach Craig, an enthusiastic fellow whose job it was to get everyone swimming better. It seemed he was always waiting at the end of my lane, ready to pass on some suggestions.

Craig was particularly helpful when it came to stroke correction. He had a range of tried and tested drills to address specific problems. He would set me things to concentrate on during each session. As a result, every session was an opportunity for improvement. Along the way, I also picked up a host of other tips from Craig on issues such as health, diet and event preparation.

Preparing for Italian adventures

I was reminded of my triathlon phase recently, based on my latest project – a long held desire to learn Italian, fuelled by a desire to go cycling in Europe. A New Year Resolution saw me launching into this with gusto.

Solo Man. Under my own steam, I focused on learning some basics such as counting, colours and days of the week. However, as the year started to get under way and work-related travel kicked in, this momentum quickly ran out of puff.

Getting with the program. Fortunately, I’d already taken action to guard against this eventuality, enrolling in an extended beginner Italian course with the Institute of Modern Languages at the University of Queensland. Within half an hour of Lezione Uno, I was engaging with others in mini conversation – clearly I would never have done this on my own!

As per my swimming days, mixing with others who have a greater apptitude for languages (I sat next to a Latin teacher last week) is also proving beneficial.

Similar to swim squad, there are various elements to the program, including –

  • A text book with exercises, videos and audio content
  • Homework, focusing on phrases we will use in the following week.

The Coach. An Italian migrant, Gloria has proved to be an enthusiastic teacher. Happily, she is wise to areas of difficulty (e.g. pronouncing “ci” as “ch”) that English speaking students encounter. The lessons are interesting, with Gloria passing on a range of tips such as “false friends” and “non esistere” equivalents in English. Gloria’s anecdotes on regional differences in culture and what to expect when travelling in Italy are also very encouraging.

Better results for accountants and financial advisers

In my role as a business coach, I often see firms labouring away by themselves, in much the same way as I did with my swimming and Italian studies. Inevitably, these firms are unaware of what’s possible. Certainly, they are don’t know how to fix the problems they are facing.

Getting with the program. There are several elements to the Slipstream Coaching program, each one designed to help our firms maximise their results.

For starters, mixing with other firms is a proven way to accelerate progress. Each firm learns from everyone else – there’s always some things that others do well that you can adapt and adopt. Peer expectations of your improved performance also provide wonderful motivation to keep going.

In a similar vein to Coach Craig and Insegnante Gloria, we’ve developed coaching assistance on various aspects of running a better business, including modules on –

  • Improving operational efficiency
  • Marketing for professional practices
  • Pricing to capture value being added
  • Fostering client referrals

Just as Craig’s program delivers better stroke technique, there are key elements to our Peloton Program which have been carefully designed to improve the results our firms achieve, including –

  • The Breakaway, a two day business planning workshop
  • Quarterly group meetings
  • One-on-one coaching sessions
  • Group webinars to check in on progress

The Coach. When it comes to business coaching, I’m happy to say that we match the enthusiasm of Craig and Gloria. Slipstream director Sharon McClafferty sums it up best when she says, “I feel like I’ve just sold the winning lottery ticket” every time a firm joins up, because we know what a profound difference following the program will make for the principals and their team members.

Observations

I’m privileged to have coached over 300 professional practices. So if you’re currently at the crossroads with your firm, wondering how you might get better outcomes from your efforts, I hope the following observations prove helpful.

  1. Everyone has room for improvement, even elite athletes. You just need to be on the right program to get results.
  2. It’s rare to find practitioners who have not been trying hard. Certainly, no one could have worked harder than me when I had my own firm. However, as I was later to find, this didn’t necessarily mean that I was working on the right things. What a difference it can make when you find out ways of working smarter! One of our firms had their highest revenue month ever within three months of joining the program – that’s provided inspiration aplenty to everyone in their group!
  3. Joining a squad/class/group coaching program may be out of the comfort zone if you are naturally inclined towards self-reliance but it quickly becomes an enjoyable experience. Any vulnerability is quickly replaced by a sense of rolling up the sleeves and the excitement of seeing improvements. It helps enormously to share the journey with colleagues who are on a similar journey and keenly interested in your success.
  4. The barrier is rarely, if ever, the $investment required to be part of the program. In fact the ROI is readily apparent throughout one’s coaching journey in terms of the improvements experienced and the results being achieved.

Conclusion

I hope this article has encouraged you to consider a coaching program to achieve your business goals. From experience, “What am I letting myself in for?” is quickly replaced by a sense of progress and growing accomplishment.

Scott Charlton is a director of Slipstream Coaching, a company dedicated to assisting financial practitioners achieve their potential. A long term business coach to both accountants and financial planners, Scott is also the author of three books regarding professionals in practice. Scott can be contacted by phone 0409 870 330 or via email scott@slipstreamcoaching.com.au