Accountability: Bringing a “Coach” Into My Life

Pruning - it's a good thing!Pruning – it’s a good thing!

On one of my walks that keep me from becoming a “beached whale” again, I observed this Colorado homeowner doing some serious pruning of a much-too-crowded, old grove of trees. My first thought was, That looks so much better. Wonder why he didn’t do it five years ago?

My second thought was, 1987. 

That year my dad came from Ithaca, NY to visit Karen and me in Brooklyn Center, MN. On the last day of his visit, when I carried his suitcase to the car, I found him standing on our quiet street studying our modest split-level home. After a moment or two of reflection, he said, “You know, son, taking down that big pine tree would really open up your yard and let people see your nice home.”

But I love that tree! I thought.

Yet when I returned from the airport and stood where my father had stood and pondered his ponderings, I concluded he might have been on to something. An hour later that old pine was down, stretched lazily across our yard. I stepped into the street again.

Huh, Dad was right. It looks great!

Whenever I remember that day, this question comes to my mind:

Why is it that one person can see what another cannot?

I don’t know, but it’s a truth that speaks to the importance of granting another the power to speak of the tree in my life that needs felling. This invaluable person—call them a “coach” if it helps—can be a friend, boss, colleague, spouse, parent, underling, or offspring. A paid professional consultant is also an option. Who it is, though, matters less than our commitment to grant them this:

Complete freedom to provide me candid input without fear of defensiveness and recrimination on my part.

Here’s the purpose of finding and bringing this coach into my life:

To enable me to be outstanding in all things. 

This is what we write in Outstanding! about what it means to be “outstanding”:

To be outstanding means being superior, striking, exceptional, clearly noticeable—essentially, to stand out.

Awfully hard to get there alone.

As it was with the Minnesota pine tree that needed to be removed, our behaviors, habits, and what we say, as well as how we react to problems, successes, and people are all on display in the front yard of our lives for others to see. People who “grow like a weed” do so because they’re willing to have and hear someone who has been empowered to speak candidly to them, about them.

People determined to be outstanding rarely if ever ask Incorrect Questions (IQs)* like these:

“Why don’t people just accept me the way I am?”

“When will I get the recognition I deserve?”

“Who said I need to improve?”

“Why are others so critical?”

Those lousy questions lead us away from a life of personal accountability—and it’s awfully hard to become outstanding without personal accountability.

The way to get there, however, is to ask The Question Behind the Question (QBQs*) such as:

“How can I take myself to the next level?”

“What can I do to change me?”

“How can I elevate my performance?”

And …

“What can I do to allow someone to speak candidly into my life?”

Want to become outstanding in all things? Ask and answer those QBQs today!

For discussion: 

Have you found a “coach”? If so, who is it and how do you receive input from this person? In what way have they helped you grow?

Share below!

*Tutorial on QBQs versus IQs 

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11 Responses

  1. John – Just listened to QBQ again this morning at work so I found it interesting that today’s quick note came out. Two comments.
    1. My wife is my first coach. She knows she has complete freedom to speak about the change that is needed in my life and she knows all of my ups and downs and good and bad. She is always there to listen to my crazy idea and talk me off the cliff or tell me that I should move forward. Then she helps me to make time to make it happen.
    2. As I listened to the audio book, I was struck with how much that Ithaca accent is still in your voice.

  2. Thanks John. Its something that has come up often in my daily discussions whether it be my wife, my kids, my manager where they ‘coach’ me everyday to be a better husband, father and manager of people.

    Recently, I have had to hear some difficult things about myself but in all honesty a lot is valid. I can change the perception of How people feel about me by my actions and not by anyone else’s. I admit to initially thinking about the IQ’s but after a few days came to the realization that its all about me to change.

    Thank you for your guidance as always

  3. I do not need my boss or a coworker to be my coach. Whenever I am in danger of becoming too complacent, or proud of myself for being the way I am,, or for having a pity party – my wife of 32 years always has the ability to make me take a step back and realize ‘…the house looks great’.

  4. I LOVE this one! I get excited reading it as I know we can’t do it alone and growth is FUN. Here’s to the coach and to the one willing to be coached!

  5. Great words for wisdom! Thanks for sharing! I’ve had some great coaches in my past and I continue to have need for people to speak into my life!

  6. Hi John,

    I’ve just gotten to the point in my entrepreneurial education where I realize the importance of a coach. I’m part of a small group of communities and a mastermind group. I’ve also tried to engage with guests of the EOFire podcast with some measure of success. I’ve always tried to lead with giving and not taking.

    My question is what things do you feel are best for a coach as opposed to a mastermind group? For instance, I’m not afraid of criticism at all and welcome it. However, I am concerned if I, say, submitted my site to a mastermind group I would get so many suggestions for changes that I’d be basically right back where I was-a million ideas without priority.

    Do you think actively trying to find somebody for different areas of your business is good or just anybody who’s been successful doing something you’d like to do?


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