If you are an attorney who’s thinking about engaging a business development coach, you certainly aren’t alone.
As the market becomes more competitive, lawyers are increasingly recognizing the value of individualized training and coaching to help them excel as rainmakers, networkers, and connectors.
But though your intentions may be good, your willingness to be vulnerable, acknowledge your skills gaps, and commit to acting on the coaching advice you receive is the threshold determination of future success. If you don’t allow yourself to be open to the process, you’re wasting money and two people’s time.
Lessons Learned on the Sports Sidelines
Analogies to sports are inevitable here, and for good reason. Whether you’re the parent of a kid who plays sports or you were a student-athlete yourself, you’ve heard comments like “Great kid – she’s so coachable,” or “He may not be a natural, but he responds to coaching.”
A good coach understands that he is only a part of the overall success equation, and the coaches that we hold in the highest regard freely give student-athletes the opportunity to reach their potentials by providing feedback, guidance, and the occasional dose of honest criticism. They get that every player brings different talents and perspectives to the game, and accommodate those nuances and distinctions.
And though the coach’s acknowledgment of the individual is important, it’s the individual’s desire to improve and excel with the coach’s guidance that has a lasting effect.
What Makes an Attorney Coachable?
Just like a student-athlete, for any lawyer to get the most out of a coaching relationship, you need to make sure that you are “coachable.” Start by asking yourself if you have (or can commit to having):
A Positive Attitude. Admitting that you’ve got something to learn is no fun. It’s easier to blame shortcomings on one’s teammates, the referees, the weather (or a bad economy, a busy personal life, a bad boss). But coachable people complain less and self-reflect more.
The Determination to Overcome Obstacles. Just like the underrated and underestimated Tom Brady of old, you have a choice: you can prove them right or prove them wrong. Coachable people don’t let the fact that they didn’t get drafted, didn’t make the starting squad, or didn’t get the client or the promotion dictate their goals. They are determined to push through obstacles. They believe in themselves.
Willingness to Do the Work. Coachable athletes take what they learn at practice and work on it – every single day. Coachable business developers “go to the gym” daily to apply what they’ve learned in coaching sessions. They commit to the effort.
Willingness to Make Real Change. To improve performance, athletes may be told to alter a baseball swing or a swim stroke with which they’ve grown comfortable. Coachable athletes make the change because they trust the coach and are willing to take risks in order to grow. Coachable business developers must sometimes take a hard look at what they’ve done in the past, accept that it didn’t work, and commit to a new approach.
Making Practice a Priority. While the occasional conflict is understandable, excuse making is not. If you constantly find yourself citing “client demands” or “a court deadline” as a reason to cancel your coaching sessions, then you might ask whether improving your business development skills is truly a priority. A coachable athlete places a high priority on improving and simply doesn’t miss practice.
Making Good Use of Praise: Coachable people – both athletes and business professionals – enjoy hard-won praise. They channel that positive energy to build momentum and continue improving. They don’t see praise as an excuse to back off. They keep pushing.
Making Good Use of Criticism: When a coachable athlete receives criticism, he or she no doubt feels a momentary ego bruising, but then gets to work applying that feedback to improve. If an attorney receives no constructive criticism from a business development coach, then either the coach isn’t effective or the attorney isn’t listening.
No doubt about it: a good business-development coach can help you take your game from good to great. A coach can give insight on your current approach, provide fresh ideas, and be the taskmaster who keeps you on track, celebrating with you when your hard work pays off and delivering feedback when it does not.
But while a good coach can be an incredible resource, no coach can do the work for you. If you can become “coachable,” the relationships will be much more productive and rewarding.