Guiding yourself to peak personal performance
Setting a strong management methodology in motion, day after day, requires discipline, and that requires self-coaching.
Huh? “Self-coaching?” What does that have to do with management or marketing or the million other things you do to run your dealership?
Good question. It’s a little bit like business psychology. Let’s start with a definition — self-coaching is a systematic way to make sense of why you do the things you do. Knowing this, you’ll make better choices and reach your goals faster.
Are you thinking, “There’s nothing wrong with me that doubling my profits won’t cure?” I can assure you that self-coaching — coupled with enlightened business methods — is key to doubling your profits. Self-coaching strengthens your organizational skills as well as your intellect, body, psyche and spirit. That expands your capacity to lead.
Simply being willing to delve into this article means you’re ahead of where I was at 41, a year before life went all Humpty-Dumpty on me.
Had you met me back in 1988, you would’ve seen the facade of the classic American dream. I had the handsome family, the beautiful home. Every week I had time for church and shooting hoops with pals. I had the growing company and prominence in the community. I would’ve told you with an ear-to-ear grin and a firm handshake that life was good. Real good.
Next thing I knew, divorce, cancer and a business crisis laid me flat. My twitchy nerves forced people to tread lightly around me as I tried to glue things back together. I lashed out at the suggestion I look in the mirror. I snapped at a friend not long after my divorce: “Show me anywhere in writing where it says it’s healthy to feel my feelings!”
A wicked internal storm started splintering my defenses. I pummeled myself for six months: “You really screwed up. You hurt your family. You ruined your business. There’s no way out of this one.” Dead man walking.
If I could just get my old self back, I thought, the pieces of my life would snap back together. I clung to the belief that brainpower and force of will would pull me through. I ignored airy-fairy talk from friends about “emotional breakthroughs” and “spiritual connections.”
“Maybe a shrink can tell me what’s wrong with everyone else,” I remember thinking. “This mess surely can’t be my fault.”
Enter psychologist Brenda Schaeffer — contacting her was one of the smartest calls I ever made. She helped me see that my choices and behavior were the shovels that had dug the cesspool I was floating in. It dawned on me that maybe there was a higher purpose for the sledgehammer that walloped me. The writings of philosopher Soren Kierkegaard started speaking to me:
”A man may perform astonishing feats and comprehend a vast amount of knowledge, and yet have no understanding of himself. But suffering directs a man to look within. If it succeeds, then there, within him, is the beginning of his learning.”
Humbled, I began exploring healthier lifestyles. I read books and attended seminars on psychological and spiritual wellness. I overhauled my diet. Meditation, massages, tai chi (a Chinese discipline of meditative movements), and individual and group therapy sessions filled my calendar. I solicited blunt, objective feedback from friends and colleagues. Without naming it, or knowing where it would lead, I had begun the process of self-coaching.
Sure enough, the pieces of my life started snapping back together. Deeper clarity and self-awareness enhanced my efficiency and management skills. My strategic and operational thinking grew sharper. To my delight, I was connecting deeply with teammates. Better still, my healthier frame of mind inspired healthier behavior in employees, who in turn produced a healthier bottom line. Now, I’m actually grateful for that humbling trauma. It shook up my priorities and steered me down the road to enlightenment. Maybe you can turn my screw-ups into signposts that keep you out of the ditch.
You can’t guide others to greatness until you first clear the brush from your own path. Self-coaching will help you:
Fulfill your promise. There isn’t much wiggle room in professional sports contracts. Athletes must take care of themselves so they play at the top of their game. Likewise, you’re agreeing to produce your best effort when you accept a leadership role. If you don’t take care of yourself physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, you won’t have the stamina or know-how to lead your team to the top.
Coach your team. Leadership demands a passionate sense of purpose, clarity of mind, and stratospheric levels of integrity, energy and interpersonal skills. You can’t get there without self-coaching. As Dee Hock, founder of Visa International, said, “If you look to lead, invest at least 40% of your time managing yourself.” If you can’t manage to manage yourself, you’re doomed to inspire your troops about as well as Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss.
Build managerial muscle. The best coaches are also great managers. Always remember: Coach people, manage everything else that keeps an organization running smoothly — like strategic planning, financial analysis, and info technology.
Improve relationships. It’s an aphorism that bears repeating: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If you have more “issues” than National Geographic, you’re too mired in your own muck to care for the people under your watch. You’ll also remain mystified why people don’t pay you the respect you think you deserve.
Save time. Time management improves because you’re focused, organized and alert. Better interpersonal and decision-making skills also help dispatch more issues as they arise, preventing future course-correction headaches.
Sure, it’s tough to find time to do everything that coaching yourself entails, but avoiding it altogether will make life harder than it should be.
Keep your antennae up. Get in touch with your emotions, motivations and feelings. You’ll have a better sense of what makes people tick, and you’ll know what to ask and when and how to ask it. Approaching and comforting a struggling employee is an underrated skill — and difficult to pull off if you haven’t had training on how to deal with it.
Positively influence others. Think like a parent, even at work. Whether or not you realize it, your attitude and behavior seep through your entire company or department. If you’re cheerful and optimistic, your teammates are more likely to be upbeat and positive. If you’re moody and negative, you’ll have an office full of grouches.
Make work more enjoyable. Office life gets easier the harder you work at self-improvement. You start going with the flow instead of fighting the current.
As you get to know yourself better, you’ll interact more authentically with people throughout your life. You’ll think more clearly. You’ll laugh more. You’ll feel more caring and energized. You might just get that Zen feeling that life is unfolding exactly like it’s supposed to.
Enhance your people skills. Among the more valuable currencies in a team environment are superior organizational, management and people skills.
Master them, and you’ll respond to crises with the calmness and clarity of Sherlock Holmes.
All coaches need a playbook that spells out their championship strategy. You need a playbook, even for coaching yourself. It should start out by clarifying the life you were born to lead, then show you how to realize that vision by setting and reaching goals and treating yourself right.
Remember, the healthier you are, the healthier your business will be. ■
This article is one of a series from “The Big Book of Small Business” by Tom Gegax with Phil Bolsta. Copyright 2005, 2006 by Tom Gegax. Published by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers.
Best-selling author Tom Gegax, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Tires Plus stores, served as that company’s chairman and CEO for 24 years. By the time he sold the company in July 2000, it had mushroomed from a concept sketched on a restaurant napkin to a market leader with 150 upscale stores in 10 states and $200 million in revenue.
Thanks to Tom’s warm-hearted, tough-minded approach to management, and his team’s relentless focus on customer service, the company’s turnover rate ranked among the industry’s lowest, and its guest enthusiasm index reached 98%. He was named Modern Tire Dealer’s Tire Dealer of the Year in 1998 and a Midwest Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. magazine.
In 2000, Gegax founded Gegax Management Systems (www.gegax.com) to help growing companies raise profits and reduce stress through fast and affordable business management guidance.