Marketing Turnaround - 2017


Creating Champions

By Gail Z. Martin

Athletes don't make it to the national level without good coaches. Coaches advise, develop training plans, assess the competition, refine performance, and encourage athletes to get past performance plateaus, personal challenges, and life's rough spots. We wouldn't expect a top athlete to succeed without a coach, so why do entrepreneurs believe we can do it alone?

Coaching can take all kinds of forms for entrepreneurs. Life coaches help us figure out what we want to do for our Fresh Start Success. Success coaches help us get over limiting beliefs and behaviors. Media coaches help us look good in front of the cameras. Financial and systems coaches help us put together accounting and back office practices that work. Human resource and management coaches teach entrepreneurs—who are usually subject-matter experts—how to be a good boss and manage a company. As marketing consultants/coaches, we help entrepreneurs see and seize opportunities to gain visibility and translate that into a stream of new clients. The bottom line is, regardless of our individual competencies, there is always more to learn—we all need coaching of one kind or another.

When you're making your Fresh Start Success, don't try to go it alone. If Olympic athletes need coaches, even though they're the best in the world at what they do, then maybe you could benefit from experienced counsel, too. Don't let your ego get in the way of finding the help you need to reach peak performance.

Coaching for Results

Lauren wanted to be a teacher. She went to university to study teaching and discovered that she hated being in the classroom. “That was a huge eye-opener," Lauren says. “I really gained respect for the teachers in university." From the time she was seven years old until she was nineteen, Lauren was a competitive rhythmic gymnast, competing for Canada internationally in events that included World Championships. She was a member of the Canadian National Team for rhythmic gymnastics and eventually became National Team Coach.

Falling back on her experience as an athlete, Lauren refocused her teaching background and trained to be a coach. After university, she joined a dance company, but it didn't satisfy her love of gymnastics, so at age twenty-three, she began coaching full-time, then became one of Canada's national coaches. “It hasn't been about the job; it's been about the higher purpose," Lauren says.

As much as Lauren loved coaching and rhythmic gymnastics, she became disillusioned with the sport in 1991. Behind-the-scenes changes she saw at the World Championships were not aligned with her core values, and Lauren quit the sport again in 1997. Her first Fresh Start Success began when she went to work for her husband, a former New York City professional dancer, who ran a post-secondary college for musical theater students. For sixteen years, Lauren was the managing director of Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts. She taught herself how to use a computer and poured her passion into the business, which grew from $300,000 in revenue to $1.5 million in ten years with new programs that she created. She was a catalyst for infrastructure changes that supported such rapid growth and honed her skills on the job even without a formal degree in business.

Lauren realized she needed to reinvent herself again because it became clear that although she was doing amazing work and putting in a lot of hours, she was supporting her husband's dream, not her own dream. She had tried to make the school her dream, but it wasn't where her true passion lay. Lauren realized that she needed to make a change for herself.

“I was caught up in the cult of being the 'ideal worker,' working insanely hard to prove that I was smart and accomplished, and the 'ideal mother'—trying to prove that I was a supermom," Lauren recalls. “So I 'demoted' myself to a smaller role. But I was still super goal-oriented and a perfectionist, and pretty soon, I realized I was building myself another new, huge role with the school even though it wasn't my passion." Lauren did some soul searching and looked inward to listen to herself. She paid attention to her conversations with people, looking for direction.

As Lauren listened to what themes kept coming up in conversation, she heard people asking for a life coach. Coaching was in Lauren's blood, and she had a track record working with gymnasts, students, and the faculty at the school. Still, it took her four years to decide to go back into coaching—this time, as a life and leadership coach. Lauren did her research, hired a coach for herself, and went back to school. As an athlete and now as an adult, Lauren recognized that her inner dialogue was holding her back. “I had to silence the negative mind chatter and my doubts about being too old to start over, since I was already forty-nine," she says.

“I realized that the gremlins in my head are full of shit," Lauren adds. “Getting to the point where I could acknowledge that was a profound way to step into awareness. I was in my own way with disempowering thoughts, doubts about my ability, and crippling perfectionism. It was holding me back." She also learned to give herself permission to reinvent her career. “It was my turn," Lauren recalls. “For sixteen years, I had supported my husband's dream, and now he was supportive of me." Her family was very supportive of Lauren's reinvention, even though it meant a shift away from the family business. Some people were judgmental and made her second guess herself. Prevailing against the naysayers helped Lauren become more determined and grounded.

Immersing herself in learning went well. Lauren felt like she was starting late, and that sense of catching up from behind was a motivator to keep her focused and driven. She was still working full-time while she trained to be a coach but quit her job at the school when her coaching client roster grew to where it was too much to handle both.

Lauren attended The Coaches Training Institute and found their programs to have great synergy with her vision for the future. Then she dreamed up a new life that could provide her with autonomy, allow her to set her own hours, and work at a less compulsive pace. She started providing life and leadership coaching programs of her own in 2013 as The Cartwheel Coach. “Sometimes, I regret that it took me four years to decide what to do," Lauren says. “But then I realized I needed that time to gain the wisdom to make the shift successfully."

Championship-level gymnastics—as an athlete and a coach—required visualization, goal-setting, forward-thinking, —all skills that Lauren brings into her work now. “I'm curious about the person in front of me, and I am passionate about supporting them to reach a greater purpose and be their best."

Two years into coaching, Lauren is still early in her new career. She considers herself successful, since she is making a living from her coaching practice and earning as much money as when she was at the school. “I'm always setting my goals for something bigger and greater," Lauren says. “But the real success for me was in taking the risk to jump without a net and trusting that I was going to be fine. I've learned that success is waking up and feeling fulfilled, having less stress-filled days (and nights), and knowing that I have the resilience to live through change."

Before the self-discovery work she did as part of her preparation for coaching, Lauren would have said she was a Type A personality. “I was driven and controlling, and hiding a lot, distanced from my emotions. I knew people were depending on me, and I covered up my fear with arrogance. I had also been a huge people-pleaser, and I needed to deal with that." Lauren had not finished her university degree because she got an offer from a dance company and always felt “not enough" because she hadn't graduated. Going back to school and getting certified as a coach let her lay that concern to rest. “I know now, though, that I don't need a degree to define me," Lauren says. She furthered her education by attending Leadership Development Training, learning how to have an impact in the world at large. “My goal now is to learn to slow down, center myself, and find a new way of being present in the moment. I used to be stuck in fear and regret. Now, I'm mindful of how I show up," Lauren adds.

The Take-Away

When you look at your career, can you see a central theme that has transcended your individual jobs? Lauren was a teacher, and then a gymnastics coach, and then part of the management team at a performing arts school, and finally a life coach—roles that all centered around educating and mentoring. As different periods in her life unfolded, her central theme was reimagined, but it always remained a part of what gave her purpose and satisfaction.

As you're planning your own Fresh Start Success, realize that the answer to the question of what to do next might be closer than you think. Look for the central themes in your work history, and then look for other jobs that emphasize those same aspects. Don't get hung up on titles—pay attention to what the meat of the actual job entails. You might find that a new career that seems radically different from your past on the surface shares essential common threads at its heart.

Excerpted from Fresh Start Success: Reinvent Your Work, Reimagine Your Life and Reignite Your Passion