From Player to Coach

This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 8: Confidence, subscribe and buy here

You weren’t ready.”

That’s what my wife said to me when I launched Productivityist Coaching, the latest addition to Productivityist. Within a couple of hours of revealing that I was going to start taking on coaching clients in one-hour sessions and four-hour programs, I had bookings scheduled. I was both elated and terrified.

The elation came across in my first words to my wife when I saw what was happening.

“I should’ve done this a long time ago.”

“You weren’t ready yet,” she replied.

I didn’t quite know what she meant by that. I mean, I’ve been writing and speaking about productivity for over seven years. I know a lot about the space, and I’m considered a specialist in my field. I’ve been doing this for a long time. Surely instead of simply writing books and doing podcasts to reach people outside of my immediate area, I should’ve just been coaching? I put this to my wife, who just smiled.

“Oh, I know that. I don’t mean that you weren’t ready in terms of experience. You’ve got that in spades. What I meant was that you weren’t confident enough to coach until now.”

She was absolutely right.

Being a Player

For several years I’ve been a player in the productivity game. I’ve been able to get better along the way, and have even become a “go to” person in the process. Much like a professional athlete, I’ve gone through the growing pains of getting used to playing in the major leagues. Then I’ve learned to thrive in the majors. I’ve watched new players come along too. Some have really delivered the goods time and time again while others have decided the game isn’t for them and to go play something else. I’ve stuck it out. While I’m not a grizzled veteran yet, I’m a seasoned player trying to follow the famous quote that hockey legend Wayne Gretzky personified:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

By approaching my work in that fashion, I’ve gotten even better at it. I’m able to experiment and tweak more than some and gain a better understanding of my field as a result. But even with all that in my favor, it didn’t mean I was going to be a great coach – or even a good one.

Being a Coach

After Wayne Gretzky retired, his number 99 was retired league-wide. No one in the NHL can wear that number again – no matter what team they play for. He dominated the best hockey league in the world. But when he transitioned from player to coach in the top league on the planet, the results were very different.

As an NHL coach, he posted a win/loss record of 143-161-24 during his tenure as a coach for the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes. For all the success and accolades he received as a player, he couldn’t translate that to the coaching ranks.

When I started to think about adding coaching to my product line at Productivityist, I was worried that the same fate would befall me. Fear-based thoughts started swirling around in my head:

What if I’m not good enough to do this thing one-on-one? What if I screw up?

The thoughts got worse as they spent time in my mind and it had a paralyzing effect on more than just making this particular decision; It started to affect all of my work efforts in some form or another. I was working more slowly; I was apprehensive about making any sort of app recommendation or workflow adjustment; I was spending more time moving around than moving forward.

That’s when I decided to attack the thoughts head-on.

I wrote down all of my thoughts related to adding coaching to my list of ongoing projects. Then I reached out to trusted advisors (colleagues, friends, long-time readers, etc.) to get a feel for what their thoughts were on the matter. As expected, they were supportive of me starting up a coaching aspect to my business. The consensus was that it “just made sense.” It was one of the easiest ways to evolve Productivityist into something more.

It was time.

But before I committed to unveiling my new offering to the world, I needed one final validation. This quote sparked that validation:

I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing.” – Phil Jackson, legendary basketball coach

I started to think about what this revered coach had said. Ultimately, I needed to believe in myself and what I could bring to the table in order to even think about coaching in the proper context. I reflected on my coaching credentials:

1. I have a body of work that’s out there for all to see and which has garnered me some praise as well.
2. I’ve been professionally published and my books have resonated with a lot of people.
3. I co-host a successful podcast on a successful podcast network.
4. I’ve received some press over the years and have appeared in some pretty well-known publications (both online and print).
5. I’ve been earning a living as a productivity specialist for several years.

There was no way that I’d have been able to realize all of those things had I not been able to deliver the goods. By adding Productivityist Coaching to the mix, I was basically shifting things from a one-to-many delivery method that offered some direct access to me to a one-to-one model that offered absolute and exclusive direct access to me.

Then I remembered what it was like to deliver a workshop or talk onstage – live – in front of an audience. I remembered the instant feedback from the crowd and how much I enjoy and value that. I remembered the feeling I had when I walked on stage and the feeling I had just after leaving the stage. I remembered the conversations I had with people who were in that audience afterward, and how much I loved having that face-to-face interaction. I remembered that it felt great, even when I knew I needed to get even better the next time around.

I decided that I’d approach coaching the same way. I’d get to help people directly and in a way that could have an even greater impact – I’d add value from the start and it would get even better with every single session.

Being Confident

So what changed between then and now? Why am I ready to jump into coaching with both feet now whereas there was no way I would even dip my toe into those waters before? I really wasn’t ready.

Sure, I had the talent and the basic credentials a few years back, but it took the broader experience of playing the game for a bit longer to cultivate the level of self-belief that enabled me to step forward confidently into adding a coaching model to my business. Once that confidence usurped the fear and doubt I had in launching, I was really ready to deliver.

It’s too early to say if I’ll be a coach with the success rate of Wayne Gretzky or the success rate of Phil Jackson. I’m still very much a player, but coaching will test and stretch me in new ways. What I do know is that I can help people because I’ve done so in the past. I also know I can effect change in the lives of others through coaching that is more difficult to do through a book or a blog post.

Starting my coaching venture wasn’t a decision that I made overnight. It took years of getting better, of learning to “skate to where the puck is going to be and not where it has been.” It took the effort to build up the confidence I have to move forward with this new aspect of my work. And it will take even more effort to become a coach more like Phil Jackson and less like Wayne Gretzky.

It won’t be easy – it never is. But it will be rewarding.