Our family of four just got back from a ski vacation in Big Sky, Montana. Skiing out west has been a family tradition for many years, but this trip felt a little more special than usual: My daughter, Hannah, is a senior in high school, so when she goes off to college the kids won’t have the same vacation week anymore. So our thinking is that we just won’t do a ski trip again for at least five years.
When we got to Montana, Hannah announced that she wanted to take a ski lesson on the first day. This was only mildly surprising. Thanks to years of ski school, she’s the best skier in the family—beautiful form. But she hadn’t been on skis for a couple of years and wanted to get comfortable again. So that made sense.
After another day, though, Hannah told me that she wanted to sign up for another lesson. Now I was frankly puzzled. Was this really necessary? I honestly didn’t see the point, but I kept my mouth shut and decided to see what happened when Hannah signed up for a half-day group lesson one afternoon.
When we met up late in the day, Hannah couldn’t wait to tell me about her lesson. What luck! No one else showed up for the group lesson, so Hannah got a private lesson for the same price. Better still, it was a fantastic experience. “We just really clicked,” Hannah told me. Hannah had always hated skiing moguls, and she would shy away from deep powder. The instructor gave her specific, practical advice for tackling both, and she had not only handled some of the toughest trails on the mountain—she enjoyed them, too.
Of course, the success was a two-way street. “The instructor really loved working with me, too,” Hannah said. “Whenever he suggested trying a really tough trail, I just said, ‘Sure! Why not?’ I guess that not everyone is always up for whatever.”
It didn’t stop there. Hannah liked the instructor so much that she signed up again for another lesson the next afternoon. He insisted on meeting my wife and me afterward and talked about what a wonderful time they’d had. I think he actually wanted to set my daughter up with one of his sons! Obviously it was a real lovefest between a talented skiing instructor and a game student.
Sometimes when I meet some of our executive coaching clients here at Bates, I have the same reaction that I had when my daughter wanted to keep taking lessons. All of our coaching clients are extremely successful leaders who are already doing so many things well. So why are they signing up for coaching, going through our executive presence assessment, and attending our programs?
The answer is simple. Like my daughter on the mountain, they may be “good enough” in many ways. But they have the humility to know that they could be better and the desire to tackle greater challenges with that much more skill and confidence.
As you rise in the ranks as an executive, the terrain gets steeper. When it comes to business imperatives, the moguls get bigger, and the powder may get knee deep; a stumble or fall has much greater consequences.
Under the circumstances, reaching out for expert assistance is not a sign of weakness. Quite the opposite: Getting coaching tells your team that you’re determined to keep improving until you reach the summit.