It has been almost 20 months since I made the decision to start out on my own as a Leadership and Personal Development coach. It began with a change in my employment status, as the organization I had worked with for over 19 years decided to make a change. I made the decision to move up my long-range plan to become a coach by about ten years. So what has been the biggest thing I’ve had to learn over the past 20 months? Easy – patience!
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ― Aristotle
Patience is a funny thing. We talk about the need for patience, to allow for time to pass. The Oxford dictionary defines patience as: The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. It’s the “anxious” part that is especially challenging for me. It really is as Aristotle stated, “Patience is bitter”. The tough part is waiting for the “sweet fruit”.
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
In my previous roles as a sales professional it was all about closing the deal. Certainly there were specific steps to take to close a deal — with the last organization I sold for it was a prescribed, step-by-step approach ending with what is called a “one call close”. In other words, you were expected to close the sale before you left the business premises. There are services or products that require a long sales cycle – the time it takes from an initial contact to closing the sale – but that was never my personal experience. All the sales positions I had held up until this point had involved very short sales cycles. And therein lies my current challenge. When I began my coaching journey, a colleague told me that in his 20-odd years of coaching in the Okanagan Valley (where we both live), his experience has been that the average sales cycle is 16 to 18 months! Going from experiencing an almost immediate close to having to wait through a 16 month process was, well… Knowing it and living it are two different things.
“Why is patience so important? Because it makes us pay attention.” ― Paulo Coelho
I have half-jokingly told many people that my biggest challenge over the past 20 months has been to learn patience, and knowing that I’m really not there — I’m still a “work in progress”. What I have learned is that patience means being fully aware of my goals, my targets and my business plan. All these have a component that specifies a time line for success. Achieving success in this context is about process, taking actions and following a plan. It also speaks to “sticking to the process”, not being distracted by or grabbing for that “shiny new thing” that suddenly appears. It also means being present in everything I do. Making sure that I am taking advantage and being aware of what I can control and not getting tied up in things I can’t. Finally, as Paulo Coelho stated, patience “makes us pay attention”. It makes us evaluate what we are doing and why. It forces us to make sure that we are not just spinning our wheels and that the actions we take each day have the potential to bear fruit. Maybe more importantly, it forces us to re-evaluate when things are not bearing fruit, and modify and adjust the current plan of action.
John Whitehead, coaches individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.
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