Become a Self-Coaching Pro
When I was in my early 40s, I faced a tough decision.
I had been building a career as a leader with PepsiCo, which had 3 core divisions—beverages, snack foods (Frito-Lay), and restaurants (Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell). At the time, I was serving as president of KFC and had led the company through a turnaround by building an amazing team and improving our relationship with the franchisees.
Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise, then, when the chairman of PepsiCo, Roger Enrico, told me that he would like me to move over to Frito-Lay as president of the entire division. Frito-Lay was a much bigger division and packaged goods was more prestigious than restaurants so this was an opportunity almost anyone would jump at. I also had already held leadership positions in the other two divisions, and spending time in the third was a logical stepping stone to taking on the biggest leadership job at PepsiCo.
At many points in my career, I would have jumped at the opportunity. Instead, I turned it down, and it was possibly the best decision I ever made. If I hadn’t been able to coach myself through it, I might never have become the CEO of Yum! Brands, the greatest job I could imagine and that I was privileged to hold for 15 years.
In “Take Charge of You”, my new book with performance coach Jason Goldsmith, we explain that coaching of all kinds helps us set clear goals and then map a path of growth to achieve them. It helps us raise our heads and take an objective view of where we are and where we need to go next. It creates focus and intention, helping us make better decisions and achieve more and faster. Without that kind of focus, we can meander, stagnate, and let other people dictate where we end up.
Study after study has proven that coaching has a dramatic impact on our success. The problem is that very few of us have access to coaches. If we’re lucky, a manager or leader takes an interest in our growth or we’re given access to a coach at work, but that doesn’t happen for most people. There just aren’t enough good coaches to go around. And the good coaches for hire are often too expensive and in high demand for most people to get access.
If coaching matters so much, but is so hard to come by, what’s the solution? Become a pro at self-coaching. That’s what I did throughout my career, and it helped me make one tough decision after another on a path that brought me great opportunity and joy.
Self-coaching is a set of behaviors and tools that positively influence how we think, make choices, and take action. And because of that, it’s possibly the most vital skill for success. Here’s why.
It Creates a Cycle of Insight and Action
Self-coaching encompasses a set of habits that generate success again and again. Being a good self-coach means you’re better at uncovering insights about yourself and your opportunities, and more resilient and prone to action that helps you make progress. People who are good self-coaches rarely get stuck or stagnate for long. They find a way forward, and then they do it again.
The biggest hurdle most of us face in life is not knowing what to do, it’s actually doing what we know we should. There’s a big gap between insight and action, and what differentiates good self-coaches is that they understand the necessary steps to bridge that gap, how to break away from the comfort and safety of where they are now to do something transformative. Jason and I worked hard to create a framework in Take Charge of You that guides and nudges you to act on what you discover about how to build more joy in your life.
When making my decision about the Frito-Lay position, I analyzed it based on what I had learned about myself. The most important insight was that working in the restaurant industry brought me a whole lot of joy. I really loved it. I love food. I love the marketing process for restaurants. And I loved how often I got to connect with people on the front lines. Those insights allowed me to take smart action, beginning with the decision not to leave KFC and moving forward from there on the path that would bring me the most joy.
Employers Are Hungry for People Who Can Self-Coach
I think Roger Enrico respected my decision because I could be clear about what I wanted while also communicating my desire to keep growing and adapting. That’s what companies are looking for, now more than ever.
With the “Great Turnover” still underway (I think turnover is a better description than resignation), lots of managers and leaders are hiring and promoting to rebuild their teams. They’re especially looking for people who can grow in response to the rapidly changing business environment, who can be adaptive and agile. And they want people who can get up to speed quickly in the short-term and also succeed in the long-term. If you can show that you’re a good self-coach, you’ll prove you have the habits and mindset they’re looking for.
The Best Leaders Are Good Self-Coaches
The best leaders I know have all been great self-coaches because the core skills overlap: self-knowledge, a growth mindset, a focus on action that creates positive change, and of course, continuous improvement. It’s a path to both humility and confidence.
If you’re on the leadership track or want to be, you’re expected to be a good coach to the people on your team (it’s the key to being a great people leader or manager). Good coaching skills are good coaching skills, whether we’re applying them to ourselves or to others. Put your oxygen mask on first and you’ll be the coach others need you to be.
Put These Ideas Into Practice
Can you think of a time in your life when you coached yourself through a decision or opportunity? How did it turn out? Your life is too important to leave your personal growth and professional development up to chance, so take the time to learn from your previous successes as a self-coach.
Author: David Novak
David Novak is co-founder and former executive chairman of Yum! Brands. He is an expert on leadership and recognition culture. He is CEO of OGO Lead, a brand committed to creating a better world through better leaders.