Destiny is not a matter of chance, but of choice. Not something to wish for, but to attain — William Jennings Bryan
I enjoy every moment that I can work with top talent, because I like to see people develop their capabilities and improve their performance over and over again. On the contrary, it can upset me when I see people with potential wasting their time and resources on unimportant or irrelevant activities.
Every single human being has a natural aptitude or skill that can make them a top talent. Some of us have more than one talent. The trick is to find it. That takes time, effort and dedication. We all have our dreams about who we want to be and what we want to achieve. A junior consultant who wants to become a managing partner in a consulting firm. A basketball player who wants to be a point guard in an NBA team. Or a model who has the ambition to become a Victoria Secret’s Angel. We all have our dreams.
It is not a given that your dream is aligned with your talent. When you follow your dream the experiences you face will tell you whether you have an innate talent for it or not, and more importantly, if you are passionate about it. Potential will only surface and morph into talent, when your heart beats faster when you think about it and truly commit. It will be those actions where time flies by without you noticing it, because you enjoy doing it so much. If that’s not the case, the experience is telling you that you still have not found what you are looking for. In that case, don’t give up, just keep exploring.
Dreams oftentimes don’t materialize, because the person either does not have the skills or if they do, lacks the willpower to persevere and to make things happen. If they do manifest their dream, many of them start cruising and ignore the fact that you have to sustain what you have achieved by continual investments. Having potential is one thing, bringing it to fruition and keeping it up is another. It never stops.
Top talented professionals have a coach who helps them grow. In the early nineties, Sir John Whitmore wrote the book ‘buy robaxin 750’ that overtime became a standard in the field of coaching. The core concept of the book is the GROW model. It is about goal-setting and problem-solving.
You start with the future state in mind and set your Goals. The next step is to get a deep understanding of where you are now or in other words becoming aware of the Reality of the day. The third step is to understand the context and the path to the end state. You do that by defining a number of Options. The last step is about developing an action oriented plan that gets you to where you want to be. In the model it is called the Way forward. Four simple steps that can be very effective and help you to develop your potential.
The GROW model is a great instrument for the top talent and coach to draw a baseline. It is a very helpful steppingstone to start building a successful career path. However it is not enough. A valuable coach who can really unlock and extend talent is able to push you forward repeatedly by applying specific and meaningful tactics.
What will an elite coach do with top talent?
Keeping you off balance – A top talent who is locked up in his or her comfort zone may be able to grow with small steps, but that is not enough in an increasingly competitive and volatile environment. An elite coach will keep you off and on balance. It is an intermittent process such as a flash light. The coach will expose you to new experiences, makes you feel comfortable, and push you forward again just when you hit the right level. It is the coach who knows what that level is based on his knowledge and experience of the profession. Think about a tightrope dancer who always needs to be in balance to get to the other side. His coach may extend the rope, lift the rope, takeaway the balance pole or introduce external conditions like wind, noise or light.
Helping you to focus when to perform – For top talent to perform in the moment, one of the most important factors is focus. Any kind of distraction can be a game changer. This is oftentimes more a mental process than the actual practice itself. Most professional soccer players know how to shoot a penalty kick. When you watch how they do that on a training, you will be amazed how creative they are and how easy they score. But in the game it is different. The thousands of spectators who raise the energy level, the importance of the goal for the team and numerous other external factors, determine success. A focused player knows how to deal with such a situation. Many of them follow a special routine that works for them. The role of the elite coach is to work with the top talent on improving the mental process and on routines that are effective.
Guiding you when dealing with pressure – When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. You can be the most talented professional, but if you cannot deal with pressure, you will never make it to the top. Pressure is an external force and has nothing to do with factors that you can influence. You cannot change the way spectators behave during a game. You cannot change the type of questions customers ask when you give that final presentation that makes or breaks a deal. Elite coaches prepare you for these situations by giving you guidance. There are a few tactics to deal with pressure. One of them is to stay aware of the bigger picture by putting things in perspective. That one moment may count, but there is always the next one. As long as you believe and learn, you will improve and nail it the next time. Another tactic is to visualize ahead of the event what pressure moments you can encounter and strategize a response. If possible, you can practice it so you are ready for it when it comes.
Assisting with sharpening your goals – No goals, no guts, no glory. It’s that simple. Top talented professionals know exactly what they want and have some idea how to get there. The elite coach helps you to sharpen your goals by asking the right questions that force you to dig deep. Your goals need to become more precise overtime. The coach can help you build a hierarchy of goals that you need to achieve to ultimately materialize your dream. Think-Change-Achieve is a mantra that I am using all the time. The think step is about defining your goals. It is also about creating awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as key environmental conditions. To ultimately achieve your goals, you have got to change. That’s where your elite coach steps in to help you. The coach will create development plans that are tailored to your needs. He will put the plan in motion and keeps a close eye on your progress. He will make adjustments to your plan as required. But foremost he will continuously push you to the edge on every single step to make you better.
Helping you by removing obstacles – There will be much more obstacles on the path to victory than the top talent ever expected. Although the majority of them can be planned and prepared for, it will be the ones that came out of nowhere that have the largest impact. In such a situation, the elite coach can help you dealing with the setback and with carving out a recovery plan. The coach can bring a number of instant resolutions that he may have applied before with other talent. It’s one of those moments where the experience from a seasoned expert like a coach, has the most value for a top talent to keep going strong.
Coaching top talent is one of the most rewarding activities if you want to share knowledge and experience with professionals who are ‘hungry’ to go to the next level and the next. There are a number of books about coaching that I have enjoyed reading over the last years and can recommend if you want to get more acquainted with coaching.
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In each of these books there is a recurring theme that speaks about the ultimate force behind every top talent, no matter what discipline, no matter what potential, no matter what background or where you are on earth. It is that fire in your belly that makes you so incredibly happy when you do a particular activity that keeps you going. It is an intense energy to succeed in becoming the best in what you like the most. When you have experienced that unique moment, you are on the right path and have opened the door to become a world-class talent.
Bas de Baat
Program Manager and Coach