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My coach may have it tougher than Amélie Mauresmo

20 June 2014

When was the last time you spotted somebody with something that made you think “Ah! If I had one of those, I could do my job even better than I do it now?”

That happened to me last week when Andy Murray signed a new tennis coach.

He picked Amélie Mauresmo, who is not only female but French. But the really important thing about her is neither of those – what counts is that she is a very good tennis player who persisted both physically and mentally until she won a major grass tournament.

And Mr Murray has hired her to help him do what he already does better than almost anyone in the world, even better.

It made me reflect on my own experience, because recently I, too, hired a coach, who is female but not French. I didn’t do it willingly, although I know a lot of life, career, performance coaches, and have sponsored several employees through the excellent course at Henley.

I always thought they were for other people – top tennis players, for instance, or the teenage boys whose parents engage my husband to ensure their cricket will meet the selectors’ standards at Eton or Harrow.

But me? I’ve been doing what I do at work for 14 years now, and I think I have honed my skills to a reasonable standard. Do I really need a coach?

My non-executive director thought I did and even went so far as to select one for me. In my NED’s view, the company could have been performing even better than it already was if its chief executive, ie me, had been getting the most out of her time, and challenging her own decisions. I am now 52, she pointed out, and as my NED and outside shareholder she wanted me performing at the top of my game for many years to come.

But at the pace I was going, I would probably have imploded. I needed to work out how I could be even more effective as a business leader, but without killing myself in the process. So a coach was engaged, and I gritted my teeth and went to my appointed sessions.

And you know what? I am starting to see their value. Asking me to analyse what I do already, how I make decisions, what the outcome is, how it could have been even better, has made me reflect on how I go about almost everything I do – from work to my (limited) time at home. Coaches are there to help you see what you do, and then change how you do things. When could I stop my coach, I asked my NED? When things have changed, she said.

That’s the other thing I have realised about coaches. They are not appointed as advisers for life, like your lawyer or accountant. They are there to help you effect change, and then, when you have done that, you don’t need them any more until the next time.

Mr Murray and Ms Mauresmo have agreed to do a month’s trial to see how they get on.

Who has the bigger challenge? Almost immediately after appointing Ms Mauresmo, Mr Murray’s 19-match winning streak on grass came to an end with defeat by Radek Stepanek at Queen’s Club, the Scot’s first defeat on grass since the 2012 Wimbledon final against Roger Federer.

And me? We are starting to see some change. But as I never played as well as Mr Murray to start with, I suspect I have even more work to do than him.

Mrs Moneypenny's top tips for hiring a business coach

  • You are never too good for coaching – proper coaching makes good business leaders better and great ones greater

  • Think only tennis players need coaches? US surgeon Atul Gawande’s New Yorker article on coaches for teachers, doctors and opera singers will put you right

  • You know you need a coach when your career or your business has plateaued

  • Interview three coaches before choosing one – it’s a vital appointment

  • Coaches are not for life, but they can be for Christmas – think of giving someone some coaching sessions as a present

  • Want to be a coach? Get accredited.


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