The search starts with identifying five basic characteristics of a great coach:

  1. The ability to listen. It was Stephen Covey who coined the phrase “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey understood that most people listen with the intent to reply. We’re all so caught up in our own worlds, problems, and agendas that we don’t actually listen to other people. We just let them talk for a few minutes before it’s our own turn to talk. Exceptional coaches have mastered the skill of listening and are truly engaged in what you are saying; and in hearing and understanding the ideas, aspirations, concerns, and fears that define you. They engage in what Covey calls “empathetic listening,” or the willingness to get inside your frame of reference. This includes listening not only to the words you say, but also seeing the body language, feeling the emotion, sensing the motivation behind the message. Look for a coach who can listen to understand, help to validate your real priorities in life, and then assist you in defining your goals.
  2. The understanding that goals must have deadlines. Deadlines get your creative juices flowing and motivate you to action. Have you ever planned to go away on vacation and two days before your scheduled departure, you suddenly sense the tasks that have to get done? It is because of the deadline that your activity increases and things begin to happen. You then enjoy your vacation that much more knowing that you’ve accomplished what you needed to do before setting off. Coaches can help you set deadlines so you can achieve milestones associated with your goals, and celebrate along the way.
  3. The ability to create a game plan and execute it. A great coach will take the goals you set for yourself and teach you steps to achieve them. Even big projects can be broken down into bite-size pieces, the “daily disciplines” of success, as some call them. A great coach also can help you realize the consequences of not following through on assignments and actions necessary to reach goals.
  4. The ability to motivate and inspire. Look for a coach who can provide ongoing motivation and inspiration to you. Reaching ambitious goals is not easy and the setbacks can be discouraging or even disabling, undermining your ability to get up and start again. A great coach will help you anticipate problems, learn from them, and understand that it’s not the problem but how you react to it that is really the barrier to success. Through sharing their life experiences, perspectives, and belief in you, great coaches will inspire you to move on through the challenges you encounter, even anticipating the next one and how you will tackle it even more successfully.
  5. The habit of accountability. Great coaches provide accountability. They will hold you to your commitments and to the standards of excellence that you have set for yourself. They will help you evaluate your progress, pushing you harder when you need to be pushed and acknowledging your accomplishments when you surpass a milestone.

Source: Adapted from Your First Year in Real Estate (Prima Lifestyles, 2001) by Dirk Zeller

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