No pain, no gain.

Anyone who has broken a bone or torn a tendon knows the pain of physical therapy and the corresponding reward of healing. Anyone who has worked with a therapist to cure psychological trauma knows how frightening facing your fears can be.

Done well, a therapeutic process is a challenge, not a cake walk.

But oh, how much there is to gain…

In the professional world, skilled performers can get far on their own merits, maybe even far enough to coast and be comfortable. But to really get to the next level, to “punch above your weight” and go places you didn’t think possible, that requires more than just native skill.

Like an excellent physical therapist, an executive coach can help push beyond your limits and expand your range of motion.

Mentors and coaches

“I have a great mentor in the office, someone who gets me, do I really need a coach as well?”

A good mentor is worth more than their weight in gold. A good mentor has been there before, provides keen guidance, a sympathetic ear, and suggests smart paths you can take to unlock more rewards.

Studies show having a mentor and other positive role models in a professional environment boosts retention of key employees and leads to greater workplace satisfaction, for both the mentors and the mentees.

But a mentor, valuable as she may be, does not provide the same value as an executive coach.

Action, not words

A good coach is focused entirely on you, on taking you to places you want to go. A good coach is highly goal oriented, encouraging her student to take tangible action in pursuit of growth.

This is not “talk therapy,” this is “plan of action.”

When I first work with a new client, they are sometimes surprised at how much “homework” they have, real-world assignments that move them out of their comfort zone. A rising star who is intimated by public speaking may be tasked with volunteering for a presentation to a community group. A smart but shy staffer might need to demonstrate thought leadership by publishing a blog on LinkedIn, for all the world to see.

These kind of activities may be discomforting at first, but as I work with my clients, these activities soon become tolerable and as confidence levels rise, even pleasurable.

The value of accountability

One client of mine, the COO of a medium-sized organization, was comfortable where she was but no longer challenged. She wanted to move on to a larger company but felt stagnant, unable to make the connections needed to activate an opportunity, and finding herself becoming strangely risk averse as she considered her next move, which was unlike her.

For years, she never pushed herself because there was no one there to push her. Not her family, not her staff. She ran the organization, no one told her what to do. Her professional choices made sense for the organization, and that trust meant deference.

She told me, “Vanessa until you came along, I had no one to be accountable to. Sure, I had a boss and we had a board, but things were great for the company and still, no one was there for me. Until I started working with you…It wasn’t easy but you proved to me how valuable it is to be pushed to take action.”

I’ll never forget that feedback.

Scared to get out of your comfort zone? Don’t be. I’m right here with you and remember: no pain, no gain