Can coaches turn losers into winners? Can anyone?

Some of my venture capital friends tell me that coaching isn't something they want for the CEOs in the companies they fund. One told me, "If I have a CEO that needs coaching, he is the wrong CEO and should be replaced."

Another said, "Winners tend to always win. Losers tend to always lose. I work with winners, and that's why I win."

This raises the question: Can people change at all? Can people with a losing track record turn their careers around and become winners? How big a leap can a person make from where he or she is?

I am much more optimistic than the people quoted above.

For instance, when I was growing up, a guy named Paul Fireman worked out at our local Y. My dad and his friends were friends with him. Paul was a shoe salesman. He always had ideas for new businesses. My dad and his friends got a kick out of his ideas, and never took him too seriously. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Paul bought a small UK company called Reebok. A year or two later, I looked at the company's annual report and saw he was earning $11 million a year.

In the Center for Executive Coaching, I have seen people making $80,000 start to make over $1 million. I have seen non-profit coaches charging $100 per hour start earning $100,000 per client.

In Hollywood, screenwriters tend to fail up. That is, they get hired to write a screenplay, it bombs, but then — instead of getting fired or having a bad reputation — they get hired by someone else for more money. Eventually, if their writing spawns a hit, they make it to the inner circle.

I am working with an entrepreneur now who recently had a huge failure with a company he took public. He raised tons of money, and pretty much lost it all. Is he a loser? Not at all. He is now starting up a new company. This time, thanks to the connections he made last time, he has an incredibly powerful team of advisers. He has also learned a bunch of lessons about the right ways to grow and capitalize a new venture.

So people can definitely turn themselves around. Can coaches help? Absolutely.

I've worked with a number of managers and executives at risk of losing their jobs. They all had a serious behavioral blind spot that was derailing their careers. Working with me, they became aware of the blind spot and made immediate changes that we were able to make last, thanks to the coaching process.

I have also worked with clients who make big improvements simply by having a coach, someone who is there to support them in good times and bad. Sometimes, coaches are the only supporters someone has, and it gives them the strength and courage to keep moving forward.

It doesn't happen all the time. Some people just don't want to try new perceptions, behaviors, or ways of relating to others — no matter how many tricks the coach has up his or her sleeves. Others simply don't have the natural talent, like the 90-pounder who wants to be a heavyweight fighter.

Overall though, I think that we live in a world of constant possibility. The good can get better. The great can get greater. And yes, losers can turn into winners. Coaches can make a huge difference by supporting progress — in good times and bad.

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