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Practice Makes Progress: Getting the Most out of Coaching on the Path to Mastery

Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of achievement
Are but the experiences of time.

– An ancient Sanskrit poem

What do the words of this ancient poem evoke for you? What does it mean to really show up for life (both at work and beyond) with such presence and intention?

I’ll never forget something my undergraduate advisor told me soon after I declared my major and became one of her advisees: “The quality and impact of your university education hinges most on what you choose to make of it. In the long run this matters more than anything, including school pedigree. You will get out of this experience what you choose to put into it.” 

That nugget of wisdom, which can be applied to so many aspects of life, has stuck with me over the years. For one thing, it speaks to personal agency–the idea that we can control our actions and reactions even in the face of circumstances beyond our control. It’s a powerful way to move through the world and a common theme that shows up again and again in my coaching. 

And this bit of timeless wisdom–that the value of our learning opportunities is impacted by what we choose to make of them–certainly applies to the impact clients can experience through any coaching engagement.

In today’s episode, I had the pleasure of talking with Steph Yiu, Chief Customer Officer at WordPress VIP and a leader at Automattic. Steph is someone who, in my opinion, has found ways to maximize the value and impact of a host of coaching experiences, both for herself and the teams she leads. She embodies that bit of wisdom my university advisor shared with me years ago. 

In our conversation, Steph talks about how important it is for leaders to have a toolkit of approaches and frameworks, and she makes reference to a number of tools that have been helpful for her: 

Having these sorts of tools and frameworks at their disposal helps leaders build a common language and set of mental models around which the team can align and coordinate action. They can help you go from feeling stuck in uncertainty to taking wise first steps. 

One thing that stood out to me as a differentiator in Steph’s approach, though, beyond having a toolkit, is the fact that she has chosen to approach leadership as a practice field. She’s been willing to try things, and perhaps even do them imperfectly for a while, on the path to mastery. As she says in the episode, “You need to be prepared to invest in coaching. You don’t just show up and the coach gives you a bunch of stuff and suddenly you’re a better leader. It’s really that true investment in that conversation–being open and vulnerable and willing to explore what’s working, what’s not, and challenging your own assumptions. (That is) how you get a ton of leadership benefit, acceleration, and growth.” 

Little by little, rep by rep, practice leads to mastery, and it was awesome to hear Steph share about how leading several rounds of major reorgs has allowed her to learn what to expect when leading teams through big changes, apply change management frameworks with greater efficacy, and generally move quicker and more efficiently (even though transitions are rarely easy!). 

I believe we never stop growing, and therefore we never outgrow the need for helpers. At the same time, as coaches, we ultimately want to be supporting our clients toward more and more self-sufficiency. Steph is a great example of a leader who has taken responsibility for her own growth through a commitment to always be learning and practicing. As coaches, we love to see this–it’s a big part of what makes this work so rewarding. 

P.S. Are you curious about how coaching can help your team level up? Do any of these areas strike a chord? 

  • Adopting high-performance communication skills
  • Developing complexity fitness–Embracing complexity as your ally in a constantly changing environment
  • Navigating transitions with greater efficiency and less thrash
  • Establishing effective group norms for better collaboration and better outcomes 

If so please feel free to get in touch! You can always email me directly or easily schedule a time to talk to a member of our coaching staff. 


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