Have you ever met a wildly successful person and wonder, "why them?" What about them and their path yielded that level of success? It may be easy to chalk it up to luck, great timing or a good product, but is that true?

In speaking with hundreds of highly-accomplished individuals, there's one common denominator that most have, and that is an executive business coach or mentor -- someone that provides a unique perspective that opens up a world of possibilities that were not previously visible.

What if the difference between a predictable outcome and uncharted performance lies in a masterful coach?

As we discussed in the Unmessable show, Will Herman, author of The Startup Playbook and five-time serial entrepreneur who brought two companies public and generated over three quarters of a billion dollars in exits, credits a large part of his success to a former mentor, who, for several years, patiently worked with him to gain insights on the effectiveness of his leadership approach.

It was through this outside point-of-view that Herman was able to master his own leadership style, which helped him build billions of dollars in shareholder value.

Herman articulates that these three benefits, derived from him being coached, allowed him to up his game in a real measurable way:

Playback events to surface insights.

The vast majority of star athletes may not have been as successful without a masterful coach by their side, and just as they may rely on playbacks to determine areas of weakness or blind spots, a coach will act as a mirror and help you realize performance improvements.

Herman recounts that his authoritarian, brash and confrontational leadership style at his first company could and should have been his and likely the business' downfall. After one particularly difficult meeting where Herman was argumentative and combative, his mentor asked the simple question, "what do you think everyone took from that meeting?" Herman was convinced that he got the point across effectively when his mentor showed that quite the opposite had happened. At that moment, Herman began to understand the impact of his behavior had as a leader and acknowledged that it would have been difficult for him to have seen this himself.

Have an independent sounding board.

Herman met with his mentor every Friday to discuss what happened during the week. Herman put everything on the table and his coach was patient, but not afraid to be critical. "I learned so much in those sessions," said Herman. "There was no judgment just guidance."

Being in a position of leadership can often be a lonely road, but having strategically crafted discussions in a safe environment with someone that is committed to your success will motivate you, provide reassurance and bring greater visibility.

Be held accountable.

As Herman's leadership improved, his coach held him increasingly more accountable. It came to a point where ahead of his actions, Herman would anticipate feedback in those Friday meetings and would adjust his approach before acting.

Being the boss comes with fun perks, one of which is autonomy, but that can be a drawback. A coach will hold you accountable when you feel like the only person to answer to is yourself, especially for those deep-rooted things you want to realize for yourself, but too often put on the back burner. 

Having a coach seems logical, right? Now, the tougher part is finding the right coach for you. Herman naturally fell into this relationship, and if you can find the same type of arrangement, that's great. But this is not very likely, so here's what to look for.

Find an executive business coach who's different from you.

If you're serious about moving into uncharted performance, don't fall into the trap of choosing a coach that mirrors your own personality. You'll want to find one with a different way of thinking who can help challenge and propel you toward a new level of self-discovery.

To be clear: finding the right coach may not happen overnight. You'll need to put real effort into finding one with whom you're compatible. To do this, first ask yourself these questions to help clarify your goals:

  • What type of coaching am I looking for? Leadership? Tactical?
  • What am I committed to producing with the help of a coach?
  • What kind of budget will my company allocate for this training?

Based on your answers, this will launch your search in different directions. Some business coaches specialize in startups, corporations, and specific industries. And you don't need to limit your search to just one platform, either. The internet will be a powerful tool here, as will recommendations from others within your business network. The right coach may not fall into your lap easily, but know this -- You cannot amass great success completely on your own.