[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHcP6X7dEUo&w=420&h=315]

This has been widely regarded as the perfect golf swing. It transpires there is no such thing, and even more interestingly, its hugely unlikely that Tiger Woods (the gentleman in the video) is very aware at all, of what he is ‘doing’ in said swing. That’s why he uses a coach.

Get yourself a coach

There is nothing more powerful in a sales person, or a business person in general for that matter, that their mind-set. A ‘good’ mind set means everything. Like the myth of positive thinking would have us believe, your ability to visualise an outcome and believe in what you are doing can make the difference between winning and losing. Unfortunately, it’s also the biggest problem most sales people face. If you think you can, then at the very worst you might, if you think you can’t, then you haven’t got a chance.

The problem is however, that telling the difference is really hard. Can you really do it? Or is it genuinely beyond you? Who can tell? Thats the trouble. And that’s why you need a coach. Or a trainer. Or a mentor. Or one of a variety of people who are able to advise you as to what is real, and the difference between that and what you feel.

My dearest wish

I have said before that I consider myself extraordinarily lucky. I have a great job, and a lovely family, my health etc. My focus, beyond career, has been trying to turn a vicious slash into a cultured golf swing. It’s hugely frustrating. I have always managed to excel in the things I have felt important to me. At school, in work, sports, whatever I have turned my hand to, I’ve had the level of success I’ve desired. Except golf.

There is a fundamental flaw in my approach to the game that prevents me from reaching my true potential. And for years I wrestled with it, not truly aware of what the problem actually was. After 6 or 7 years of this approach (really!) I finally decided to see a coach, who in our first session, spotted the flaw, and was able to tell me what to do about it.

Unfortunately I’d spent so long ‘self diagnosing’ and ‘fixing’ things myself, I had absolutely ruined whatever ability I had when I first took up the game. To the extent that my coach pointed out that my great talent appeared to be hitting the ball at all, as he had no idea how this was possible, considering the afore-mentioned vicious slash.

How to stay on target

The thing is, where my golf game is concerned, I don’t half like to make it complicated. I’m alway looking for the next ‘level’ the next ‘fix’, the next ‘feeling’ in order to move forward. But Terry, my golf coach keeps pulling me back to that same basic fault. (Its my grip by the way, Tiger has little to fear from me)

But perhaps more importantly, as I get carried away with my new-found abilities (now the grip problem is getting sorted) Terry is there to keep pulling it back to the most important elements of what I personally need to focus on. The grip is a fundamental part of the swing. And there is a saying in golf, that when you are comfortable with your grip, you’re doing it wrong! My own, and most other people’s tendencies, are to make ourselves more comfortable right? And there is the problem. When the grip gets comfortable, it goes wrong, and my golf game heads south along with it.

So Terry is there to keep me on track. No matter what I ‘feel’ I am doing, whether I think I have moved on or not, Terry is there to tell me exactly what is really happening.


The thing is, get someone you really respect. I’d tried a few golf coaches before I found Terry, and I either befriended them to the point they stopped ‘shouting’ at me, or I was mentally stronger than they were, and refused to let them set the agenda for the lesson.

Get someone bigger than you are, someone better than you are. It doesn’t have to be in the same field, In fact, it might be better if their not in the same field. Someone that can ‘bully’ you (as in my case) or speak with sufficient authority that they will cut through your self-confidence to the level you are willing to listen to them, and crucially, make changes to your game.

Otherwise I find, you’ll listen, but not act. You’ll nod sagely along to the advice you’re getting, but as soon as you are out of earshot of the person giving the advice, its disappeared like so many noises in the wind. You may even do your very best to tune in for a while, but unless that person has something you don’t, that you respect, it won’t stick.

They will keep you on track, on plan. They will provide you with honest opinion and the reality of the situation, not what you think is happening. Watching a sales person under go a paradigm shift is an amazing thing. Something they had previously thought unobtainable suddenly brought near and into sharp focus. The excitement palpable for a time as they go off after this newly achievable target and hit it! And then grow in the process and become bigger and better than they were before.

Think about it. You owe it to yourself to get yourself someone who can take you there. Someone that can take you onwards and upwards, someone who can give you the reality check you need to make the required changes to your approach, to get the most out of your talent.

Good luck, let me know how you get on!

UPDATE – Terry is a real person, and I’d like to make clear he is a good friend of mine as well as an inspiration in the golf sense! He is not a bully, but he does know what it takes to ‘manage’ me. You can find out more about him here.

  1. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    This one is really interesting Tony ……….. my belief is that there are different coaches for different purposes. Your golf coach Terry – his job is to observe what you are doing and then use what he has learnt about your golf skills to instruct you in clear changes for you to make in order that you improve your skills. His role is to be “directive” i.e. he clearly directs you in specific changes. However he can’t make those changes to improve your skills – only YOU can! He can observe, instruct, direct, challenge you all he likes – but you have to want to listen and to implement those changes.

    Let’s apply that to coaching which is about an individual developing their leadership skills to improve their performance in the work place. The qualified and experienced coach offers that individual a diarised, confidential, empathetic thinking space in the context (very important) of a coaching relationship. (All coaching – golf or leadership skills is relational). You turn up to that coaching session because you want to develop yourself and improve what you do in the workplace. Your coach assists you to define a clear goal for that session, by helping you to articulate it clearly, then s/he assists you to really think through the issue and to encourage you to defining one or more clear actions that you will go away and do (because you formulated them – not the coach – because you want to do them). As with the golf coaching, the session is time bound. As with the golf coach, your coach will observe you, your expressions, your words and feed them back to you so that you really hear what YOU are saying and in so doing they assist you to really grasp the reality of issue and be honest with yourself and formulate actions that are right for you to implement. I tend to say that the responsibility for the learning sits with the coachee – same as your golf eh? You could have as many sessions as you like with him but it is your responsibility to take on board and implement the changes to improve your play – he can’t do it for you.

    Whether golf or leadership skills coaching, both are applying the principle of David Kolb’s Cycle of Learning aren’t they? You’re doing something day in day out (eg your golf swing) – you then stop and take time to observe and reflect on what you are doing (in your case the coach observes and informs you of what he sees) – next step is to formulate a different way of doing things that improves your skill (change your grip, your stance …) finally you head off back to work or the golf course to regularly try out and test those different ways of doing something ……….. then you need to again step back, observe / reflect etc. It’s a continual spiral to generate continuous learning – without following this process (critical to which is the thinking following the observation) adults do not learn….. or change their behaviours

    Yes – there are times when as a coach I am quite directive with a coachee – but only to assist them observe and reflect with clarity and openness …… but the responsibility sits with the coachee.

    I’d suggest to you that one reason why you are working well with your current golf coach (and as a result you are listening to his observations and instruction) is the relational aspect of the coaching. The two of you have developed a rapport and mutual respect, you speak the same language – therefore you are not only really hearing his feedback and instruction but also YOU are putting that instruction into your own clear actions to carry through and practise to improve your skills (because you are motivated to do so) ………… Why? Bluntly because right at the beginning YOU recognised your “killer swing”, YOU took a decision that you wanted to get better i.e you have taken responsibility for your own learning and together you’ve co-constructed a good working relationship.

    In other words – you keep you on track ….. not your coach.

    It sounds as if I’m on my soap box – but I find this whole area of motivation absolutely fascinating and I have a strong belief that critical thing for all of us is to want to change …… the rest is technical assistance as it were……… but the responsibility for change and development sits with us (the learner) not with our coach, mentor or trainer. They do indeed assist each of us as the learner to recognise the reality and not the fantasy of the scenario or skill in the spotlight of discussion, they do indeed encourage each of us as the learner to plan and to implement changed behaviour ………… they leave the responsibility for doing it with the learner …………. this is exactly why good coaching is so powerful ……….. the learner is in control and fully responsible and are taking the time to think and learn and implement change because as an individual s/he wants to …….

    And now I’ve fallen into the trap of “work avoidance” ………..

    • damiandowling
      damiandowling says:

      That’s not a comment Barbara, thats a blog in its own right! Brilliant stuff though, and thanks for such a high level insight
      its really interesting, and i couldn’t agree more. I spoke to Terry today actually, and he was a bit upset that he came over as a ‘bully’ as I put it, (completely unintentional on my part – he’s a lovely chap) and as you rightly point out, the secret to our success is the relationship
      i think thats what I am trying to say, you need someone that can talk to you, speak your language, but someone you will listen to?
      Love it, please come back again – thats great stuff!

  2. Reena GD
    Reena GD says:

    I think getting yourself a coach/ mentor is a brill idea. I am on the look out for one myself.

    I think I should mention from personally experience; I had a mentor a couple of years ago but found the person I chose, was too busy to help me or give me their time and felt a bit let down by the whole process.

    I guess what I am trying to say is although it is very important to pick a mentor which is ‘bigger’ than you; they must be able to give you the time and advice you need! So make sure you choose that person carefully so they can also give the commitment you need.

    Reena xXx

    • damiandowling
      damiandowling says:

      Great point Reena. As Barbara mentioned, its often useful to have a contract of sorts with your coach, to ensure that the areas to be covered are detailed (and ones that are out of bounds identified) as well as things like when you can expect to have access and why that access will look like.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I’ll see you soon
      (ps – Happy to help you look for a mentor too!)
      Good luck

  3. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Tony – you may yet encourage me to start a blog! Good luck with the golf!

    Hi Reena – yes the contracting bit is really important and helpful – makes the ground rules and expectations totally clear each way and then if you need to change these rules with your coach or mentor you both discuss them and re-contract.