As I watched the winter Olympics a few weeks ago, I noticed something that we can all learn from: Every olympian has a coach.
No professional athlete, despite his or her years of experience, expertise or qualifications, decides to go it alone. Having a coach is just as important for the solo athletes as the team athletes.
Olympians understand that ignoring the benefits that come from a fresh, outside perspective could be the difference that puts them out of medal contention.
But for some reason, the rest of us often decide to go it alone, with no coaches in our own lives and careers, despite high personal stakes.
Why don’t we seek out that kind of coaching for ourselves? Well, for one, we’re busy. Finding someone to support us takes effort and rarely happens organically. Plus, the kind of regular, structured support that can benefit us the most — the kind that you get from a professional coach — usually requires a financial investment. That adds another hurdle for solopreneurs.
However, working alone puts interior designers at risk of losing sight of the bigger picture, procrastinating on their priorities and getting mired down in details. These are all problems that could be prevented with an outside, experienced perspective.
I don’t want you to ignore the benefits of working with others to stay accountable. Here’s a little bit more about why and how you can get the kind of coaching that pros would never go without.
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The Benefits of Social Support
Most of us want to get to the very top of our professions. And most of us already understand that there are business benefits to connecting with others.
But it’s easy to let networking fall to the bottom of our to-do lists. So to start, let’s take a hard look at exactly what we miss out on when we go it alone.
Working for a company in a traditional role usually means having a boss and working within a team. That situation comes with built-in accountability.
By contrast, most interior designers are solopreneurs who don’t have anyone checking in on their day-to-day work. And in many ways, we like it like that way!
If you’re already running your own interior design business and depend on it for your income, you’re probably already pretty good at holding yourself accountable.
However, even the best, most disciplined solopreneur will occasionally lose sight of his or her priorities. Too much time working alone or in head-down mode is bound to lead to tunnel vision. It happens to all of us.
Finding an accountability partner can fix that.
The evidence shows that sharing your goals with others makes you more likely to meet them. For example, this Fast Company article summed up a study that found that people who shared their progress toward fitness goals with conversations and selfies lost 1.2 lbs per week, compared to 0.27 lbs when they didn’t share. It also cites Xander Schultz, CEO of Complete App, who found that “those who publicly declare their intentions are four times more likely to complete their tasks than those who keep their tasks private.”
When you surround yourself with people who inspire you, it makes you more motivated to improve yourself.
Plus, you can also get fresh takes by trying out the very real tactics and life lessons that your partners share with you. They can add new perspectives to your own life and give you the extra kick you need to be your best self every day.
The key is making regular contact: When you know you’re going to be seeing the people you respect and admire soon, you know you’re on the line to keep up with them.
And in fact, there’s something even more inspiring and motivating than looking to others for inspiration and help: To help others. When you connect with others, you will certainly be on the giving end just as often as you’re on the receiving end. That makes your work much more meaningful and gets you excited to start each new day.
Being a solo owner can be tough. There’s a lot resting on our shoulders each day, and we shouldn’t have to bear it alone. For all my talk about all of us staying on our A-games, we all hit slumps occasionally. We all run into problems, and we all certainly make mistakes.
By connecting with and learning from people who have had the same struggles, I believe we can make these struggles easier emotionally and even shorten them by sharing effective tactics to deal with shared problems.
Knowing that you’re not alone is powerful. In a world where we all battle imposter syndrome, connecting with people who have been there before can ground you in the fact that “successful” people are just like you. That can really change your mindset.
Besides, morale boosts aren’t just for the tough times. Positive reinforcement in the form of encouragement for meeting goals is also a powerful motivator that can keep us crushing it in the future.
Ways to Connect
So, how can you get the kind of connections in your life that provides that accountability and inspiration? There are several ways to do it.
The simplest way is to leverage your personal friendships and relationships and make them a priority in your calendar.
I certainly encourage all designers to establish those one-on-one friendships and business relationships — they can be very powerful. However, without anything structured in place, these relationships can fall to the wayside.
Sometimes it’s difficult to find people with similar issues, priorities and availability along with people who we really feel we connect with. Then, scheduling the meetings can be a time consuming back-and-forth, especially when you’re both busy.
Another way to get the benefits of an accountability partner is through a relationship with an actual business coach or life coach. The right coach can be a powerful tool for your career. However, many of these coaches don’t have industry-specific experience or knowledge to share.
My favorite is a third option that combines the two: a Mastermind group.
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Mastermind groups are exclusive groups where like-minded people come together to share wins, obstacles and more. Mastermind groups are all structured differently, but the best ones combine the best aspects of formal personal coaching with more informal discussions and check-ins. You don’t have to worry about the structure or the scheduling, and the selectivity of the groups makes sure that the experiences shared are relevant for everyone.
Full disclosure: I have a mastermind group for designers, so I have some pretty strong opinions about what they should include. Regardless of whether you choose a mastermind group, a business coach or find an accountability partner another way, try to think about it in terms of the value you’ll get.
There’s usually a financial cost associated with this kind of connecting. Even if you’re not paying cash for a coach or a mastermind group, you’ll be spending your valuable time scheduling meetups with friends or spending energy cultivating new relationships.
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Most days it will feel much easier to just stay in head-down mode on your projects or even on marketing and CEO work. However, remind yourself of the benefits discussed earlier. How much could just a little bit more accountability, inspiration, knowledge and energy injected into your business improve your bottom line? If you’re in a rut, how much would it be worth to get helped out of that rut? Can you put a dollar value on the feeling you get when your experiences help someone else?
I challenge you today to take just one step forward to connect with someone who will keep you accountable and give you the edge you need to keep succeeding as the CEO of your design business.