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The Shadow Knows

The Shadow Knows

January 23, 2014

Shadowing (Mastery, Part 2)

A fascinating strategy improved a tennis serve by 10 mph after just 20 minutes of coaching. The same strategy helped one of our clients grow his business more than tenfold and helped him stop losing good employees.

Last week, we talked about the road to mastery, and the perseverance it takes to master a skill — whether becoming a concert violinist or the world’s best mortgage solution presenter. This week, we offer the key component in the journey to true mastery: shadowing.

The truth is, most of us can’t truly see ourselves. We have an idea of how we look and how we act, but even in the mirror, we can’t get the full view. Why does it matter? Because we all have blind spots that we can’t see. And if we transfer a lesson from driving, blind spots can be very harmful.  For that reason, major developments have been made on side view mirrors on Ford cars.

What can you do to overcome blind spots? Giant 18-wheeler trucks have what are called convex mirrors to help the drivers see the blind spots. But humans aren’t built with such mirrors. That’s where a coach comes in.

The secret to fixing your weaknesses

In a fascinating New Yorker article, Dr. Atul Gewande, a noted surgeon who grew up with the desire to be a tennis pro, discussed how coaching and shadowing impacted both his tennis game and his surgical prowess.

At a medical convention, Gewande, in his forties, went to the tennis club to use a ball machine. But the man behind the counter told him “for the same price, I can hit with you.” Quite by accident, he found a tennis coach, twenty years younger and fresh off his college tennis team, who offered him a lesson. After hitting ground strokes for a while, Gewande showed off the pride of his game, his serve. The young coach responded by saying, “You could get more power from your serve.

”Although dubious, Gewande listened. His new coach explained that he didn’t keep his legs completely underneath him when he swung the racquet into the air. And dragging his leg a few inches was costing him power, according to the tennis coach.

Sure enough, Gewande improved his footwork, and within a short time, he was serving ten miles per hour faster than ever before. Wow, a 10 mile per hour improvement on top of an already great serve. Do you realize the implications of that for you and me?

A young tennis coach had just demonstrated the power and value of coaching.

What is Shadowing?

While coaching has become a rapidly growing industry, the term “shadowing” is far less familiar to most people. Yet it can be very effective. Shadowing is a real-time, observational approach, whereby a “shadow” objectively watches someone through an entire process, and provides comments on what was observed and points where improvements could be made.

Dr. Gewande talks about having one of his former medical instructors shadowing him in the operating room, observing him from a short distance away and taking notes during an operation that he had performed a thousand times before.

After the successful operation, his former teacher mentioned that he found only some small things that could be improved. The position of draping during the operation was off, which made it a little more difficult for the surgical assistant to work with the patient’s wound. “How were your arm’s positioned?” Atul thought they were fine. But to his great surprise, his mentor told him that he started out correctly, with his arms loose and relaxed at his sides —  but then he began holding his elbows up too high.  This creates fatigue and makes it more difficult to be precise.

In twenty minutes of shadowing, Gewande gained more insight into his work than he had learned in the previous five years.

And that’s what shadowing does. It allows someone else to watch you and quickly see exactly what you cannot see for yourself.

Our Shadowing Program

At Brand Launcher, we use our Shadowing Program to help clients see what they can't see themselves. Before we begin shadowing, we meet with the clients to plan out the day. We use time tracking to see how they are best using their time. Then we speak to other team members to find out what their experiences are and what they have observed. We watch and listen as the clients go through their day. At first, they are a little self-conscious, but as time goes on, they forget we are around and we get to observe activities and take notes in the process.

A Surprising 10 Fold Success Story

One of our shadowing success stories comes from an entrepreneur who could not see how he was treating his employees. In an effort to train or coach them, he would lose his cool and become disrespectful.  He did not realize that in his desire to do things right, he would embarrass people by correcting them in front of everyone else. Employees became furious, and one even quit because he felt disrespected and disempowered.

We coached our client on controlling his anger, and he went from “bad cop” to “good coach” with his employees. His business has since grown ten-fold over the last several years, and he no longer loses many good employees along the way.

Are You Coachable?

Many people are simply not coachable. Their ego is their amigo. Being coached or being shadowed means being vulnerable. It means letting someone see you at your best, and at your worst. Sure, it’s easy to hear praise, but many of us have a hard time hearing about the things we do wrong. Yet, we cannot improve, or master a skill, if we do not get the full view.

So if you want to live a vibrant life of growth and mastery, ask yourself:

  1. What would it take to allow myself to be vulnerable and drop my guard?
  2. How can I view criticism as part of growth?
  3. Where can I listen to what has been observed and work on improvement in those areas?
  4. How can I open myself up and accept correction in the manner in which it is being presented?

As John Wooden, heralded as the greatest college basketball coach of all time, once said, “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

If you’d like to learn more about our Shadowing or Coaching Program email me at jongoldman@brandlauncher.com.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,

Jon