Coaching and Being Coachable
Every project, relationship, decision, business opportunity of my life has been weighed, measured, and compared to a situation, movement, or streamline in the pool. I recently realized that part of why swimming helps me so much in business is the perspective it provides. Cell phones aren't allowed in the pool! I CAN'T take a call about an out of stock, an upset account, a tweet that didn't go out or a beer not ready in time. That's not to say I use swimming to avoid thinking about beer. In fact, most of what I think about in the water IS beer, but more about movement, positioning, and drawing analogies. For example, how many kicks off a wall I take in butterfly tonight should equal the number of percentage points gained in Ace's (home market distributor) Point the Way draft distribution this month.Sounds nerdy and maybe a little crazy, but then every butterfly lap, I'm counting my kicks off the wall and planning how I'm going to get Ace to hit distribution increase and what that does for our overall business goals. Because of a recent incident where a chemical burn at a swim meet left me in extreme pain and temporarily blind, I questioned, for the first time, ever swimming again.
I was screaming and crying in so much pain, burying my eyes in the headboard of my hotel room in Indianapolis with my best friend forcing milk in my eyes (we thought it was a PH in-balance). Was swimming still worth it with Golden Road asking for so much energy? This wasn't the first time swimming left me with a near tragedy. Back in 2009, I was training for Olympic Trials and did my first Tahoe crossing, had vertigo and didn't know it, tried to drive home after the race and flipped my Subaru. I wasn't able to swim for a while after, so questioned my identity being wrapped up in a sport for 20 years and where it was headed. I was already in the beer business, but a switch went off due to an inability to swim that led me to countless hours of business planning, reading, beer studying, and talking to whoever I could about business and beer. The journey to Tony and Golden Road, if you will. Drama aside, swimming has taught me so much, and has left me with a desire to give back to others–athletes, non-athletes, swimmers, non-swimmers, business people, beer people, everybody! I would like my first lesson to begin with coaching–one of my favorite things to do in the world!
Lesson #1: Coaching
I’ve always made sure to surround myself with great coaches for every passion project–a stellar Latin teacher and a strong female academic advisor at Yale guided me through my academic endeavors. Countless swim coaches drafted my understanding of hard work and determination that has defined my work ethic. My career in beer has been matured by a man who bought a Budweiser distributor at age 25 now in his 60s, the coolest woman in the beer business (ummm Kim!!), a Mrs airport commissioner, and my always-knowing-the-right-answer business partner, Tony. These relationships have been responsible for accelerating my growth and have provided me with tremendous perspective.
In addition to seeking great coaches, I spent over a decade coaching young swimmers, until I moved from Boulder giving Dale's son lessons, and began to take a career in beer more seriously. But that doesn't stop me from telling anyone I see in a pool what I think of their stroke and how to improve it. On Friday nights, often I leave work around 7 o’clock for the evening swim team practice, and spend 5 minutes after workout in the hot tub talking to 4 year old Stella and 5 year old Caroline about their freestyle progress and have them blow bubbles out of straws to work on breath control. I cherish these moments more than most anything else–even sitting at a bar drinking hoppy beers sometimes! Needless to say, something magical happened on a swim lesson on a Sunday a few months back, with my good friend and Golden Road Brand Manager, Tyler.
Tyler asked me for a lesson, so I took him over to the Rose Bowl where we spent an hour going over freestyle stroke technique. His goals were relatively simple–he wants to get to a place where he can swim a full hour without stopping, while keeping his stroke together. I worked with him on breathing, streamlines, rotation, and flip turns with a lot of big picture tips on basics that will increase his endurance through technique improvement. At the end of the session, Tyler asked me about my coaching background and I lit up. I couldn't stop gushing about the kids in Chester, Virginia I coached, the lessons coaching had taught me, and how much I missed it. At that moment, I knew how to get back to my coaching roots–through Golden Road!
Having worked closely with Tyler for a couple of years now–he's our oldest employee along with Matt Ponch–I suddenly realized some of the opportunities I had overlooked at Golden Road during the first year. I wasn't carrying my coaching lessons of encouragement, guidance, and patience into management and team building at Golden Road. It was easy for me to be distracted by the "build, build, build" reality of our day-to-day operations. I was not taking the necessary time to stop and engage in coaching–and receive coaching from others.
A huge light bulb went off that has changed the way I interact with those in my business life. I'm not just counting my kicks off walls for new PTW placements, but taking best practices out of the water and working to kick better together. I especially thank Tyler for this lesson and for his support, growing together from the beginning!