I like to travel and am lucky enough to occasionally make it overseas. I would sometimes splurge and stretch my budget by buying not one, but two guidebooks to help me plan our vacations. I have toured many cities with a book in hand, following recommended itineraries, reading historical descriptions and visiting cultural hot spots. I followed the same path as hundreds of other tourists, mouth agape, eyes wide in wonder, checking off all the must see sites, but connecting only superficially with these cities.
Last fall we went to Italy and my Mother in Law recommended we make a stop in Ravenna. Ravenna is a little out of the way, and therefore not frequently visited by Americans. Despite trips to Borders, we couldn't find a guidebook, so, at my husband's urging, we decided to hire a guide for half a day.
Vivian, met us at our hotel with a car and driver. After the customary greetings, we climbed in the car and headed out of town. I must say that my first impression of Ravenna was not positive. In the centuries since it was founded, the town has sprawled from its historic center and much of it is slightly grimy, pocked with strip malls, pawn shops, tire stores and other detritus of a working class, down trodden town. I began to doubt my Mother In Law's recommendation as the driver continued to carry us out of town. After driving nearly thirty minutes we finally stopped at a large, imposing medieval style church and this is where Vivian's skill as a guide began to show.
In the four hours we spent with her we visited Ravenna's eight World Heritage sites scattered throughout the town. Vivian brought Ravenna's famous mosaics to life for us; stunning pictures, made of millions of tile chips, that told stories in brilliant, mesmerizing color. She explained the symbols, and the meaning behind those scenes and we were transported to the time when petty jealousies, love affairs, outrageous egos and the the perpetual tug of war between church and state shaped Ravenna. And while teaching, she was also learning about us. She noticed our interests, elaborated on some topics to make the city 's history resonate for us. I know that without her, Ravenna's brilliant, beautiful, complicated past would have remained hidden. Of course we would have seen the mosaics; that's why my Mother in Law recommended the stop, but we would not have understood the stories the mosaics told. That happened because Vivian was an extraordinary guide. She had the gift of making history personal, by listening to our questions and noticing our interests.
Hiring a guide did cost more. Would I do it again, unequivocally yes. Vivian added a depth of experience that transported us. The incremental cost was minimal and the value was immense.
I think coaching is like hiring a guide. Sure you can buy books that will lay out what you should do and you can hire consultants who will tell you what your should do. These are great resources and they are relatively inexpensive. But hiring a person trained in coaching is like hiring a guide. A professional business coach will encourage you to explore, will insure you carve out time to reflect, will ask questions to uncover your deep interests and support you as you chart a path that is unique for you. With a Coach, just like having a guide, you will go where you want to go, find what resonants with you and bring the adventure of owning a business to life.