Always Be Coached: How Becoming a Life-long Learner Helped Grow My Salesforce Expertise

By Johann Furmann

We embark on self-improvement to reach a goal: a promotion, a new skill, or something personal (like speaking Hindi). While self-study and experience are important to reach goals, being coached can’t be ignored. I’m convinced that it’s only when I leverage all three of these, that I truly unlock my potential.

Some of you may know that I’m always enrolled in some kind of coaching – in fact, my career was helped greatly by my ‘addiction’ to being coached.

Having a coach can feel strange for many people, especially if it is not mandated by our job; after all, most people haven’t had a teacher since university.

In our Salesforce world, there are plenty of ways to learn: there’s Youtube, blogs, and not forgetting Trailhead. So why should I be coached, and what’s in it for me?

As I said, I am convinced we all need coaches, in one way or another. We self-study, we get hands-on experience but at some point, we stagnate without help. 

However, being coached does not come for free. It takes investment, and it requires you to open up to both become aware of your shortcomings, and be open to feedback. Being coached can take many different forms. It doesn’t always have to be a paid class. Everything that promises success comes with effort, that’s why I always find plenty of excuses to avoid being coached, but deep down I know: I always need to be coached.

Working Towards ‘Head Chef’

An analogy that will illustrate this idea. Let’s assume we are the dishwasher in a restaurant but we dream of becoming a famous 5-star chef. We are watching cooking shows all night long, reading cookbooks, and observing everything the other chefs in the kitchen are doing. Yet still, we are not getting closer to our goal. 

The reason is that there’s only so much you can learn from self-study. You need someone to train (coach) you to become a true chef. 

As an aspiring 5-star chef, we wouldn’t hesitate to go to a cooking school. Sure, the cooking school takes a fee but we know that investment is necessary for becoming a 5-star cook.

Why you should seek coaching for your Salesforce career

What seems perfectly normal to work towards becoming a 5-star chef is not all that common in our industry (yet). Oftentimes, we understand the benefits that coaching would bring but don’t act on that knowledge.

From my point of view, there are three reasons your should get coaching:

  • Career progression,
  • You receive some negative, external feedback,
  • or simply curiosity.

However, I always find myself making excuses to not get coaching, or take a class:

  • I don’t need it, I’m good as I am, I already know enough!
  • I don’t have time!
  • I’m strong and smart, I don’t need help!

Let’s address these objections, one by one.

I don’t need it, I’m good as I am, I already know enough!

No matter what I do, I never know enough. I thought I was pretty good at public speaking, then I took communication coaching which opened my eyes to my true potential.

Coaching always allows me to learn something new and to improve on existing skills and talents. Even if I already feel well trained in a topic, there is always something to learn. Even as a teacher, I always learn from my students.

Good coaching has some form of curriculum to teach everything necessary to the topic; that structure helps me to identify gaps in my knowledge, and close them.

I don’t have time!

Getting coaching often seems like a huge time investment at first – there are group meetings, coaching sessions, personal study time, and more – but it ultimately saves you time.
Good coaching helps you with a structure, predefined content, and to progress even faster than you’d be able to do on your own.

I’m strong and smart, I don’t need help.

Especially as an “IT-nerd”, I often have notions of independence and self-reliance. Independence and self-reliance are great but by myself, I can only progress so far. Opening up and getting help is beneficial, or often necessary; at some point, you will simply not progress anymore without external support.

Often a feeling of “I got this” is a sign I need external support to progress further; no matter how good I feel about a certain topic, help always makes me better.

What I’ve learned from being coached

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things from getting coaching that I want to share:

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – put in the work

Unfortunately, being coached takes effort. The coach themselves does not magically make me better. I have to do my homework, be prepared during classes, and apply the new knowledge I learn. The more I put into being coached, the more I get out of it.

Structure and professionalism

Getting coached takes practice. Being a coach is not too dissimilar from working: you need to be structured and professional. It’s an easy trap to not take being coached seriously but I know that being coached demands professionalism. Only when I treat the program with the same level of professionalism I would with any Salesforce project, I can reach my goals.

Develop a routine, a small piece everyday

Being coached is something I have to work on every day. It’s not enough to just drop by the coaching sessions; I have to work on the topic(s) every day. There’s usually homework to do, however, it’s not enough to do my homework “half-baked” the day before the next session as I won’t get the full benefit – in fact, I would be throwing away money and time (arguably the most expensive resource!) My strategy is to do my homework in the morning before I start my day.

While I try to stick to my routine as much as possible, burnout is a real risk; I need to be kind to myself and avoid overworking myself. This balance works best for me by doing a little every day rather than a sporadic burst of effort.

Open up, be vulnerable

The last one is the hardest: opening up and becoming vulnerable. Being coached means someone points out my shortcomings – that hurts!

While I aim to be perfect, without mistakes, there’s no way to grow. These moments of being schooled hurt but that’s where the growth starts. Top athletes improve by breaking their body daily, and the body regrows stronger. So, this is the same way muscles grow after exercise.

‘Cooking class’ levels: Coaching in the Salesforce ecosystem

As with everything, there are different levels of coaching which require varying effort levels, and should be combined to get the maximum results.

  • Self-study: Books, videos, blogs (Beginner)
  • Informal Coaching (Beginner)
  • Horizontal Peer Group (Advanced)
  • Professional coaching (Professional)

Note: I’m a CTA coach for FlowRepublic and this is my way of doing it – that doesn’t make it the only way. Think about what you need.

Some inspiration: my current and past coaching experiences

To finish off, this is the list of coaching and classes I am currently doing/have completed in the last 12 months, some professional, some informal:

The Author

Johann Furmann

Johann's journey started as an Admin. After their Journey led him to become a CTA, they returned to their roots: Help Salesforce Admins. Johann uses all his knowledge and experience to craft small but powerful Apps.


    Michael T Burke
    June 11, 2021 2:49 pm
    Hi - this is so great! I am trying to eagerly soak up all I can but agree that a coach would provide some much needed guidance. Any tips on where/how to find a coach??
    June 11, 2021 5:58 pm
    Different situations call for different coaches. It doesn't always need to be a paid coach.

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