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Coaching: The Best-Kept Secret To Growing As An Entrepreneur

A good coach can turn raw talent into refined expertise and refined talent into renowned success. But how do we bridge “the coaching gap”?

Zach Ferres

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Sometimes, a change at the top can be the difference between a perennial loser and a surprise contender. For proof, look no further than the Los Angeles Rams, a team which less than a year ago wrapped up a 4-12 season that included a midyear coaching transition.

New coach Sean McVay appears to have energised his players, helping the Rams capture momentum that was completely absent when the team lost seven consecutive games to close out the 2016 season.

Yes, the Rams play football, but there’s a lesson there for startup and small business owners. Because, like professional athletes, entrepreneurs perform better under the guidance of great coaches.

And the news there is good: Due to the competitive advantages entrepreneurs enjoy from expert coaching, the marketplace for coaches has started to swell. According to the 2016 Global Coaching study by the International Coach Federation and PricewaterhouseCoopers, global coaching revenue was estimated to be about $2.4 billion in 2015, besting 2011’s figure by a substantial 19 percent.

Not to mention what’s happening with the bigger guys: Up to 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies now work with executive coaches, according to consulting firm Hay Group.

Related: Paddy Upton: People Centred Coaching

Yet, while executive coaching has gained traction, many start-up founders lack access to high-quality coaches. The paradox? They can’t afford an experienced coach, but need one to be able to build their companies to the point of being able to do just that.

What separates a coach from a mentor

posted about this coaching paradox on LinkedIn a while back, and my post attracted a flood of comments. After reading them through, I realised that many people don’t understand the distinction between a mentor and a coach. While these positions might seem similar, there’s actually a world of difference between the two.

“Mentors,” for one thing, don’t usually follow a fixed schedule or require payment. They help with strategic issues, answering questions for founders without actively participating in company operations.

“Coaches,” on the other hand, are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They are typically paid, and operate on, a fixed schedule to help entrepreneurs make themselves better. Mentors offer great advice; coaches ask great questions.

Based on the comments my post attracted, founders of new start-ups are hungry for a coach. There’s a huge gap in the start-up community as it relates to coaching; everyone needs it, but relatively few people are willing to provide it for free. So, what to do?

How to bridge entrepreneurship’s coaching gap

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The question is, how do we solve the paradox and match enterprising, young CEOs with talented coaches? The answer to this coaching quandary rests in the basic ecology of entrepreneurship. By studying the interactions between entrepreneurs and their physical environment, a cycle of mutually beneficial coaching exchanges begins to emerge.

Here are its three steps:

1. First-time founders: Barter for coaches

Young founders probably can’t afford to shell out more than $1 million a year for coaching sessions with Tony Robbins. Instead, they must find coaches willing to offer their services for a low cost. They also might be able to trade their own services for coaching.

My first coach, James, was also one of my clients when I was running my first company in Ohio. James was a sales coach who asked us to build his new website. When I initially met with him to discuss the project, I accidentally went to the wrong Starbucks. I arrived 15 minutes late for our meeting, which prompted his first lesson: “Be on time when you meet with people. You’re young, and you need to do the little things to ensure that others take you seriously and treat you as a professional.”

Many team members from BounceFire still remember “the call” James made to our office one day when things weren’t going well. We took our lumps, but we learned incredible lessons. He later admitted that he was deliberately hard on me because he wanted to see me succeed.

All first-time entrepreneurs should have someone like that to push them harder and help them navigate the early pitfalls of leadership – inside and outside of work. Work your network to find someone who might be willing to provide a bit of free (or relatively cheap) coaching every now and then to help keep you on track.

Related: How Leadership Coaching Can Lead Your Team To Sustained Success

2. Connect growing founders to paid coaches

Founders of expanding companies have experienced enough success to know where their problems lie, but they haven’t mastered everything. Paid executive coaches can hold founders accountable and provide detailed wisdom during critical decisions, making them a worthwhile investment.

Not sure what to look for in a good executive coach? Countless executives have gleaned incredible insights from the likes of Jerry Colonna, who uses self-inquiry to help executives hone their leadership skills and better understand themselves. Others take a more solution-oriented approach, asking questions to steer executives through routine business issues. Such was the case with Silicon Valley legend Bill Campbell. Find someone who meshes with your personal style, and view the monthly fee as a worthwhile investment in your company’s future.

According to the study by the International Coach Federation, 23 percent of coaches surveyed said they primarily focus on executives. Growing founders should not hesitate to invest some time and money into someone who can help them get more out of themselves.

3. Develop successful founders into coaches and advisors 

The path to coaching is relatively simple for successful entrepreneurs, because it’s typically one of the key traits you develop as a leader. Find one or two first-time founders whom you truly believe in, and give them an hour or two of your time every month for coaching sessions. This will keep your coaching and leadership skills sharp, and you will be helping the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I am still working to become a better coach and leader, but I do advise several start-ups across the country. I also find myself in an advisory role for many of our accelerator start-ups. We recently took seven of them to GITEX Technology Week in Dubai, and it was great to spend time mentoring start-up founders while learning about their unique struggles.

Related: How Business Coaching Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

Once you have some experience, you might consider doing a paid coaching engagement with an active or growing founder. As you break your way into the coaching scene, don’t forget to continue to work with your own coach – you’ll still need some help along the way.

Executive coaching shouldn’t be rare or reserved for well-connected entrepreneurs. A good coach can turn raw talent into refined expertise or refined talent into renowned success. From the greenest start-up to the most seasoned veterans, coaching is the key to unlocking untapped potential.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Zach Ferres is the CEO of Coplex, a startup studio and accelerator that works with noncoding founding teams to start software companies. He is also a founding partner at Coplex Ventures, the venture capital arm of Coplex.

Leading

The Buzzword Isn’t Disruption, It’s Determination

Every other headline and insight demands that you become the ultimate sword in the disruption battle, but the real focus should be on determination.

Nicholas Bell

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The biggest business conversation that the entrepreneur should be having today is around disruption. The problem is that being disruptive – invading a traditional space and reinventing every part of how it is done and perceived – isn’t as important as being determined in your methodology and focus when it comes to achieving disruption. Uber, the ultimate disruption example, didn’t miraculously appear overnight. It was the determination and foresight of its founder that saw the company completely transform an industry.

Decide to disrupt

If you want to disrupt, you need to make a conscious decision to change the way things are done and the way people engage with a specific market, niche or solution. If you want to disrupt your business model you need to understand exactly what that means and how it will impact on your people, your company and your clients.

Disruption isn’t just about being the next Uber or Airbnb. It’s about improving and changing the way people do things in a fundamental way that means something, that delivers value.

Related: How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos

It also has to happen at speed.

You aren’t going to disrupt an industry if you’re still dithering over decisions. Slow isn’t usually associated with disrupt.

The reason why disruption is associated with determination is because it will make you extremely uncomfortable. Changing things and redefining how you work, do business and live, requires that you completely change where you are right now. You need to be open to transforming the way you do business and this process can be both awkward and uncomfortable.

Go to war

Disruption is going to war with industry on behalf of your customers. It’s also the need to look internally and constantly question your market, how you engage with your clients and the solutions you deliver. This is not an economy that allows for the entrepreneur to rest on their laurels – someone will quickly disrupt you. You need to be determined enough to succeed that you can relentlessly reassess your business, your systems and your goals.

This is the challenge that’s affecting the large enterprise today.

These behemoths risk being easily disrupted as they don’t like change. It has left many doors wide open for those entrepreneurs who are open to opportunity, but if they step into these new spaces they are under pressure to remain agile and aware or they run the risk of becoming the next incumbent that’s disrupted.

Related: Why Customers Don’t Respond To Disruption

Change your thinking

As you ponder the relevance and value of disruption, both as a business and as an internal benchmark, there are a few questions you can ask to refine your process and your thinking:

  • Do I deliver the same impact on my customers every day? Impact is important – is your product or service still impacting on your clients the way that you (and they) want.
  • What questions are clients asking and how is my business answering them?
  • Do you need to fundamentally change the way you manage certain systems and solutions to ensure there is value?
  • Is my value proposition still meaningful and does it attract the talent I need to drive my business forward?
  • Does my operating model still deliver to the scale and efficiency that I need or does it need improvement?

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Entrepreneur Today

Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team

The question every successful business leader needs to consider – How do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?

Dirk Coetsee

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As I witnessed the rain dancing against the window panes of the Mega mall in Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I started reflecting on how to lead a culturally diverse business team.

Thousands of Malay, Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans passed me in the hallways of this gargantuan construction and the Dalai Lamas’ wise words reminded me that at the core of it all, irrespective of what your nationality is or what your belief system is, in general:

“We all want to experience joy and avoid suffering”

A key question that every team leader should carefully consider is how do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?

How can we as a diverse team be united in the joys of experiencing an expanding and successful business with a wonderful and constructive culture and avoid the suffering of a failing business and the negative experience of a toxic culture?  These are of course ‘loaded’ questions because inherent within these questions are the birthing of other key challenges –

How can we as Leaders create a relatively stable and inspirational environment from within which it is easier for each individual to unlock their vast potential when vast differences in upbringing, schooling, world views, and religious beliefs exists within one team. Especially when considering the ever changing and evolving business environment within which we operate?

Fulfilling the role of a Business Leadership coach, trainer, or life coach as the situation demanded over several years I have coached, Lead, or trained Pilipino, Chinese, Malay, African, and European people. A very key learning from my experiences is that a “cross cultural and shared understanding” can be created that transcends any spoken language or any national culture.

Related: Leadership – Lead Your Team To Dizzying Heights Of Productivity And Business Success

This common language and culture has many elements but for the purpose of this article I will focus on the three key aspects:

Have a united and focused purpose

When a united and focussed purpose exists for the business team that they collectively place higher than themselves the barriers of differences in upbringing, schooling, and world views can dissolve within their shared purpose. As business leaders we cannot refer to purpose too much, even more importantly that that, we must be living, walking and talking examples of the businesses’ purpose.

Related: Leadership: The Principle Of Authenticity

To simplify the concept of purpose it can be said that purpose is the highest intent for, or the very good reason why we do what we do. That reason is or should be even more important than ourselves. When we really love what we do and sincerely so our performance is likely to be very good, on the other hand if we totally dislike the line of business that we are in or totally despise our role within an entrepreneurial venture we are likely not going to unleash our unlimited potential.

It could be argued that the sole purpose for having a business is to make a profit. Through this article I argue that that is not a strong enough reason to sustain you and make you thrive even through difficult times. The strange thing is that when you truly live your purpose with all your might and tirelessly inspire your team to do the same the money comes anyway…

 Servant heart and attitude

Rabindranath TagoreRabindranath Tagore famously said:

“I dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”

A servant heart is universal and transcends cultural difference, a sincere and giving smile is a beautiful language of its own that needs no translation. If that ‘servant heart and smile’ is underpinned by well-developed people and technical skills it multiplies into a potent combination of character, experience, and wisdom that has great influential power within any culture.

Related: Leadership: What Is Your Why? (Read Purpose)

Whether it is through the use of interpreters, and even if it takes great patience, even when a lot of mistakes are made, persevere until everyone in the team understands that servant leadership is the key to winning the minds and hearts of others.

When all in the team becomes aware that we were only ever meant to master ourselves and thereby become better servants to all, this heightened awareness can unlock the unlimited potential within individuals in the team.

Respect for people and their worldviews

poet RumiMy favourite poet Rumi said:

‘The wound is where the light seeps in’

Respect all as we could not understand each individuals’ pain and hardships unless we went through it ourselves. Have compassion for all as we, in general expect compassion when we go through hardships. We can only imagine what sets of beliefs we would entertain where we to grow up in a completely different culture.

Related: Leadership: Honesty Is The First Chapter In The Book Of Wisdom

My endless curiosity and determination to learn has served me well as a coach for when your interest in others is sincere they tend to ‘open up’ to you and share and thereby you fasttrack your own learning and gain insights into your co-team members worldviews which in turn greatly enhances the team dynamics.

Be authentic and acknowledge your vulnerabilities, ‘wounds’ and shortcomings and be proud of your strengths for then your team members will help you to overcome your weaknesses and learn from your strengths.

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Leading

15 Ways To Command A Conversation Like A Boss

If you’re the one talking, it’s your responsibility to make sure others are listening.

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Conversations can elicit a range of emotions. They may be daunting, or they may be dreaded. They may be awkward, or they may be monotonous. The good news is, you, as a participant in any conversation, have more control than you think about whether these emotions overtake the dialogue.

Having a successful conversation is about striking the balance between preparedness and flexibility, between explaining your thoughts clearly and knowing when to pause or check in. It’s about being upfront about your preferences and ideas while being open to adapting them based on what comes of the discussion.

A fruitful conversation stems from establishing a rapport with someone. Show them you know where they’re coming from. Clarify that you understand what they’ve said. Be respectful of their time and don’t dictate back to them how you perceive them to be thinking or feeling. Keep questions open-ended. Experiment with new conversation settings or styles. And don’t give in to the internal voices that try to convince you to defer too much or suffer in silence.

To help you get your points across and help others convey theirs, read through the following 15 tips, which expand more on the ideas above.

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