I recently met with a unique female entrepreneur. In addition to being smart, sharp, and creative, she also learned a few things throughout her entrepreneurial path. For one, she understood that no one could decide for her what the right move is. Two, she realized that she should lean on those who can help her understand herself, her why.
Having worked with startups across different stages, I realized that having a special consultant is as challenging as sailing on choppy waters, especially for early-stage startups. Consulting is essentially coming up with and introducing new ideas to implement and improve a venture. Startups, by nature, have more new ideas than they can handle. It's like adding more oil to an already burning fire and inherently creates stress. Not to mention the high costs of keeping a consultant on payroll, considering that the founders aim to stay within budget.
However, I'm not here to talk about consulting.
I believe that you have to teach founders how to fish, rather than serving them the fish on a platter. In other words, I give them the tools to build and shape their business but do not build it for them. Dealing with founders is an art. In my experience with startups, I've learned that every person has their own approach, and a coach needs to tailor a customized model for each client. Coaching is growing––it's bringing into the light a person's skills from within. It's certainly a much softer approach than hammering on the same skillsets for each startup to implement.
A coach may not have all the answers, but a great coach can ask the right questions.
Below I have outlined some of my coaching guidelines:
1. Ask Questions
“I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these 'how' and 'why' questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.” - Stephen Hawking
Asking the right open questions might help resolve pressing issues and highlight shortcomings. A good question is one that you have a ready answer for. A great question is one that you don't know the answer to and requires you to challenge yourself.
2. What’s on your plate?
What is the cowbell that hangs heavy on the founder's neck, that prevents them from sleeping at night? By understanding your desired outcomes and clarifying top priorities, I can guide them on the right path.
3. Be Curious
When you are genuinely curious and consistently ask questions, you are learning. Even more importantly, you are not judging yourself and jumping to conclusions. When you are not judgmental, it breaks down the walls of defensiveness, and you are in the position to create meaningful impact.
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Understanding is a two-way street." When you understand the situation, you create a bond and a connection, which is the beginning of the collaboration.
The more well defined the goals are, the more evident the stepping stones are to get there. Dive deep into the smallest of details and explore the truths that lie with them. Avoid generalizations and strive to be specific.
“He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards a ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.” - Leonardo Da Vinci
6. Influence Through Experience
It's not a funnel or a flow chart. Sharing a personal experience is most effective when you spice it up with your rich details and emotions. The memory of it will be far more vivid for the founder when they later draw out their strategic plans.
With a coach around for support, the founder is never alone and could otherwise be very lonely at the top, dealing with all the challenges on their own. It is up to you, the coach, to provide valuable insight for a successfully executed plan.
8. Following the Milestones
I make it a habit to end my sessions by recapping what transpired during our session and how it affected them. I also send them home with an action item for the founder to take on, which gives closure to the meeting. In reality, founders tend to get sucked into the vortex immediately after the session. A follow-up is also mandatory, as it shows your commitment, that you are invested, and provide excellent service.
And last but not least, to those of you out there in search of a coach:
The coach you seek will know how to supply your demand for professional emotional energy and direction. It could be challenging to find a great coach because you need to find someone that speaks your mind. You want somebody you can relate to, who knows what you're going through. No ego––someone who knows how to collaborate with the rockstar that you are.
It is of utmost importance you surround yourself with the best care that can lend to your success. 2020 is right around the corner, so there's no better time than the present to find the right coach.