There is a strong rationale as to why excellent athletes tend to have excellent coaches by their side.
Athletics is actually the origin of the term "Coach." Imagine a younger version of yourself, at six years old, receiving guidance while playing soccer, basketball, tennis, or football from that person who helped you feel empowered, motivated, and refined your skills. Having someone to look up to, that one person who reaches out to you, believes in you, and helps you realize that you can do anything you set your mind to! Essentially, someone who shows you the way and gives you the tools to succeed. The work is ultimately 100% still you, but the guidance you receive is what gives you that extra edge.
In 1951, Emil Zátopek was the first runner to break the world record with 20 kilometers for the one-hour run event. Three years later, in 1954, he broke the 29 minutes record for running 10,000 meters. Zátopek was considered one of the greatest runners of the 20th century and was also known for his rigorous, unique training methods. He was the originator of interval and hypoventilation training, nicknamed the "Czech Locomotive." His personal best time for the marathon event was 02:23:04.
Yesterday, my three kids witnessed an incredible life-long lesson while spending quality time with mommy and daddy, as the five of us watched Eliud Kipchoge crush his marathon personal record by almost 2 minutes. When this happened, he inherently also broke the two-hour world record for this event.
So what did they learn?
1. Breaking your boundaries is predominantly a mental effort and phenomenon.
2. Persistence & determination are the keys to personal achievements.
3. Having an assisting staff is a primary factor in your success.
4. Be focused, have high energy, and a strong belief in yourself.
5. Participating in sports helps you gain so many wins in life.
6. Be a role model to your kids ––don't just talk about it, do it.
7. The real learning isn't at school, but rather during the smaller moments of life.
From Childhood to Becoming a Full-Grown Entrepreneur
What happened over the years, since you were six years old until now, as the responsible adult you've grown up to be today? Has the need for someone to guide you disappeared? Are you longing for someone to reach out to you, assuring you that everything will be alright? (Growing up, this "someone" usually helped us understand that the only one who can make things happen to achieve is ourselves.)
Where do you find this coach as an adult? Your spouse, parents, friends, and bosses, for example, all contribute to your journey of growth. You are, naturally, the one who holds the ability to shift your personal development. All of those mentioned above may help along the way, but who is that neutral person that can help you see the bigger picture, clear the dust, and open your eyes through the right filter to build your confidence to face present challenges?
Have you had any thoughts recently about hiring a Startup Coach? There is a significant lack of clarity surrounding their role, purpose, and function. I hope to clear the air by defining what a Startup Coach is and outlining the key attributes to look for when selecting the right coach to help you embark on your journey as a Founder.
What is a Startup Coach?
A Startup Coach works with a startup's Founder & CEO to guide them through leading their venture. They accomplished this by asking the entrepreneur reflective questions, teaching the startup and its other leaders to gain self-awareness, map and prioritize challenges, become a better decision-maker, and communicate their goals better.
A coach can help the Founder outline their values, set goals, and conduct a full, comprehensive status review.
A coach needs to recognize behavior patterns, understand the various bits and pieces of the business, team environment, and guide the Founder towards success. Once a comprehensive roadmap is outlined, the coach can execute their client's training. Through asking questions, new ways of thinking might come up and sequentially prove themselves useful.
The best coaches can think outside the box and not get hung up on specific conventional concepts, models, or tools. A coach must address the unique needs that are specific to each client. Coaches are often confused as consultants since the advice is often presented with shared experiences and emotional support.
But not to worry––the data collected by a coach is confidential, and the choice of sharing it with other senior executives is solely at the Founder's discretion.
When is the right time, and what should you expect?
There is no better time than the present. That said, it would most likely happen just after you raise Series A funding. This is the stage when you finally have enough time and resources to seek out coaching services. The need to assemble a team is imminent, and swiftly acquiring a coach at this stage can be the X factor to tilting the pendulum in your favor over your competition, allowing you to move full-steam ahead and blaze forward as quickly as possible.
Early-stage startups can also benefit from coaching, as they are building their leadership skills and founding the company's culture & DNA from the very beginning. A prime time for a coach is when the Founder takes on additional responsibilities and needs to learn a new set of skills, basically finding themselves in uncharted territory.
You will know you are ready once you are willing to open up and be vulnerable about your difficulties. When you are prepared to display your issues and place them on the operating table, you will go under the knife with a coach of your choice after recognizing that these issues you face will not disappear of their own.
Your coach should wrap up each session with simple, feasible action items that propel you forward and help overcome an obstacle you are currently grappling with. These items can be practical, such as assessing how many hours a week you should spend on making a marketing presentation or having a tough conversation with an associate who gives you a hard time. You should be presented with a mirror that reflects your actions. A great coach will push you further to try new methods and approaches in dealing with your challenges and make you think outside of the box. You might feel uneasy at first, but that is precisely part of the learning process.
I will say this, very few CEOs start with all the skills they need to grow their companies. Managerial skills acquire time and experience.
Back in a more conventional era, having a coach meant you were tanking. Thankfully, times have changed, progressed, and startup Founders are now at the top of the business world. Furthermore, having a coach at their side provides a competitive edge.
What makes a great coach? How do you choose the coach best suited for your needs?
In two words, interpersonal skills. More fleshed out, a coach can be certified or could be recommended to you by someone similar to you that you know and trust. Speaking of trust, you will spend a tremendous amount of extended time talking to your coach, so confidence and chemistry are a must. You must come into this process fully invested and eager for your meetings. Keep in mind that the coach you select should be within your budget.
A great coach will help you achieve your initial objectives, and along the way, will make you see and identify your shortcomings and blind spots. The journey you will embark on might result in new goals that could prove to be more valuable.
Here are some things to look for when wisely selecting your coach:
Client-oriented: You should feel whether your prospective coach usually works with new managers or is more oriented with corporate managers. See if they inspire you, are flexible, accommodating, and available for you.
Career experience: A "been there, done that" coach could be easier to work with. One who does not focus on your learning curve but instead acts like your business partner and thinks about strategy, understands the business environment, and challenges you. They should do more than give you advice and instead supply you with the proper tools to make decisions.
A mentor-like aura: You should have a general idea of your needs when looking for the right coach. The coach should feel to you as though he more developmentally ahead of the curve, particularly in the areas you are looking to make progress in.
On a more personal note, I know that being a startup CEO & Founder can be lonely. No matter what stage you're at in your personal life throughout your startup's growth, asking for help is a sign of strength, and there's an opportunity out there to improve!
I'm here to help you find your inner leader, whether in sports, business, your family, and guide you on this beautiful journey we call an "entrepreneur's life."
In the meantime, consider these two tips:
1) Make sure to engage in physical activity, such as sports. It will take all your life results a few levels higher.
2) Practice taking your day-to-day experiences as an opportunity for introspection, learning, and growth.