I recently met with a unique woman entrepreneur. Not to mention she was smart, sharp and creative (and gorgeous), she also understood one or two things during her entrepreneurial path. She understood that no one can decide for her what’s the right way to go, and she should lean on those who can help her understand herself and what’s true for her. Understand her WHY.
Working with startups in different stages, I have come to the realization that they having a special consultant is as challenging as sailing on choppy waters, especially for an early stage startups. Consulting is basically coming up with, and introducing new ideas to implement and improve. Startups by nature, have more new ideas than they can handle. It’s basically adding more oil to an already burning fire. It creates stress. Not to mention the high costs of keeping a consultant on the payroll, considering the founders tendency to stay on budget.
But I’m not here to talk about consulting.
It is my belief that you have to teach founders how to fish, rather than serving them fish on a platter. In other words - give them the tools to build and shape their business, and not build it for them.
Dealing with founders is an art. In my experience with startups, I’ve learned that every person has his own approach, and a coach needs to tailor a costume made model every time a new.
Coaching is growing. It’s bringing into light the skills from within. It’s a softer approach than hammering down skills set to the startups to implement.
A coach might not have all the answers, but a great coach can ask the right questions.
I have drafted 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 to solve pressing issues and put a spotlight on 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 - always challenge yourself.
2. What’s on your plate?
What is the cowbell that hangs heavy on the founders neck? That prevents them from sleeping at night? By understanding the desirable outcome, and marking top priorities, I can guide them on the right path.
3. Be curious
When you are genuinely curious, and constantly ask questions, it’s learning. And more importantly so, you are not judging and jumping to conclusions. When you are not being judgmental, it breaks down the walls of defensiveness, and you are poised to make influence.
Like Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Understanding is a two-way street”.
When you understand the situation, you create a bond, a connection - it’s the beginning of collaboration.
The more well defined the goals are, the more obvious are the stepping stones to get there. Seek the smallest details, the truth is in the details. Avoid generalizations, 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. It is most effective when you share a personal experience spiced with rich details and emotions. The memory of it would be far more vivid, when the founder later draws his plans.
With you around, the founder is never alone - and it could otherwise be very lonely at the top, having to deal with all the challenges.
It is up to you to give a good word for a well executed plan.
8. Following the milestones
I make it a habit to end my sessions with a reflection on what happened during our session, and how it affected them. I also send them home with an action item for the founder to take - it gives closure to the meeting. Knowing the reality, founders have the tendency to be sucked into the vortex immediately after the session. A follow up is also mandatory - it shows your commitment. It shows that you are invested, and provides a great service.
And last but not least -
To those of you out there in search of coaches -
The coach you seek will know how to supply your demand for professional and emotional energy and direction. It could be challenging to find a great coach - 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 cadre that can lead to your success - 2020 is right in the corner, there's no better time to find the right coach than the present.