Why do you ‘think’ you need a Business Coach?
I find it hard to believe that I’ve been working with SME’s for over a decade now. It’s gone in a flash. Eleven years ago I emerged blinking into the Las Vegas sun after eleven days of immersive franchise training; and to be honest, I was a bit pissed off.
Having had a twenty-five years, diverse career spanning seven FTSE100 companies, a big five consultancy and a $1bn US funded start-up, working my way up from a Clerical Assistant to a Director Financial Operations, turns out I already knew more than I’d realised when it came to leadership and business. I’d spent a ton of money for felt like nothing new.
I left the corporate world because I had become bored with retrenchment and endless rounds of redundancy and cost cutting. My plan was to make a massive dent in the commercial universe by working with just about every small business in the country. Well that was the vision….
Getting results with no idea how
I set out to look for businesses to support and manage to build a diverse but awesome client base, across the engineering, retail, construction and marketing sectors. I found a sweet spot of businesses between £2–100m turnover.
Most of my clients were all getting great results, some better than others, but of course that depends how you view success. The head of the franchise used to say that ‘whatever the client says the problem is, money is the solution’. It was an idea that never sat comfortably with me. Most of the people I was working with were already successful. Many of my clients are pretty happy with their company results; it is their experience of running the business that they want to change.
We’d talk about all sorts of business issues and I’d get them to identify and implement different strategies, just like I’d been trained. But that wasn’t where the big breakthroughs came from.
I noticed that my clients began to show up differently in their businesses and would take exciting, positive and often surprising decisions and actions; none of which had been discussed in coaching sessions. Even weirder they ascribed the decisions to me!!
I wanted to know what I was doing that was driving this behaviour so that I could bottle it and get it out to loads more businesses. It felt like it might be a hack that could avoid years of coaching effort.
The problem with Business Coaching
Inside I had a deep, rising sense of cynicism about retained relationship Business coaching (one of the mantras in my franchise was ‘get client, keep client’). It didn’t sit well with me.
Then there were the fees. No matter how us coaches create justification for our fees; it’s still not cheap. Between £1-£2k a month over three years (that was my average client retention), is a big chunk of change, for sure.
If you could get what you wanted for a lower investment of effort and money wouldn’t you take that route?
My performance in getting new clients was also being affected by my impostor syndrome. This was a throwback from my corporate days. I always had a nagging belief that I wasn’t good enough or clever enough to warrant the senior roles I was in. I thought that becoming self-employed would put this particular ghost to sleep for me but, if anything, it amplified it.
This combination of toxic thinking was resulting in me self-sabotaging my own success. It was stopping me getting the level of success I knew I was capable of.
Change or die
My business plateaued out and whilst I was making a living I really wasn’t getting the reach I needed to make the level of difference that felt exciting to me.
I became more disengaged with the franchise. I’d become convinced there was a better way to help my clients that I was effecting how I showed up to sell coaching.
It reached a point where I knew that if a breakthrough didn’t come soon trouble was coming.
Then, as is so often the case, an idea emerged.
It started, as many of my ideas do, with a thought in the shower one morning. I was slapping on the Radox and thinking about the reasons why people needed to engage me as their coach. It suddenly occurred to me that I was asking the wrong question. The real question was ‘why do these people ‘think’ they need a business coach?’
As it turned out the answer only emerged as the result of dealing with some of my own internal horse shit.
The miracle breakthrough
I was attending a training weekend with a New York based coach, Dr Joseph Riggio, and we were exploring the role of stories in our experience of life. We did an exercise that involved retelling our back stories when something completely mad happened. During the exercise my whole life reframed itself, pretty much in an instant. It felt like I’d been wearing a concrete suit that someone had just hit with a hammer.
For the first time I saw the full extent of my experience laid out in front of me and the potential of what I had to offer.
Over the next few days the insights get popping. I realised that getting Business leaders to show up differently was not best served by coaching them.
It lay in a simple transformation of the way the owners showed up in their businesses and how they organised themselves around the results that they wanted. This transformation had the power to make them fully self-resilient, bypassing the sense of dependency on their coach for motivation, inspiration and accountability.
All this could be done with just a few simple tools; most of which I already understood from my audit and coaching experience. The missing link was figuring out what I needed to do to create the level of personal transformation that I had experienced; or at least to get people an experience of their full potentiality, so they could find their way back to it when they needed it.
I was ready to make my move
Abandoning the old model
The first thing I did was to quit the franchise and set up my own business so I could design a program, free from constraints.
I pulled together tools and capabilities, many of which I had long forgotten. My goal was to
1. Get you so aligned with what you actually want that the need for a coach kicking your butt becomes a thing of the past
2. Create a simple business planning framework that would work across all types of business to create a robust workable blueprint for the growth and development of companies
3. Give you a framework for problem solving, planning and decision making so you can ‘coach’ yourself.
4. Make you so confident and resilient that you will be able to deal with whatever shows up in your company without panic or procrastination
I studied the psychology of performance and transformation and was also lucky enough to spend a year on a mentoring program with Dr Riggio developing the skills I would need.
These ideas became my book: Sleeping Tiger Revolution: uncommon business sense. After finishing the book I began running Leadership Development and Business breakthrough programs, with Managing Directors, senior decision makers, sales professionals and Managers/ Supervisors . I wanted to make sure the program could guarantee to deliver on its outcomes before I went LARGE.
Breaking the bonds of comfort
It hasn’t all been smooth running. At first it was tough to let go of providing tips, tactics and strategies rather than focus on the transformative work with the decision makers. It felt kinda comfortable, and easy, to coach or advise at the level of solutions. There is something deeply satisfying about solving todays problems. But I quickly realised that it doesn’t serve my clients or their businesses to work at this level. It sets up a dependency which is only good for one bank balance; your coaches!
It also became apparent that this approach wasn’t for everyone. It only worked for participants who actively engaged in the content and focussed on playing their part, for themselves and the other delegates on their program. I had to learn how to identify the traits of participants that would get the results they wanted from the program.
Does it really work?
The clients that have been through these programs have all created big shifts in their companies by narrowing their focus to just a handful of key growth levers, as opposed to becoming overwhelmed and bogged down.
But the real value is in the change in them, as individuals. It’s been incredible to watch them effortlessly transform as they begin to show up differently. They have all grown in confidence and have the self-assurance that comes with knowing that, whatever happens, they’ll deal with it. They become more natural leaders, as they reconnect with their enthusiasm for business. There is a general air of authenticity about them.
My work with my clients now runs over a four-month period and I do this work in groups up to nine (I’ve found the power of group thinking is immense when it comes to transformation) but with 1–1 support. I’ve found that about 50% of participants need no further input after this. The rest have gone on to a quarterly review program, to stay in contact with the community and to refresh and refocus themselves.
Many of my clients have also gone on to put the Directors and Managers through the program too.
I’ve become so confident in the results from the program that I introduced a money back guarantee for people I accept onto the program. The best thing is it costs a fraction of what just one years typical business coaching fees would cost.
Pop over to www.sixthsensebusiness.com to swipe a copy of my free e-book ‘The Leader in You’ and to register for a place on my free webinar ‘Have a word with yourself — Six simple conversations that transform business results and leadership performance’