Quite simple, the answer is no you cannot coach your subordinates. Why, you may ask?
A coaching relationship is seen as an equal partnership between two people and unfortunately whichever way you dress it up, you and your subordinates within the business environment are not equal parties. You are their boss.
It is therefore recommended that you take on a mentorship role, which is the type of relationship which works extremely well in this type of situation as the mentor’s job is to impart their knowledge, experience and learnings onto a less experienced mentee. The relationship is equal in respect, but not in status.
If however you want your team members to engage in a positive and impactful coaching experience then you must accept that you are not the right person for the job and that a colleague from another department or an external coach should be earmarked for the job.
You may have the most genuine of intentions to enter the coaching relationship completely open, unbiased and non-judgemental. You may even verbalise this genuine intent to your subordinates. However, a positive, trusting coaching relationship starts with the coachee feeling completely free to talk about their own experiences, feelings and goals and unfortunately doing this with their boss is not a winning formula. In their eyes, you are not an equal or an unbiased objective voice. They see you as the boss, the person who completes their performance appraisal. The person who they seek advice and guidance from during challenging times. You may merge some coaching techniques into your management style, which is extremely commendable, but it doesn’t make for a coaching relationship.
You may disagree, so for arguments sake let’s turn this scenario around and answer these questions.
1) How comfortable would you feel if you were being coached by your boss?
2) How truthful would you be about how you felt if you were coached by your boss?
3) How would you feel about your relationship with your boss outside of the coaching relationship? Would you be able to draw a clear line between boss and coach?
4) How truthful would you be in the coaching session, if your boss was your coach?
Remember, coaching is not about what you or the business wants for the coachee or what you think is best for the coachee. It’s about them and what they want. Doing what’s best for them, may just include the option of bringing in an external coach.
2) Acknowledge and accept your weaknesses
Throughout history there have been some exceptional leaders, Ghandi, Churchill, and Nelson Mandela are a few that come to mind. All these great leaders have stood out over the decades and have mastered the art of leading a group of people, where in some circumstances have had to lead in the most harrowing of circumstances. What was the reason that people chose to follow these great leaders?
There has been extensive research completed by many universities and organisations over the years to try and pinpoint what exactly are the traits or qualities of a good leader. The research has apparently come back inconclusive. As you can guess, every exceptional leader who has stood out in a crowd has come with a different background, value system, experiences and character. Unfortunately there is no such thing as one neat little set of leadership traits. If you had to compare Ghandi and Churchill, these two men were polar opposites in their leadership styles, even missing a few key leadership traits some would say. However, they are still regarded as great leaders of our time.
There are however two traits that do rise above the countless leadership traits that we see on personal development lists and job description requirements and those two are as follows.
- Good leaders have the ability to adapt to their circumstances: A leader is someone who can assess and acknowledge the environment for what it is. Expecting the environment to be perfect for their unique requirements would be an impossible ask. Good leaders can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a situation as well as identify future opportunities. Never wishing what could be, but knowing what the results will be into the future. Good leaders truly believe in the vision themselves, so much so that their passion and motivation for achieving their vision shines through in all that they do.
- Good leaders understand the need for building relationships: Leaders understand that in order to reach the ultimate vision they need the people around them to firstly buy into that vision. Once that has happened only then can action plans be executed.
How do you get people to follow you or buy into the vision? Well, this could be the place where some of the other important traits come in. Good leaders know that it’s not about spitting out orders and expecting results. It’s ultimately about building relationships. What are some of the characteristics of a strong relationship? What should a good leader be practising everyday?
- Respect: Earning respect from the team by practising active listening, being accountable for one’s actions, practising what they preach and stepping up and leading from the front.
- Empathy: Taking the time to understand the team and how they view the situation. Considering their feedback and suggestions to make them feel part of the process.
- Loyalty: Being honest and open with the team builds loyalty and trust.
- Treating everyone as unique: Good leaders take the time to get to know the individual team members. Their style, strengths, challenges, personal goals and dreams. The leader will help each team member to grow, develop and reach personal goals whilst working towards the business vision.
Do you have these leadership traits? If not, what do you need to do to develop them?
Work-life balance – a phrase we hear all too often. But some people will roll their eyes, put the thought of balance into the “too hard” box and carry on with the juggling act they call life. Sound familiar?
When the topic of work-life balance comes up in a coaching session, and it comes up often, people have a range of opinions. They either believe that it’s too selfish on their part to have a balance in their lives, in other words they are not worthy of balance; or they don’t believe that all components of their life carry equal weight. For example work is seen as more important than spending time with family and friends or exercise.
The funny thing is, is that no one in your life is going to create balance or happiness for you. You have to make it happen for yourself. Stop waiting for permission, stop waiting for someone to make you happy and take control of your own balance and happiness.
Here are two questions I would like you to think about.
- If you had balance in your life, how happy would you be?
- How are your personal goals aligned to your work/business goals?
If you think your life is unbalanced and you are unhappy in your current situation because of this, either working too hard or playing too hard. Think about if you changed your current situation, how happy would you be or how much happier would you be?
We cannot separate our personal lives from our working lives, so are your goals in alignment, or do you try and live two separate lives? How’s that going for you?
One tool which you can use to help you reflect on all areas of your life and to create a starting point for change is the wheel of life. After you have rated yourself on each of the eight areas, think about a goal that you would like to achieve for each of these areas. Let each goal be as important as the next. Then put your thinking cap on and come up with a way to achieve these goals.
Remember, no-one but you is going to create balance for you.
Recently I was asked what my best tip or advice would be around time management. How can one run a business and be effective in managing their time?
There is not just one answer, since it depends on where you are in your business, what systems and processes are in place and how many resources you have.
There are the general tips of prioritising your tasks, delegating and building micro-goals into your routine, but the one piece of advice that really stands out for me is the following in the form of an analogy.
In order to build a strong house, which will withstand all weather conditions you naturally begin by building a strong foundation. Once the foundation has been built you then start with the framework and from there you fill in the detail. I’m no builder, but even to me it makes sense. Building a strong foundation and then moving systematically through and completing one project after the other, makes for good building sense.
So, relating this to business, if you want to spend your time wisely and make sure your business can withstand all “weather conditions”, make sure you have a strong foundation in the business. This would include having the right people in your business, the correct systems and processes, defining an accurate target market and being clear on your product or service offering. Spend time in the very beginning to get these elements right would be building your foundation and framework and then actively put time aside every quarter to review your progress.
Every new project you initiate in your business, from innovation and developing new products and services to on-boarding new employees, make sure the foundations are strong and the support network or framework is in place. Having to re-visit failed projects due to lack of planning and preparation can be incredibly expensive, demotivating, stressful and a complete time waster.
Unfortunately many business owners waste so much time running around in reactive mode putting out fires all day, because the initial foundations and business framework are not in place or are incredibly weak. Having a fancy bathroom or walk-in cupboards can be great, but if the walls of the house are crumbling down, a stand-alone victorian bath can seem pretty useless.
Good time management is about doing the right thing first and making sure you don’t need to keep going back to patch up the errors.
Recruiting new people into your business can be one of the best decisions you make, especially if you are a small business and need additional help or missing specialist skills. Extra hands can take on additional load, alleviate time pressures, help to grow your business and allow you to start working on, instead of in, your business.
If done correctly, it can be the answer to you being able to work a -smarter-not-harder-forty-hour-work-week. But get it wrong and it can be a costly mistake.
Turning your business from a one-man-band into employing staff or contractors will change your business forever. You are not just looking after and directing yourself, you are also directing other people’s actions. You are not just managing a business, but you are managing other people who are managing your business. This changes the dynamics completely, so if you’re not prepared for what comes with a new hire, then think twice about how you will alleviate the pressure or delegate the workload, before you start signing off contracts. Perhaps there is an alternative to hiring?
If you make the decision to hire think about the following:
Reality check # 1 – Direction from day one
New employees or team members want to be told what their areas of responsibility are. This would come in the form of a job description. Yes, you have hired them for the specific skill set, but they still want to be given direction from the beginning. Before hiring a new person, think about what this new role will be doing in the business. Think about the working conditions, roles and responsibilities, how the role’s performance will be measured and what type of contract is needed. Think about how you will manage this role. Then very importantly, hire the person to fit the job requirements and business culture. Don’t randomly hire someone and try and fit the job around the person. You may need to bring in a recruitment expert.
Reality check # 2 – Delegation
Even if you delegate work to your new hire or contractor, you will still need to follow up on their work. You are still responsible for the outcome. Read more about delegation.
Reality check # 3 – Set them up for success
In your head you have a very clear understanding of your business. Its vision, mission and values. You know how you want the world to see you and you know how to communicate to your existing clients and potential clients. If you do not pass this vital information on to your new hire and just assume that they know what to do or “they’ll just pick it up as they go along”, then you are doing your business and your new hire a huge injustice.
Before you bring anyone into your fold, make sure there is a meeting of two minds. Make sure that there is no chance for “assumption” to come into the conversation. Set them up for success, not failure.
This set up would be tackled by developing your own business bible or operations manual. Once this has been compiled, make sure the new hire is actually trained on the information. Test their knowledge. Would you let someone who doesn’t have their driver’s license drive your new car? Probably not, so don’t allow someone who doesn’t have a clear understanding of your business, engage with your clients.
Reality check # 4 – Constant communication
No-one wants to be an annoying micro-manager, but you do need to communicate frequently with your new hire. Assuming that no news from them is good news is a dangerous assumption. Make sure that you have regular check-ins with your new staff members to make sure that you are both reading off the same page. This check-in isn’t just for you to ensure they are in the right direction, but team members want to feel supported and heard. They want to know that they are doing a good job and if required they can seek help with any challenges they may face. They should feel that they can also share new ideas and solutions in the safe space that you have created.
Take the time to set yourself, your business and new recruits up for success. Put in the right systems and process to successfully support the on-boarding of new team members. Do it right the first time, you will not be sorry.
There is no such thing as a silver bullet strategy when it comes to business success , that being one action or activity that will miraculously build a successful business. We all intrinsically know this, but yet, so many business owners set themselves up for failure and disappointment by taking on for example the mindset of, “If I just do this one promotion, then everything will be fine”.
Not to put a damper on your efforts, but sometimes we do need a reality check. One of the key components of achieving one’s goals is that you must be realistic, very simple. If you want to build a sustainable business and avoid being a one hit wonder there are a few key components you will need to ensure are part of your business structure and business ethics.
Vision and mission
Before you excitedly start setting business goals, think about what your long term vision is. What is your ultimate goal and how do you want to be seen in five or ten years time? Once that has been defined then confirm your mission statement.
Completing your business vision/mission statement shouldn’t be done begrudgingly, rushed through or be viewed as an afterthought. Put the time aside to build this part of your business. Why? Your vision and mission are your guiding lights whenever a business decision needs to be made. They keep you focused in good times and very importantly they guide you when times are tough and there will likely be many tough times in your business. Therefore, establishing strong, powerful and bright guiding lights makes good business sense.
Courage, resilience and grit
In my opinion these are probably some of the most important character traits to have when running a business . Having the strength and courage to pick yourself up after failure will turn you into a survivor. If you have the ability to do this, you can achieve anything. These character traits do not always come easily and we are often only asked to prove ourselves when we have already fallen on hard times. No opportunities for test driving these qualities.
To boost these character traits it is advised to have a solid business plan and a business purpose that is true to your values. It can be tricky and extremely demotivating to be courageous if you don’t really believe in your purpose one hundred percent.
Being a business owner is not for the faint-hearted. So make sure you have a good strong pool of people you can call on during the tough times. This can take the form of business partners, family, friends, mentors, coaches or professional networking groups.
Support is also good to have in times of success, sharing your wins with your support network can be extremely rewarding.
Consistency in business builds trust and loyalty with your customers. Whatever your business goals are make sure you are consistent in your delivery, follow through and follow up. Customers will very quickly look elsewhere if you are inconsistent and unreliable.
To make sure you are consistent in your business, always have a plan. Yearly, quarterly, month, weekly and daily. There is much to be said about the saying, “proper planning prevents poor performance”.
Business success will be different for every business, depending on what the end goals are, however one thing that all businesses have in common, is the need to achieve the goals.
So, when you are planning your goals for the year or quarter ahead, also think about these components. Do you have a strong vision? How courageous are you and how would you persevere during tough times? Who is your support network and do you operate your business in a consistent manner? Some food for thought.
About a million years ago, when I was studying at hotel school I learned about and practised the french discipline of ‘mis-en-place’.
Roughly translated it means, “putting in place” or “everything in its place”. This practise is not just a term, but actually a way of life for any chef who wants to have a highly organised, productive and efficient kitchen. To ensure a successful end-result, which would be happy customers eating well prepared dishes, you should always have all of the ingredients, utensils, equipment and staff at the ready before even thinking about starting any cooking.
How does this have anything to do with business you may be thinking? Well, it is extremely relevant and pretty simple. If you want to be successful, to work smarter not harder, you need to be pre-prepared before heading out into the big wide world of business.
In the kitchen these would be the very best fresh produce, meats, dry goods, herbs and spices. Think about why you would go to a restaurant and order a specific dish. Is it because it’s something you cannot create yourself? Is it something not commonly available, so unique, so indulgent that it makes your mouth water just thinking about it, and you know for certain that you just have to order it?
In business, your ingredients would be your products and/or services. Do you believe your products and/or services are unique to your target audience and that the value they add is so good that your customers will return, because they cannot purchase it anywhere else, or that it is so good they just have to have it? If not, what would you need to do to make your products and/or service a high demand item or service?
Equipment and utensils
Depending on the desired end result, the chef could use something as simple as a chef’s knife or as complex as a food processor. It just depends on the need.
In business I would equate this to your systems and processes. Do you believe you have the best procedures and structures in your business to guarantee the best outcomes? Do your processes allow you to work smarter, cut out the unnecessary clutter and provide the customers with the best service?
If not, what would you need to do in order to make this a reality?
A restaurant can have the best location, state of the art equipment and top notch suppliers, but if the staff working in the kitchens as well as in the front of house are unskilled and incompetent you might as well close your doors.
Think about the team members in your business, or if you are a one-man band, think about our own skills and capabilities. Are you able to deliver on what you are promising and not stopping there, what is the self-development plan for the future?
What is the mis-en-place that you need to do in your business to ensure that you are on the road to success?