As a business owner, do you also think of yourself as a coach? Embracing this part of your role - to help your people grow while your company does - is more important than ever before. Because even if they don't always say so, everyone on your team wants the same thing: to feel that their work mattered today, to you and to them.
The bad news is, as the de facto leader of your company culture, this role is not optional. Whether you feel like you're a 'people person' or not, if you don't take this role seriously, you're sending a powerful message about how much you value each person's individual contributions. The incredibly good news is that when you do embrace your role as 'head coach,' and you see not just what it does for their life but for yours - you're going to get hooked.
So what does it look like - to be a coach 'inside' your business? How do you know where to start, or whether you're doing it 'right?' First - let's be clear what kind of coaching we're talking about. We're not talking about you needing to be a fully trained and experienced business coach. But rather, you choosing to be the person in the business, more than anyone else, who makes a priority out of using problems as pathways - opportunities to look beneath the surface of what's 'gone wrong' to find out what the real story is. And most importantly, to give space and opportunities for other people to figure out their contribution, so that they can solve it.
To follow your frustration all the way through, you have to resist the first impulse to do something about it.
Here's a three-step process you can use the next time there's an issue in your business, meaning ... there's an opportunity for you to coach. Whether that's an obviously broken system, an unhappy customer, or something going on with someone on your staff that you just can't put your finger on, this tool will help you start thinking more like a coach, and if you keep at it you'll see it's infectious:
Follow Your Frustrations
The next time you get a 'niggle,' when something about your business just bugs you, you follow it. This could be the 'smallest' detail in your business, that nobody else notices, or an issue that's been plaguing your business for years. Whether it's a subtle tension you pick up between two people on your team, an 'innocent' error on an invoice, it could be anything. What you've just found is a bread crumb on the trail to something really important that's in the way of your business growing - so treat it that way and follow it.
Summon The Courage
To follow your frustration all the way through, you have to resist the first impulse to do something about it. Instead, this is the the time to ask questions so that you can discover the root cause. Questions like, "What is the real reason this happened?" "How did I contribute to this situation?" "How did he/she contribute to this happening?" "Is there something systemic about our culture that created the conditions for this to happen?"
As you follow the frustration all the way through, at some point you'll hit paydirt. How do you know when you're there? You'll know it when what you found was something you didn't want to find, a truth about the way things are today that's uncomfortable or has no easy answer. Courage is the willingness to stay in there, especially when you don't know how to solve it, but to keep asking questions, poking and prodding, and risking frustrating the people around you - until the answer reveals itself.
Handle With Extra Care
If you've done the first two steps well, you've probably found yourself someplace where the stakes are really high. At the bottom of every business-level frustration is a human one, and it's got some extra 'charge' for that person because it's been under there for a while. This is when you earn your stripes as a 'head coach,' to make sure that wherever you go from here you stay on it, by caring enough to see your team or employee all the way through no matter how long it takes or how many meetings you have to have to get there. Don't let it sink back underground in your company culture. There's nothing worse than caring that doesn't go all the way.
When it comes to asking how you'll grow your business, it's easy to say, "we need more business development" or "more strategic thinking." And that's right, but it's also a cop-out from the real work that falls to you as the owner of the business - to follow your instincts and then start change at the level where it will stick - which is of course with the people on your team.
This way you won't ever lose sight of what's really going on in the heart of your business. No matter how well systematized your business is, your people want something deeper: to live a life that's more meaningful today than it was yesterday.
What if no matter what industry you're in, you're in the meaning-making business? How can you coach more of that into your business starting today?