“It can be lonely at the top”… but it doesn’t have to be. You’ve heard the adage about CEOs and founders having to “go it alone” because of their high-level responsibility for the organization and its employees. It’s time for this myth to end. Good leaders know that business is a team sport. The best entrepreneurs have found that collaborating, partnering, and having a thought partner, is truly the secret to their success. Enter coaching. Finding someone who plays the role of an internal coach may be hard. There are power dynamics, reporting relationships, and other unique aspects of the position to be considered. But having an external trusted coach has helped many organizations excel at the highest levels.
“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.” - Bob Nardelli, former CEO, Home Depot
Consider this: Coaching has been linked to a return on investment (RoI) of almost six times the program cost. What’s more, studies have shown a 77% improvement in relationships, 67% improvement in teamwork, 61% improvement in job satisfaction, and 48% improvement in quality. This is why some of the most successful companies in the world have had coaches for their CEO’s, including Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Eric Schmidt of Google, and Steve Bennett of Intuit. All extremely successful entrepreneurs who attribute that success to having a coach. What about SMEs in Africa? Judge for yourself.
Let’s face it, the skills required to start a business from the seedling of an idea aren’t the same skills needed to grow it to the next level. As the company grows and more leaders join the team, your role changes. Where once your energy was all about creating and selling your ideas, future success is often determined by your ability to reevaluate strategies and pivot when necessary - not only when there’s a pandemic. Furthermore, sustainability requires building a team and empowering them to take on some of your hats. And that requires leadership. Fortune Magazine reported, “In a recent study, training alone improved leadership skills by 22%. When combined with executive coaching, improvement jumps to 77%.” With a coach helping you achieve clarity, it allows you to more strategically focus on your company and the people in it.
We all have blind spots. The CEO, however, rarely has anyone to help them “see” and this is often where executive failure happens. A coach can listen, observe, and “see” things you may not be fully aware of, or help you reframe any unhelpful way you may be viewing your challenges, your organization, or your market. For example, a coach may hear a limiting belief like “I can’t compete with Brookside Dairies - they are so big.” Working with a coach who asks challenging questions can help you reevaluate and consider questions such as “What is my unique value proposition?” or “What dairy products can I offer the market?”
Fear can lead to failure. There are things you’re too afraid to say out loud or your team is afraid to say to you. They don’t want to risk their jobs. Yet there are things you need to hear in order to avoid company failure. A coach can, should, and will tell you. Remember, the truth is your friend. And they will do it because they are 110% FOR you! And that’s what truly being FOR YOU means.
The myth of “alone at the top” is fueled by this reality – there are some things you can’t discuss with those inside your organization, but you can discuss with your coach. That’s what they’re there for. And they not only provide that confidential sounding board, but are the accountability partner you need to take the actions you need to take.The beauty of having a coach is that the help isn’t tied to a certain industry, or even the size of an organization. It's beautifully focused on YOU, YOUR company, and YOUR context.
“No one knows my business the way I do; they couldn’t possibly understand.” The biggest mistake you can make as an entrepreneur is thinking that you know everything. Having that mindset could even backfire on you and keep you from reaching out to those who can help you.“Doesn’t the need for a coach symbolize weakness?” In fact, the opposite is true. A coach isn’t “just a counselor”. While there’s some element of that in the executive coaching role, in reality, they are part counselor, part cheerleader, part task master, part teacher, and part drill sergeant - all rolled into one.
“Executive coaches are not for the meek. They’re for people who value unambiguous feedback. All coaches have one thing in common, it’s that they are ruthlessly results-oriented.” - Fast Company
Take your company to the next level and beyond. Sinapis can help you find a coach that will help you grow your impact and your company’s success. Sinapis Coaching is launching February 2021. Contact us to learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Dr. Beth BirminghamBeth is an American professor, consultant, and coach in the international development sector helping others lead well, achieve their missional outcomes, and foster flourishing organizational culture.