7 Must-Haves for a Successful Relationship (With Your Business Coach)

If you are thinking of engaging a business coach, it can be muddy waters. The internet is filled with many claims and ‘secrets.’ So how do you know what to believe?

This article, of course, is totally biased because I am a business coach. That said, I am also a business coach who has learned much about what makes a successful coaching engagement. I’ve been coaching business owners since 2005, and while I’m very proud of the results my team and I have been able to generate for clients, there have certainly  been a few engagements that have taught me some lessons the hard way.

Here are the seven components I believe make a successful client/coach relationship:

  1. Think long term, not a quick fix – there are times when you will indeed have some quick wins. In many cases when we start working with a new client, there is some low hanging fruit that is easily reaped and that makes everyone happy. That said, long term sustainable results often take time and hard work. Be willing for that. Make sure neither you or your coach have a ‘quick fix’ mindset. There is no need to make things harder than they need be – in today’s world of ‘hacks,’ and immediate gratification, shortcuts can be tempting but rarely last.
  2. Personality fit – you need to like each other. Sure, coaching can work without likability, but if your sessions with your coach are not enjoyable because of a personality clash, you just won’t get all you could from the engagement.
  3. Communication and simple language – a personal red flag of mine when engaging any professional is when they use complex language and excess industry jargon. This is often a mask to make them sound smarter than they may be. An effective coach should be able to communicate complex ideas using simple language. At the end of the day, building a business, while certainly not easy, is not overly complex, make sure your coach sees that too.
  4. Asking uncomfortable questions – you are not looking for someone to tell you what you want to hear. In fact, in many cases, you may need the exact opposite. When you are speaking with your prospective coach, notice how willing they are to ask you uncomfortable questions. Also look for objectiveness and compassion in the way they ask the questions.
  5. Root cause – a great business coach, will be able to identify the root cause of an issue quickly and help you find a path through it in a way that is doable for you. Everything in life and business boils down to the first principles of business, which are the real keys to success; and a great coach is a master of using these principles.
  6. Responsiveness – this is really a 101 for any service provider. If you really matter to your coach, they will respond to you within an appropriate time frame. This is a simple point of respect and professionalism.
  7. Your intuition – after speaking with a coach, you should feel clearer in your thinking and empowered and able to act. You should feel a degree of growth in your thinking and/or skills. At the end of a session, your gut should tell you ‘this is working.’ What I’m really saying here is, check in with yourself after speaking with the coach and ask ‘does this feel right?’. For me, every client engagement that has not gone well (don’t worry, there aren’t that many), I really knew at the start the fit was not right. You will also know, if you slow down, take a quiet moment and ask yourself the question, “is this the right coach for me?”.

While this list is not exhaustive, it is the top seven things I would encourage you to consider when hiring a business coach. This will be a very important relationship in your business life. A relationship that can and should change you and your business or the better.

Good luck.

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An Important Lesson in Self-Reflection

In helping others to create the best businesses possible, one key ingredient for high levels of success (as I preach to my clients), is radical responsibility. The following is a story about how I recently failed to do just that.

What does radical responsibility mean? It means accepting that you have 100% control of your choices and responses in any and every moment of your day, week and life. And because you have that level of control over your responses, you also have a massive amount of influence on the outcomes you generate. Those outcomes may not always come about in the ways you imagine or the timeframe you intend, but given the unlimited choices you have to achieve your outcomes, their achievement is arguably always achievable.

This concept is easy to understand but can start to get grey in situations where the triggering event appears to be out of your control. This is particularly true when attempting to keep your cool in stressful situations, or remaining level-headed in heated conversations loaded with (what you perceive to be) untrue accusations.

I recently had the gift of experiencing the latter. And, after days of reflection, my immediate response to the event floored me.

After having a disagreement with someone in my life, I managed to develop a story that completely justified my response and pointed blame (or at least 80% of it) on the other person involved. Now, if you ask most people, I’m pretty sure they will tell you I am a person that does take personal responsibility for my life and outcomes. And given I am the guy who helps others do the same to grow their businesses, I pride myself on walking the talk. My self-identity is a person who takes 100% responsibility. And that was part of the problem. Because I was so sure of myself, I was blind to the reality.

And it got worse. Perhaps, deep down I knew the story I was telling myself was not based in truth, I don’t know, but I subsequently looked for some ‘sounding boards’ to make sure I was not missing something. Yet, upon reflection, the ‘sounding boards’ I chose were people who I knew would take my side. When explaining the situation, my language made it appear like I was taking responsibility but truthfully, I flavoured it (unconsciously) in a way that the response I always got from them was ‘it sounds like you are doing the right thing’ which further justified and supported my story. A sure danger sign that I willingly ignored.

I don’t know why I did this, but some days later I called another ‘sounding board.’ But this one was different. Perhaps I was now ready to find the truth. Brad is also a business coach, and our relationship is such that we hold each other to the highest standard in the toughest of times (and we’ve both been through a few). We never let each other off the hook. So, how do you think this call went?

Brad asked a few probing questions and reflected back some of the things I was saying and in short, gave me the lens of radical responsibility. What I saw was enlightening. The truth was that regardless of the other person’s behaviour (of which I have no control) I always have control over the story I tell myself, and subsequently, my emotional response.

While the other person’s behaviour had triggered anger within me, that trigger was mine to own. My ego did not want to admit this, nor did it want to accept that I needed to do some work and look at myself.

So here’s what happened:

When I next met up with this person, there was hostility in the air. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the decision I had made to take radical responsibility. I reminded myself that I have complete control over how I handle this and how I handle this will have a massive impact on the outcome. I knew I wanted a great relationship with this person, so I needed to stay focused on that and park my ego. The long-term relationship was way more important than the short-term fix of feeding my ego with the need to be ‘right’ (which was always in question anyway).

That first conversation went was something like this:

Me – “We don’t need to talk in depth about what happened if you don’t want to but I do want to share some reflection I’ve had over the past week. I see now that the response I chose in the moment was not fair. And the things you had said to me that fuelled my response do have truth in them. I can see now that I had created stories in my mind that made me feel justified in my behaviour and put me in the ‘right.’ While your behaviour had triggered a response in me, that is my trigger to own. Your behaviour is not the issue here. You have my word that I am now conscious of what happened in me and am committed to working on it. I also apologise for hurting you, which I have clearly done. That was never my intention.”

Them – “Thank you for that but I’m not innocent either.”

Me – “That is for you to judge. All I know is what I need to own and work on.”

It took a lot of work to get me to the point where I was not concerned about trying to change the other person’s behaviour. Before this incident, I really felt it needed to change. The work I did in the week between the event and the reconciliation allowed me to let go of that need and just focus on what was going on inside my own head. The decision to do this was relieving and energising. I no longer had the pressure to try and change something that I could not control.

This situation is still current for me so I can’t tell you how it ends. What I do know is that communication moving forward will be completely different because now instead of needing the other person to be a certain way so I can stay in control emotionally, I am conscious to the fact that I hold the power over my emotions. It may need some different tactics from time to time to get the result I want, but that is still all within my control and I know the next interaction with this person will hold a completely different energy.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend, and we were philosophising over the concept of being comfortable with uncertainty. and the danger of certainty in some situations. My recent experience speaks to that. When I was certain on my story, it prevented self-awareness.

Always be willing to ask “how am I contributing to this?” “What don’t I see or know?”, “What am I assuming to be true that may not be?”

To finish up with some practical tools, the best reading I’ve done on this subject is a book called ‘Crucial Conversations.’ Having the tools is helpful, but having the ability to park your ego is also sometimes the greatest challenge. I know it is for me.

Good luck.

8 Critical Questions to Ask Your Business-Self Before 2018

For all you ‘A type’ business owners out there, how many of you (like me, many times) find yourselves always charging from goal to goal in the pursuit of evermore? You know where this is leading right? The power of taking some time out to ask critical questions and reflect on what ‘has been’ is a very powerful way of making sure the future you are about to create is:

  1. the future you want, and
  2. that you are going to go about it in the best way you know how.

I was sitting down with a new client last week, and he told me about his annual ritual of taking a step back, looking at what he’s accomplished, looking at where he is relative to the plan he created and asking the question “Am I going to keep doing this for another year?”. The ‘this’ in his case is his business. While you may or may not be open to the option to ‘stop running your business,’ it’s an empowering notion to consciously realise you have the choice. Yes, there may be consequences, but you still have the choice. More importantly, taking the time to ask reflective questions (hopefully insightful ones), is a healthy practise that the best business owners consistently adopt.

This year, I crafted a list of questions. They are based on some I’ve used previously and are designed to extract from my mind the lessons and best practises I’ve encountered over the past 12 months (or 40yrs for that matter). Knowing if I bring these thoughts forward to my conscious, I can then proactively apply them moving forward. Let me share them with you.

Reflection:

  1. Looking back over the past 12 months what were the greatest wins for my business?
    • What were the actions, relationships or events that led to these wins?
    • If I had to bottle this as a recipe, what would be the key ingredients?
  2. Looking back over the past 12 months what were the greatest wins for my personal life?
    • What were the actions, relationships or events that led to these wins?
    • If I had to bottle this as a recipe, what would be the key ingredients?
  3. What were my main points of focus over the past year?
  • Given where I am now:
    • which of those would I consider to have been worthwhile?
    • which were possibly a waste of time?
  1. What should I have quit sooner?
    • In hindsight, what are the signs I might have seen (if I knew what to look for) that could have led me to this decision sooner?
  2. What should I have put more effort into? How could I have known to do so earlier?
  3. Looking at all this, what are the biggest lessons of the past year.
    • How can I apply them moving forward?
    • Who can help me?
  4. How do I currently see my SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)
  5. Is my 3-5yr vision still relevant? What changes do I want to make?
    • Looking at my 3-5 year vision, what are my one-year goals.

I find it best to ponder these over a glass of wine – it tends to loosen my creativity ????

Enjoy the questions and more importantly be sure to apply what you learn from answering them…and if you need someone to bounce those ideas off – we’re always ready. Reach out HERE

Why the Title of ‘Salesperson’ Might Just Be Limiting Your Sales Growth.

Modern sales strategies have been a sigh of relief for many salespeople. This is where we put the customer first and operate as a problem solver vs. someone pushing for a sale. But our titles (like that of Salesperson) have not kept up with these changes.

I’m not a fan of whacky titles for the sake of being different, but I do believe titles influence (if not only subconsciously) our identities. And our identities have a massive impact on our behaviour. So where am I going with this?

In any transaction, we have two parties. We have the seller and the buyer. In the modern sales paradigm, we know that no one likes to be sold, but people love to buy—and it’s our job as a salesperson is to find people who have the problem we can solve and help them to buy it. Given that focus (helping people to buy), why do we still use a title that is focused on selling? No one likes being sold, and it’s not where our focus should be.

Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, but I don’t think so. I believe these small distinctions is what fine tunes our thinking and helps us to step up a level. And I know anytime I’ve been in a meeting with someone who could buy, and I’ve been focused on making a sale, it rarely goes well. And the reverse is also true. When I’m focused on what the other person needs and how I can help them get that, it usually ends up with two happy people because we’ve been focused on the right thing.

Sales are about helping others, being of service to others and helping people to solve their problems and get what they want. And if we can do that well, we can get compensated well. And that’s the way it should be.

So, what am I suggesting? Should we change the title salesperson to ‘buying agent’ or ‘problem solver’? I’m not sure. But I do think it’s worth considering that it’s time to update the titles to match the philosophy. It’s time to change the identity of the ‘salesperson.’

 

Why Negativity Makes You a Better Decision Maker

When making important decisions, we are often told, it’s critical to have a positive mindset. And it’s common for optimists everywhere to shut out the negativity of those around us in favour of the rose-coloured outlook.

However, there is incredible power in harnessing that negative vibe from others and using it an alternative outlook that can actually help you make better decisions.

Watch the video and find out how

For more of our quick, easy to digest videos, full of business insight for the discerning business owner click HERE

How to Earn Your Turns in Business

Mountain-biking for the sole thrill of coasting down big hills with no effort doesn’t give you the technical skills or fitness you need to succeed in the long-run. It’s the same for business – watch to learn how to ensure your successes are long-lasting and not the short-lived, flash-in-the-pan variety all too common in business today.

How Strong is Your Network?

It’s been said that your net worth is a reflection of your network, and when it comes to the sales and marketing of your business, a good network is an extremely valuable tool.

However, it’s important to note that a network is not just the sum of the people you know.

It takes strategy and intention to create a network that will help grow your business. Watch to discover what makes a healthy network, and how to make it happen for your business.

 

How to Make Yourself More Referable

This video is NOT about how to get more referrals (well, not directly anyway) It’s about how to boost your level of trust with your clients or customers to become more referable. By identifying your best possible sources of referrals and building those relationships you will see a boost in both the quality and quantity of your referrals.

How to Get More Free Time

Time is a scarce resource, and when it comes to growing your business, where you invest your time can make a critical difference to your success. Here are some strategies you can begin to use immediately, which will allow you to free up at least 15% of your time.

Can you free up 15%+ of your time immediately? When I ask people this question, the answer varies widely from ‘for sure ‘ to ‘probably’ to ‘no way’. Stick with me and I’ll show you how you can do it with 100% certainty. Sounds bold, doesn’t it 🙂

Have you ever reacted without thinking?? Stupid question right. Well, the truth is most of us go through our days reacting and not even realising it. Right now you have patterns and habits in your life that you do subconsciously without thinking. This is actually a good thing because if you had to think about everything, you’d be exhausted. Habits help us operate our lives and are fundamental to being human.

And this is where your opportunity lies.

Just like you get up, get dressed and have breakfast (or not) out of habit, you are making continual choices about how to invest your time (out of habit) each and every moment of the day. Notice my language here …. “choices about how you invest your time”. Time management is not about managing time, it’s about managing habits and choices. Yes … choices. This is the critical principle – you and only you are in control of how you invest your time. Not your customers, employees, your kids or your spouse. In this country, no one can make you do anything … it’s all 100% up to you.

Of course, all decisions about how you invest your time have consequences, nonetheless, you are in control.

Now on to freeing up that time – I’m going to share four strategies with you. Before you embark on using these strategies, be sure to completely buy into the notion that you are in 100% control of your time. That must be step #1

Strategy #1 – Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s law states that a task will expand to fill to time allocated to it. In other words, if you don’t give something a time limit, it will grow widely in inefficiency. Set a time limit for all major tasks and meetings – and experiment with making that time limit 15-20% less than you normally would. I.e. instead of 1hr meetings, make them 40mins. This will force you and those attending to be focused and effective. It will prompt you to stop people who waffle and encourage you to be more clear with your thinking.

Strategy #2 – 80:20 Rule – 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities. Key question “If you could only do 3 tasks in your business, what would they be?”. Answering this question should guide you towards what your most valuable activities are. When you guide your time choices to invest more time in those things, you’ll find a way to take care of the minutia that is currently filling/wasting your time.

Strategy #3 – Learn to say no – this one plays in line with the 80:20 above. Once you are clear on what activities you ‘should’ be doing, it becomes easier to say no to those you shouldn’t.

Strategy #4 – Time Blocking – once you are clear on what you want to invest your time doing, create blocks of uninterrupted time to get them done. Being interrupted can decrease your efficiency exponentially. What should take 30mins can often take hours if you allow yourself to be interrupted. And if you find your mind coming up with elaborate excuses of why you can’t create interrupted blocks of time, recognize it for what it is … an excuse. Be creative and dedicated … it is YOUR time … no-one else’s.

Have some fun with it. And I’d love to hear about your success stories … or challenges ????

Jamie Cunningham