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.

P.S. If you’re still not sure how business coaching can help you be the entrepreneur you seek to be, consider subscribing to our Business Nutrition Newsletter, packed with just enough fuel for your fire. Sign up below.

To access the entire Business Nutrition archive for free, click HERE

How to Avoid Being “That Boss”

Time to Watch: 3:16

Whether you call yourself a Boss, Leader, or Owner, there’s a very fine line between setting the pace and driving the pace. Knowing the difference is critical to the health of your team. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “Boss think” on this one, and it can be detrimental to the health and productivity of your team. Here’s how to effectively set the pace as a leader, no matter what stage your business is at.

What we’re talking about here is your effect on the team in terms of your behaviour around implementation and execution. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you aren’t held to account in the same way that your people are, but to echo a sometimes-overused phrase, you really do need to lead by example to get the results you want.

You can’t create separate standards for yourself and your team, because the difference will be stark, and the result will be the creation of an “us vs. them” culture which does nothing to promote, ingenuity, motivation or retention—all cornerstones of a successful business.

If you’re looking to be a team and work as a team, then you need to actively participate as one of the team, regardless of how you view yourself in the culture of the business.

What are your biggest challenge jumping into the trenches? Let us know in the comments below.

And if you watch this and think: “If there’s no ‘I’ in team, why am I doing all the work?” This read is for you.

Get out there and have fun with it, and if you’ve hit a stumbling block, we can help. Reach out and let us know what you need.

Cheers,

 

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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

If This Is How You Handle Employee Performance, You May Be Doing it Wrong

The Employee Performance Problem

Ask any well-meaning manager what an employee performance appraisal should accomplish, and you’ll usually hear answers along the lines of: “to categorize the organization, improve employee performance and boost motivation.”

While these are all critical aims for an organization if the answer to how they currently accomplish this is through an annual performance review—then there are problems with the system. Namely, those annual performance appraisals generally only serve one of the three purposes listed above—and it isn’t performance or motivation.

So, How Did We Get Here?

The long and short of employee performance reviews is that they are derived from military practice, were never designed to foster improvement, and have long been used as a tool to cull an organization of their bottom performers. According to the Harvard Business Review, they also serve to punish past behaviour at the expense of achieving the desired future performance that is critical for organizational survival.

So, the question begs: If employees hate them, managers don’t see their value and an organization isn’t benefiting from them—why not ditch them all together?

The Elimination Problem

Well, while I was going to title this post “The Stone Age Called and They Want Their Appraisal Back,” that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, as ditching the yearly recap isn’t always the best solution either. So many initiatives are tied to it, including, planning and compensation. However, the employment landscape over the last few decades has made it clear that the conversation needs to shift away from the metrical to the malleable.

Anyone familiar with the psychological principle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs knows that motivation comes in various levels: from the basic (like food, shelter, and wages), to psychological (belonging, achievement, respect of others, etc.) and finally to self-actualization (morality, problem-solving, creativity, etc.)

Although this theory has its critics, the basic premise is that human beings are striving for self-worth and acknowledgment—and if you aren’t creating an environment where this (and the resulting performance growth) can occur—your employees are going to look to another organization to fill those needs.

The take-home is it’s no longer realistic to rank an employee with performance metrics once per year, give them either a raise or a performance improvement plan, and expect that the basic needs you do satisfy (like a regular paycheque) will be enough to sustain them and motivate them to perform to a level that will grow your organization.

So Where Do We Go from Here?

It’s no secret that supported, engaged employees do better—and when they do better, you do better. The goal of employee performance is to elicit behaviour that supports the organization’s bottom line while fulfilling some of those psychological needs your employees crave—and giving them the tools to do it effectively. There are several ways to get this done—and yes, you can keep your year-end appraisal—if you focus on its value as a recap of the year. A good rule of thumb is that there should never be anything in a performance appraisal that is a surprise for the employee. Other strategies could include:

  • Linking goals to key company objectives like the mission/vision (they “why you exist” stuff)
  • Tying goal achievement to collaboration and communication (not every task needs to be a group project, but increased collaboration and information sharing leads to increases across the board)
  • Training managers to check in consistently (this allows for accurate course corrections throughout the year while retaining employee autonomy. The key here is manager training)
  • Allowing the employee access to the tools, resources, and training to allow them to successfully fill any knowledge gaps they have.

Of course amended performance measures won’t solve all team issues (for an idea of what other issues employers regularly encounter and how to fix them, read this page) but it’s a good support system for overall team engagement. And of course, we’re more than happy to help with any issues you do have  in finding the system that’s right for your business.

 

How about you? How do you facilitate the employee performance process, and what challenges have you encountered along the way? What do you find helpful? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

The Hidden Profit Centre in Your Business

Think HR has no bearing on profitability? Think again…

Having long been denounced as nothing more than a cost centre and a necessary part of doing business, the people management aspects of an organization (specifically HR) have been overlooked as an integral component of the profit structure of an organization. The link, however, is a lot stronger than many businesses have traditionally thought.

In a recent study on management practices in Fortune 1000 companies, the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California found that employee involvement measures (that traditionally sit well beneath the HR umbrella) show a solid ROI and link to the bottom line.

For small to medium-sized businesses who don’t even have an HR department, the impact of this study is even larger, as decisions made at owner-run businesses see an immediate trickle-down effect due to the smaller work structures, and can see a positive impact in the bottom linke much sooner than a larger organization. The key is in increasing the employee commitment to the organization.

Any one of the following measures can be implemented by a company to see a lasting improvement in financial returns (not to mention the cost-savings garnered from reduced turnover):

  • Employees generally feel that if an investment is made in them, they will return that investment in-kind. Establish a feeling of “repricosity” through:
    • Information-sharing
    • Skills training
    • Encouragement of ownership thinking
    • Fostering “buy-in” for organizational change measures
    • De-centralizing decision-making
  • Using technology for process improvement, not just cost-cutting benefits. If employees are brought into the process on the ground level, working backwards and can have input into process design, hey are more willing to manage change, and feel a greater benefit of new technology as a tool for them—not just because it’s cheaper for the organization
  • Building a culture which values job-security – which means attaching value to the person over the employee number.

Each of these measures is fiscally achievable in one way or another, even for very small businesses and engage in the employee’s higher level needs, which leads to increased productivity, better customer interactions, a willingness to tackle challenges and stick with the company–all which have a positive impact on profit.

Small tweaks can often have the greatest impact on profitabilty, particularly if they are seemingly unrelated to the bottom-line. Remember that everything in your organization starts and ends with culture, so before you tweak your marketing, sales prices, or slash costs to boost productivity, have a critical look at how investments to your people-practices can pay you back in spades.

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

The Importance of Sleep

Keeping your energy high is critical to achieving great things. And one key component of high energy is getting enough sleep.

Life is not perfect and we may not always get the sleep we need … so what do you do? Do you soldier on or do you take ‘sleep action’.

Here’s my strategy!

 

Creating Your Perfect Week

It’s one thing to create a 90-day plan (yes we’ve got a video on that) but translating that into an ideal week needs to be intentional.