Is executive coaching an answer to take your startup to the next level?


Starting up is a lot like forming a cricket team at the beginning of a series. You need: the vision to execute the idea and emerge a winner, leadership, funding, right mix of talent with business and technical skills. As a founder or co-founder, you want to get your idea off the ground in the shortest time. You end up wearing the hat of the mentor/director to guide the team and typically tell them what they need to do, as you know what success looks like in your head. And in the process, you bring out the best in each individual and the team as a whole. Just like how the cricket coach plays a huge role in winning or losing the series, you can too in your startup.

If your idea is well accepted by the market and your company experiences exceptional growth, then the hiring frenzy starts and new members join the team. You no longer have the bandwidth to connect with each one of them. What this translates to is – as your company grows, you can’t be the same leader, you too need to evolve.

Often as founders, one gets so wrapped up seeking investment that the plan in establishing a structure to maintain the growth momentum is often ignored. This is where the executive coach comes into play. A coach understands what you have committed to and holds you accountable. They force you out of your comfort zone and let you think strategically and not just tactically and help you identify your blind spots. They require you to answer for your results – good or bad.

Taking your startup to the next level requires a short-term to long-term shift in the mindset. But, it doesn’t happen overnight. Set a time frame for what you want to achieve and outline small goals every day to help you get there ‑ and follow it religiously.

If you aspire to take your business to the next level, here’s how an executive coach can help:

  1. Visioning and goal setting - To repeat the magic of success, your company must have a unified vision for growth and no ambiguities about what it will take to get there. An executive coach can work closely with leaders to ensure that the vision and goals, action plans are aligned and achievable; suggest necessary course corrections till it’s implemented. A coach can also help individuals set their own personal goals for professional growth and development.
  2. Lend objectivity – As a startup founder, you are emotionally attached to the business and treat your venture as your ‘child’. While emotions and passion are important, a parent also knows when to let the child learn to stand on its own feet. Any business goes through lifecycles of peaks and valleys in their growth stages. This means that as leaders you can’t be trapped inside you own perceptions, short-sighted planning and ways of working. The executive coach is someone who is not emotionally invested in your venture. Hence one can work with your leadership team to lend objectivity and help them touch base with one’s emotional and intellectual potential and sharpen their axe to unleash it enhance your performance.
  3. Help develop your own leadership style - We know for a fact that people often quit the job often because of the manager. It’s very critical that you and your leadership team are aware of your leadership style and know your strengths and weaknesses. Executive coaches are trained to work with leaders with different styles and help them bring out their best qualities, from delegation to conflict management. With guidance from a good coach, you can help individual leaders find a style that works best for your business.

Facilitate team building - In the early days of your startup, you expect people to wear multiple hats. Each new hire brings their own unique perspective and experiences as well as their baggage to the table. They can identify with your company only if their roles and expectations are clearly defined. But as you scale up, it’s critical to indicate roles and responsibilities to avoid inefficient discussions that hamper productivity. A coach will help you identify different personalities, work style, and suggest ways to blend the talent and create a working atmosphere to meet the team and company’s objectives.

  1. Identify points of failure early – According to statistics, eight out of 10 startups fail within the first 18 months. It is critical for your business to have a plan in place for handling and reacting to the inevitable change to come. While it is challenging even for the most skilled leaders to anticipate the failure points, the executive coach can help you recognise and accept the reality and suggest ways to forge ahead.

Like any cricket team, your startup company is constantly striving for victory. You judiciously design each move, spend a great deal of time to assess your talent pool and make substitutions, as needed. With an independent set of eyeballs, an executive coach can guide both the individual players and the team as a whole on the path to success.

The right coach can truly be a game changer. So here is the real question you should be asking yourself. Are you going to do what the best-in-class companies do and get a coach? Or are you going to join the ranks of the average and do it alone?

P.S.: In case you decided to get a coach, here are few things that you should look for:

  • Someone who is certified by a professional body like ICF, CCA, ACTP, CTI, etc.
  • Someone who has professional and entrepreneurial experience.
  • Someone who will help you identify the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical /health aspects you may need to work upon.
  • Someone who will give unbiased feedback.
  • Someone who’s known for his / her integrity, as you will be sharing many confidential things.
  • Someone who will push you to do more.
  • Someone who’s well networked in the industry.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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