Your 3 People…
In your life there are likely three people that you call when things go awry; think about who those three are in your world. There is one who will agree with you and take your side, there is one who will just listen or provide neutral feedback, and one who will play devil’s advocate. When something happens in your life, you subconsciously know which one to call to give you the feedback that you want to hear for that specific issue. While you may feel like you are moving towards a resolution, you may not be hearing what you need to hear in order to grow from the experience and get the most optimal outcome.
What Role Does a Coach Play?
The role of a business or personal coach is to be all three of these people in one. The role of a coach is not to tell you want what you want to hear or judge anything coming from your mouth, (trust me, I have heard it all and likely done most of it as well).
I have a client who was suspecting that his company was trying to push him out of the business. He was stressed to the point where it had begun to affect his health. He was sickened by the idea that he may get laid off and was worried that he would not be able to find another job due to his age. As we talked through what he was picking up as signs from his supervisor, we began to uncover the manager’s style and how my client was not managing up to meet that style. We shifted his approach to his manager and applied some techniques to best work with his manager’s style. Slowly he went from being on the outside of decisions to being asked to attend brainstorming sessions and became a trusted adviser. After a few weeks of this new type of dynamic, we set up an approach for him to ask his supervisor for feedback regarding his performance now versus just a month prior and what he heard was surprising to him. His supervisor shared that he previously seemed like he was “checked out” and just “going through the motions” of his job, so he assumed that he was looking for another job. Rather than invest in him more, he felt that he needed to come up with someone to back fill him as he was certain that my client was going to resign any day. What was so interesting about this feedback was that both parties believed that the other one was going to end the position, which could have very well happened, had it not been addressed. My client could have called any of the three friends he had and there may have been a different outcome but as a Business Coach my role is to assess the entirety of a situation from an unbiased view to get to the underlying issue. Identifying the proper techniques to be able to manage up correctly was crucial to this situation and is an approach that we have used with two of his other superiors. What is your manager’s style? Are you managing up correctly for that style?
No Dumping Allowed
I have another client who is excellent in her position and is seeing great success. Most days she feels very fulfilled with her position but at least once a quarter she gets “dumped on” by her boss. They have a great working relationship, but he has a habit of waiting until the last minute to ask her for a slew of information, leaving her rushing and pulling long hours to meet his deadlines. She was struggling with this situation, and this time his last-minute requests conflicted with her husband’s family reunion that she was scheduled to attend. She believed this put her in a position to have to choose between her husband and continued success in her job. As we walked through the situation and situations past, we began to identify a pattern. This “fire drill” was taking place on the second to third week of the last month of each quarter, which aligned with her supervisor’s quarterly leadership meetings. In looking at how to overcome and address the problem, we developed two goals: a short- term and a long-term goal. For the short-term we needed to address how to handle the request so she could still attend the reunion and for the long-term we needed to create a system that prevented the issues in the first place. For the short-term goal we started with the same information that she provided the previous quarter rather than reinventing the wheel, which is what she was doing previously. This cut her prep time by half since she already had the format and just needed to focus on updating the contents. She was able to pull the information that was needed and also set up a format to automatically pull the information quarterly to allow her to be ahead of the requests going forward. In addition, we worked on addressing the last-minute requests in a way that would appeal to her Supervisor in the most constructive way for his personality (headstrong and short fused). Using a strategic approach that we laid out, she was able to have a healthy discussion with her Supervisor that resulted in her being invited into the Leadership Meetings as his right-hand person. As a result, the fire drills ceased, and she was able to gain face time with key leadership figures in her company. There’s even talk of a potential promotion!
As a Business Coach, my goals are to not just to address the situations you are presented with, but to capitalize on each as a means of achieving your overall goals. It’s not about talking through situations, it’s about thoroughly addressing each to get you closer to your identified overall goals.
A third example I will share is a situation many business owners have been through; hiring family who then fail to treat the job like it’s a job. This specific dynamic was especially difficult for my client because it was his sister-in-law that he felt was taking advantage of the situation. He was concerned that addressing the issues would anger his brother but not addressing the issue was bad for the business. His sister-in-law was serving as the “catch all” for the office, sometimes office manager, sometimes bill payer, sometimes errand runner. Her hours were three days a week full time and she was coming in late each day and sometimes not returning from lunches. Although her work was getting done, other employees were noticing her lax approach, and it was causing an issue in the office – the chatter was all about family favoritism.
This was an easy fix, wrapped in a perceived family “off limits” package. The first thing we did was create a title for her and identify her specific job responsibilities for each day that she was in the office. Considering that she had no title and no firm hours identified, there was a need to realign and it started with setting clear expectations for both. This also meant that he had to stick to the specific responsibilities on the specific days to provide a sense of normalcy for her so she knew what she was supposed to be doing each day. As he sat down with her and wrote out her responsibilities, he started to realize just how many things she was actually taking on and how inefficient he was making her by having her randomly run errands in the middle of the day. Sometimes without asking her what she was working on, he would instruct her to drop everything to go somewhere for him. He was also made aware that she took what she was unable to complete in the office home with her to make sure that it was completed by the next business day, essentially working an additional day from home for free.
The biggest take away in this situation was that his perception was a false reality and he was a big contributing factor in both the perception of her performance and her ability to be efficient. As they created her responsibilities, they came to an agreement over which activities served the best purpose on which days. She felt valued for being asked for her feedback and no longer felt like she was the one being taken advantage of as family. This situation turned into a great working relationship. Had he not addressed it with his business coach, he could have lost or angered a valuable employee, and it could have become a personal and not-so-happy ending.
Do You Really Need a Business Coach?
Yes. Just yes. Often, we spend more time at our job than anywhere else and need to address situations as they arise or identify how to get that raise, that promotion, or create a better work/life balance. A business coach will assist you with navigating through your thoughts, your perceived reality, and false limitations. Forbes defines it best,
Can I Afford It?
Yes. Just yes. Just like choosing a car, there are different levels of coaching. Whether you are looking for the fully custom, high-performance plan or a basic plan that you can grow with as you see the benefits paying off (and it will, in so many ways: your physical health, mental health, personal relationships, and career progression). It’s an investment in yourself. I have had friends who have jokingly said that happy hour is their version of a business coach because that is where they can let loose and vent about their job or personal life in a great therapeutic way. My answer to that has always been simple, “Happy hour is for happiness, don’t confuse venting with addressing situations.” Not to mention that coaching can be more affordable than a month’s worth of happy hours (and possible hangovers)!
Make it a Great Day!
Letty Sanchez, AEM Executive Consultants