5 Reasons Why You Need An Executive Coach

Many of the top CEOs in major global brands have an executive coach on retainer, but small businesses leaders can also benefit from this type of expertise. On average, one of the primary reasons many small businesses do not hire a coach is because of the expense, even though it would make sense for their group. Granted, executive coaches can be a significant expense, charging rates from $300, $1,000 or even $3,000 or more for one session.

Because the business world is now moving at an incredible pace with minimal margin for staying ahead on the competition as new ways of doing business and disruption are now baked into our collective DNA, an executive coach can be a great benefit to your company.

Exploring Ideas: Business coaches have experience across a broad swath of clients, and they bring that experience to their work with you. One of the top benefits of a business coach is the chance to have someone that is unbiased and outside of your organization help you think through new ideas and strategies. In the process of your speaking to a coach about thoughts that you’re thinking, a good coach will ask you questions that will test your thinking and in the process give you more insight.

Leadership Effectiveness: An executive coach can do something that probably no one on your small business team will do–give you feedback. Sometimes business owners have a trusted executive that works with them that will challenge their skills and effectiveness. But, more often than not, that is not the case. A small business owner can easily be in an environment where few people, if any, will inform the leader about how he’s doing. An executive coach is someone that will not have any doubts helping you understand the “why” of decisions and courses of action you’ve taken. In the process, this will help you understand and gain insight into your own management and leadership.

Accountability: The reality is that a small business owner has his or her little fiefdom. Larger corporations have their boards to hold them accountable, but who does a small marketing or retail shop have to hold them accountable? The answer is usually no one. If you’ve meant to update your operating bylaws, launch a new marketing campaign, or figure out how to develop team members, a coach will hold you accountable. It will be this person’s job to check in with you on the goals you’re putting forward for your company.

Measurement: Typically, when you sit for your initial conversations with an executive coach, this professional will ask you about your goals for the process. Out of those goals will come ways to ensure that the goals are accomplished, and usually these goals are tied to making your business performance and leadership better. An executive coach will help you get better at measuring the success of your business because he will be working with you on core issues related to your company, which will come from the goals you prioritize.

Improved Decision Making: One of the significant benefits of executive coaching is that with the live sounding board, in the form of a coach, you’ll have an opportunity to test out ideas and thinking. A good coach will always push you by asking you questions that will help draw out and clarify your thinking. In turn, this process will help you improve your decision-making process because the decisions you will be making will have been thought through with much more rigor. Your choices will become better, and the process of how you get to decisions will become even more thoughtful and rigorous.
Sometimes executive coaches are brought on board for a specific laser reason, but lots of times they are hired because business leaders can benefit from working anywhere from three months to a year with someone helping them develop and improve. If you haven’t thought about an executive coach, it might be something to consider. If you think the price is a factor, it’s only a matter of priorities.

First Line Manager: Mission Confused? Ignored? Aborted!

I wonder if we have gotten to the point where mission statements are ignored. Every organization seems to be creating a mission statement. How effective are these mission statements?

There are two reasons why anyone does anything; the one that sounds good and the real one. As a salesman, I learned if I could get to the real reason a customer would not buy; I had a better chance of selling my service. What is the real reason for mission statements? Who are they trying to sell the idea to?

Why have a mission statement? I looked into a book I purchased at the beginning of my career, “Management” by Peter F. Drucker. He states,” Only a clear definition of the mission and purpose of the business makes possible clear and realistic business objectives. It is the foundation for priorities, strategies, plans, and work assignments. It is the starting point for the design of managerial jobs and, above all, for the design of Managerial structures. (Page 75).”

I became interested in mission confusion this year when I read my college fraternity’s mission statement.

The fraternity stated mission is “To Develop Men of Principle for a Principled Life.” This is a great high minded concept. Is this stated mission part of an extensive marketing campaign asking for donations? The mission is written in large letters on my donation envelope. Or, is this stated mission the real purpose of our General Fraternity? If we look at the fraternity’s actions maybe we can determine its real mission? The fraternity has no formal training program to teach each member principle centered leadership. This would be very beneficial to our members. Also, our Fraternity will close a chapter for the improper actions of one or a few members. They will abandon the members of the chapter who do inculcate the fraternity’s stated mission. If the stated mission was “to protect the integrity of our fraternity” would 26 of the 138 chapters be under current discipline? This count does not include closed chapters. So it appears the real and hidden mission, as it should be, is to protect the integrity of our fraternity. The stated mission misleads chapters and causes them to ignore the actual hidden mission. So, my fraternity’s actions reveal the real mission; the hidden mission. Would the hidden mission if stated to the chapters be clearer? Absolutely. Would it make a difference?

In the “Addictive Organization (1988)” written by Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassell the authors make important statements about missions. Schaef states, “Grandiosity is one of the characteristics of the addictive system… It is gross self-importance. Grandiosity keeps the mission lofty and frequently unattainable… The mission is like a household god. As long as it is in the shrine, the organization is protected, even if what it is doing has little to do with the stated mission.” Here is the point. The real mission is hidden and the morale of the organization suffers. So, we have the blind leading the blind.

Why and for whom do organizations develop mission statements? This question led me to look back over my career to puzzle it out. Here is what I learned.

I started in management in 1971 with the following statement from the owner. He said, “Jim, we want our cost to be below 65% for food and labor.” It was understood to be common sense, the restaurant will have good service and food. I managed another restaurant and became the General Manager of his new motel. We had no mission statement; maybe, because I came in contact with the missionary every couple of weeks when I discussed issues with the owner.

I worked as a management trainee in a bread factory. We knew that our product quality could not slip if we wanted to stay in business. I saw the owner every day. No mission statement.

As a Territory Manager for Ecolabs (1975-78), I was trained in all our products, service requirements, and history. We had the best products and best service. We were the best trained sales force in the industry. Our products were not the cheapest, but, we guaranteed results for our customers. No mission statement.

In 1978, I started as a Junior Accountant with Alabama Power Company. I do not remember us having an overall mission statement. This came years later.

In 1984, I was chosen to head up a customer service committee for our division. We developed three programs featuring a video of examples of good customer service. The committee came up with a theme for our program, W.E.S.T – B.E.S.T. “Western Employees Striving to Be an Excellent Service Team.” This is the purpose we wanted to accomplish. We did not call it a mission. If we created this program today I bet we would have at least called it a vision, right.

On August 20, 1992, I was given a book by Carol Bennett a Tyson plant manager in Corner. The book is, “The Deming Management Method” by Mary Walton. The book changed the way I thought about being a first line manager. On page 135, it explains how Dr. Edward Deming and Henry Ford II worked together for three years to create a mission statement for the Ford Motor Company. This mission was presented in 1984 to the leaders of the company.

Here are some of the highlights of the mission. “Mission: Our mission is to improve continually our products and services to meet our customer needs… Values: How we accomplish our mission is as important as the mission… Our people are the source of our strength… our products are the end results of our efforts… profits are required to survive and grow. Guiding principles: Quality comes first… customers are the focus of everything we do… continuous improvement is essential to our success… We are a team… we must treat each other with trust and respect… dealers and suppliers are our partners… The conduct of our company worldwide must be pursued in a manner that is socially responsible and commands respect for its integrity and for its contributions to society… Our doors are open to men and women alike without discrimination and without regard to ethnic origin or personal belief.” If you notice this mission use common sense language so every employee can understand where the company is going.

Inspired by this book, I developed a similar statement for our office in 1993. I had been the business office manager of the Dora office for five years. We made great strides in our office operation. I wanted to solidify our progress push on to another level of service. Our program for the New Year was, “We Provide H.O.M.E Style Customer Service.” I wanted this program to focus on customer service and include “the how” we could do this best. So, the how was H.O.M.E. it meant; be HONEST with each other and our customers, be OPEN to others input and to change, be MOTIVATED to serve each other and our customers, and be ENTHUSIATIC about what we do. This program was effective because this is the way I was with them. We had developed a level of trust that made the program work. I left in 1996, several years later I went back to the office. The banner with our slogan was still there.

Years later I noticed in our company communication documents a phrase, “Always On.” All of us knew this was not true. Actually, my department was in charge of getting the power on when it went off. The statement was confusing to me. How about the employees in our call centers. What was their response when a customer without power said, “I thought you promised my power would be “Always On”? This statement was the wrong message. Maybe if it was “Always on duty to serve you.” More to the truth since we provided service 24/7/365. We did not know if this was a slogan or a mission statement? I do know we did not talk about it.

In 1998, I developed a mission statement for the dispatchers in our new control center. “When the lights are on, keep them on. When they go out get them back on as safety and quickly as possible.” I retired a few years ago. An employee phones me from time to time. He is in charge of training new members. He said, “Jim remember that mission you gave us about the lights? I always start the training with that statement.” This was internalized as our main purpose. Now that is a mission.

This is why mission statements are so important inside your organization. It is the statement of the most important purpose for your future endeavors. Your members are able to internalize this purpose and act accordingly. It has to be real; not one that sounds good. Most of this is common sense. If you have the wrong mission statement, the one that sounds good, you confuse everyone.

The point of a mission statement is simple. The right mission becomes the guiding light for people and the determination of all of an organization’s actions.

Let me repeat, Peter Drucker said, “It is the foundation for priorities, strategies, plans, and work assignments. It is the starting point for the design of managerial jobs and, above all, for the design of Managerial structures.”

Prospecting Made Easy

Today’s message is very short and sweet… well maybe not so sweet but short for sure… and hopefully helpful to you.

We’ve all felt the frustrations of trying to get good clients. Heck, trying to get new clients period can be a real challenge.

So today I wanted to share a few ideas that have worked for me…

Start by making a list of who you’d like to work with. Think: “Who’s my perfect prospect?” If you could hand pick any client, who’d that be?

This could be connections from a past job, or business associates that you know and who like and trust you or a vendor who you’ve done business with in the past. As a last resort you could put together a “cold list” of prospects.

Study that target market intensely and find out what problems they’re dealing with today, who are they (male, female), how old they are, what magazines they read etc.

Learn all you can about your perfect prospect and the marketplace in general. This is a critical step. This is very important step and should done before you start your marketing message. I know that I’ve talked about this many times, but it’s super important.

Once you have a target group in mind, create a mailing list. You’re going to be sending them numerous messages, offers, and various messages over and over until they become clients, so I suggest that you put these names in a program like Excel so you can keep up with them easily.

Study the competition and learn what they’re doing what offers they’re sending out, go to their websites, landing pages, and direct mail etc. This way you can position your business uniquely.

Once you feel you have enough “intel”, create a lead generation letter and send it to your prospect list.

It’s going to take more than one letter. I like using a letter series sent over a couple of weeks. Sure, you can sometimes close the deal on a single letter but it’s very unlikely. The power in direct mail is by mailing several letters not just one.

So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a response on the first letter you sent. This is typical. Again, the power of a letter series goes a long way to landing that client.

You got to remember, people are busy, they are preoccupied, and flooded with lots of distractions, junk mail, and advertising messages in today’s super-busy world.

Lastly, I encourage you to study the masters. Learn all you can about your craft. If you can afford a mentor, then by all means hire one. A good mentor will save you tons of money, time and frustrations. It’s as good as money in the bank… provided you follow through and act on what you’ve learned.