When you think of a business coaching session, what do you see? I’m pretty certain that the image you’re coming up with is of two people in suits sitting across a table from each other. Perhaps there are charts and figures between them on the table, perhaps there’s an open laptop. No doubt the image is a very formal one.
But what if business coaching looked a little different?
I’m a firm believer in making sure your coaching sessions are designed in a way that will be of most benefit to you. Some business owners respond really well to a formal setting and want to meet their coach in a boardroom environment. For others this feels unnatural and they’d much rather have their sessions in a more comfortable space.
I hold most of my conversations with clients on the sofa in my relaxing coaching space, but I’m always open to alternative suggestions.
As a coach I aim to always be open to these new ideas, mainly because they can lead to a lot of progress being made. Some of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve had with clients have been during outside coaching sessions. I sometimes offer my clients the option of taking a walking session. This means that instead of sitting comfortably inside to chat, we put on a pair of comfortable shoes and go out for a walk together!
There’s something very powerful about walking and talking in the fresh air: it can shake things and allow us to see a situation in a completely new way. Personally I know that I’ve had far more creative ideas while out walking my dog than I have while sitting at a boardroom table. By giving my clients the option to work together in a less formal style I feel that I’m opening up more creative opportunities for them.
If you’re considering working with a business coach, make sure you ask prospective coaches whether they can accommodate your preferences.
- Do you want to talk formally at work?
- Will you feel more ready to talk in person?
- Would you prefer to meet virtually from your own workspace?
- Does the presence of a hot cup of tea or coffee make you feel more prepared?
- Could you benefit from group sessions?
- Would you prefer to talk in the open air?
- Do you need a calm oasis away from the office to allow you to really focus?
Taking the time to ask yourself questions like these could help to get your coaching relationship off to a productive start. When you start work with a new coach it is likely to take them a few sessions to really get to know you and recognise the circumstances under which you work best. You can speed up this process by helping your coach out in advance: what do you know about yourself that would help your coach to work more effectively with you?
There are no rules for what an effective coaching session should look like. The right coach will work with you to design a programme of sessions to give you exactly what you need… even if you don’t know what that is yet!
If you’ve got an out-of-the-box idea for an informal coaching session, why not share it with me on Twitter? I’m @GreenShootCoach.
Photo by Cassandra Rae
When was the last time someone asked you how business was going? Business owners hear this question a lot, from friends, family members and other business owners. The issue is that we don’t often answer as honestly as we should.
Most of us are guilty of this. All of us want to portray our business as positively as possible, so we’re likely to answer ‘great!’ without really considering the question.
But what about when things aren’t great? It can be lonely and isolating to pretend that things are wonderful when they’re actually quite challenging.
I recently re-watched Brené Brown’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability. It’s a fascinating talk and I’d really recommend it. During the talk Brown muses on the humanity of shame and vulnerability. She says:
“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
This really struck a chord with me. We often think of vulnerability as a bad thing. If we’re vulnerable we’re admitting that our business isn’t doing as well as we’d like, or that we’re not sure about which step to take next, or that we need help.
As a business owner, I can understand the thought behind all of these worries. But as a coach… I see the other side. Many of my clients come to me in a place of vulnerability, but when they do so we’re able to work together to do excellent work. On a daily basis I work with clients to facilitate growth, exciting decisions, creative strategies, new ideas and more. If those clients had been too afraid to admit that they needed my help, these positive things wouldn’t have happened.
Our perception of leadership is changing and it’s now a common school of thought that good leaders do not need to be perceived as all powerful all the time. Being confident enough in your role to show some vulnerability can be a good thing! Not only can it give you space to create relationships with the people around you, it can also enable you to call in help when needed.
After all, even solopreneurs need assistance sometimes. If you never show vulnerability it can be hard to bring in the help and expertise that you and your business need. When you’re honest about the issues you’re coming up against, you may discover that the people around you have access to the expertise you need.
Next time you hear the question: how’s business? Why not think about answering it more fully? By all means tell the asker about all the great things you’re working on, but don’t be afraid to share any challenges you’re currently dealing with too. Their response may be a pleasant surprise!
Comfort zones are very pleasant places to be. Of course they are: they’re filled with things we know, things we like and things we’re good at. Most of us have spent a lot of time creating these zones and it can be very hard to make the decision to step out of them.
Unfortunately, not everything works for us forever. An office you loved in the past might not be right for you now. A product that’s been very popular might not always be a best-seller. A client you once worked excellently with might suddenly become a poor fit. One of the ways to ensure your business continues to grow and change is to have the confidence to let go of what you know when it stops working.
Could you benefit from some advice on how to do this? I’ve shared 10 signs that it may be time to let go of what you know and move forwards.
1/ You feel totally 100% stress-free
Stress isn’t always a bad thing. A small amount can actually help us to be productive and innovate. If you feel 100% stress-free, maybe it’s time to take a risk on something new.
2/ Your clients aren’t excited about what you’re offering
Business is about providing a service that your customers will be thrilled with. No matter how much you love what you’re offering, if your clients aren’t excited about it it’s probably time to make a change.
3/ You’re bored
Boredom is a dangerous emotion. It can very quickly become frustration, dissatisfaction and even unhappiness. If you’re bored of what you know, try moving on to something you don’t.
4/ You don’t feel challenged
If running your business has become too easy, it’s likely to be time to give yourself a new challenge. Perhaps it’s time to grow your business, introduce a new service or expand your product line?
5/ It’s been a while since your last success
Think back to your last moment of success. If the last thing you can think of is well in the past, it could be time for a little innovation.
6/ Problem-solving isn’t working
If you’ve put extra effort, new ideas and different tactics into solving a problem in your business and none of it has worked, it might be time to admit defeat. Could it be time to let go of whatever it is that’s causing the problem?
7/ You’ve started to feel lazy
Laziness is often a symptom of boredom and a lack of personal challenges. If you’ve started to feel lazy: don’t beat yourself up about it. Try giving yourself something new to focus on instead.
8/ Enquiries have dropped
Is your inbox bizarrely quiet? This might be because your current marketing efforts aren’t making an impact.
9/ You’re struggling to be creative
Spending too much time in your comfort zone can sometimes lead to getting caught in a creative rut. The best way to kick start your imagination again is usually to try something new.
10/ Something just isn’t selling
You may love a certain product or service, but if it just isn’t selling it’s clear your clients don’t feel the same way.
No matter how long something hasn’t been working, it can still be difficult to make the decision to let it go. This is especially tricky for solo business owners who don’t have anyone to discuss these issues with. Does this sound like you? If so, you might find this helpful: is business coaching right for small business and solopreneurs?
Growth coaches can be very powerful resources. A good growth coach can help you to maximise profits and grow your business… but only if you’re really ready to take that step.
Not every business is ready to grow. Some businesses take on a growth coach programme only to discover that it isn’t working. Often this is because they have other issues in their business that need to be addressed.
It can be hard to accept that it isn’t the right time for your business to grow, but a difficult decision now could help you to get into a more productive mindset for the future.
Often this decision comes down to gut feeling. If you love what you’re doing and are excited about the prospect of doing more, growth coaching might be the way forward for you. Equally, if you feel like everything is working in your business except your finances, an experienced growth coach could help you translate your into a much healthier bottom line.
But what if your gut feeling isn’t quite so positive?
If you’re unsure which direction to move in…
If you’re finding it difficult to handle the stress of being a business owner…
If you suspect that your product or service offerings need work…
If you think your lack of confidence might be holding you back…
If you’re having communication problems with employees or colleagues…
If issues in your personal life are getting in the way of your business…
If you just have the sense that something isn’t working…
…then it probably isn’t your time to work with a growth coach yet.
This isn’t to say that you need to struggle through these issues yourself. A more holistic business coach could offer just the support you need. Coaches like myself are keen to help you build your confidence and get a handle on the emotional side of your business. We could help you to build better communication strategies, determine what’s right for the future of your business and equip you with practical tools for managing stress.
The best news is that these two types of coach don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You’re not making an either/or decision that could stop you from fulfilling your potential. If you and your business aren’t quite ready to work with a growth coach yet… a coach like myself could help you to get there.
Coaching is a valuable tool that can be used in a way that’s right for you. I believe in giving my clients the freedom to work with me in whatever capacity is best for them. Some clients choose to work with me on a long term basis as a trusted advisor. Others come to me because they have a specific issue they need to work through. For them the work we do together is a means to an end: we’re aiming to solve a problem and when we do they can return to handling things on their own.
In the past few years I’ve worked with many clients who were keen to grow their business but weren’t quite ready to take the next step. With my support these clients are able to address the outstanding issues in their business and get themselves into the best possible shape for growth. This helps them get ready to take on the structure of a growth coach programme. In fact, once we’ve come to the mutual decision that they’re ready to move on, I’m even able to recommend a suitable growth coach for the job!
What could coaching do for your business? I’ll let my clients do the talking: here are ten things they’ve gained from working with me.
We’re almost a month into the Autumn term. For many of us this means we’re finally getting back into our ‘normal’ routine after the school summer holidays.
I love school holidays. For me they offer an excellent chance to reconnect with my family and take a well-deserved restorative break. Unfortunately, school holidays can also be very disruptive to work, especially if you run your own business. By the time September rolls around, many of us working parents are keen to get back to reality!
Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to a number of people who feel they haven’t slipped quite as comfortably back into routine as they were expecting. For whatever reason things haven’t clicked into place and the routines they were looking forward to returning to suddenly don’t feel right.
If this sounds familiar, it might be time for some serious personal reflection. Is there a simple reason why your routine isn’t quite working? Or could it be time for a change? There are a whole handful of reasons why things can feel uncomfortable at this time of year.
For some of us it’s because we’ve got caught up in the ‘back to school’ spirit. There’s a lovely sense of ‘newness’ to autumn, but if you’re no longer satisfied with your career or your business, that could lead to frustration.
Equally, if you’ve taken an extended break over the summer to spend time with your children or to go on holiday, returning to routine could make you more likely to see something you’ve been ignoring for a while.
Some people have a different problem: for them the summer months have been so taken up with constant parenting duties they’ve had no time for personal reflection. Once the children have returned to school and you have time on your own again, it can be an opportunity to focus on yourself and your own needs.
Whatever your reasons, if you’ve returned to your routine only to discover that it doesn’t feel quite right, it’s time to do something about it. The first step on this process is likely to be setting some time aside for some productive deep thinking. In order to make changes and make things right, you’re going to need to be able to identify exactly what it is that isn’t working for you anymore.
You could try asking yourself some of the following questions.
- Are you unhappy in your current job?
- Are you thinking about a new business idea?
- Is your work environment not working for you anymore?
- Does your business need some new investment?
- Is it time to look for a promotion?
- Are you missing out on an opportunity to grow your business?
- Could the time be right to downsize?
- Would you be happier with a different career focus?
- Is it time to let go of aspects of your business that aren’t working?
- Could you benefit from some more support in your business?
- Are you bored of your routine?
- Do you still love what you do?
Whatever your discoveries, it’s not too late to soak up the ‘back to school’ feeling and have a new start this autumn. Even a few small changes could help to make your routine feel more natural and your career or business more fulfilling.
If you’d like to explore more about this, I’m here to talk. Why not take advantage of my free initial consultation?
When you’re in business with someone you’re going to spend a lot of time together. It’s very likely that you’ll become close friends, if you weren’t already. Many business partners are partners in another sense too: I specialise in working with couples and families in business. (Side note: if you’d like to read more about couples in business, take a look at my interview series Committed to the Business and Each Other).
All these things together, it’s often assumed that business partners are great at communicating with each other. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. I’ve worked with many partnerships who struggle with this… even if they’re great friends or spouses outside of the business!
If you’re in a partnership with someone you’re close to, whether it’s a friend, husband, mother or brother, you may find my tips for effective communication helpful.
Set boundaries and stick to them
When you’re in business with someone you have a personal relationship with, all lines can get blurred. You’re probably just as likely to discuss the children while at the office as talk about the yearly accounts at the dinner table. Conversations like these can become an issue as they make it difficult to draw the line between important work communications and family chatter.
To avoid this, try setting some boundaries and sticking to them. You could decide to only discuss non-work topics over coffee breaks and lunch, and to stop the work chat completely when you leave the office.
Accept that you have a work mode and a home mode
Almost all of us act differently when we’re at work and when we’re at home. For most of us this isn’t a problem as we’re surrounded by different people in each scenario. However, those of you who spend time with the same people at work and at home may find the shifts between modes uncomfortable.
If this is an issue for you, try experimenting with seeing each other in different ways. Some close business partnerships benefit from using more formal language with each other at work than at home, or by calling each other by full names rather than nicknames. These techniques may sound silly, but they can help you recognise the difference between work behaviour and home behaviour.
Use your emotional intelligence
If you’re failing to get your message across to someone, it may be because you’re not presenting it to them in a way that tunes in to their preferred communication style. The benefit of working closely with someone you have a personal relationship with is that you know them really well. Use this inside info to ask yourself how they communicate best and adjust your style accordingly.
It’s not unusual for business partners to struggle to communicate properly simply because they’re trying to protect each other’s feelings! Though its great to consider whether your partner is likely to have an emotional reaction to certain information, holding things back to avoid upsetting them is rarely healthy.
Instead, try to make honesty your official policy. By all means share critical feedback and bad financial forecasts gently (and please consider an appropriate time and forum!) but don’t hold back important information.
How do you and your business partner keep your communications effective? I’m keen to hear any tricks and techniques you use. Why not share them with me on Twitter?
People choose to work with a coach for a whole range of different reasons. This makes sense, as the benefits can be extremely wide ranging. A single coach can work to support their various clients in very different ways. In fact: I consider this one of my personal strengths: identifying the type of support my clients would benefit from most.
To illustrate this, I spoke to ten of my clients and asked them what they’ve gained from their time with me. I received ten varied answers that give an excellent insight into what there is to gain from coaching.
Here’s what they had to say:
“Working with Michaela has given us “headspace”. Running your own business and being married to your business partner has obvious challenges, but also some less obvious ones. It was crucial that we worked with a coach who had a direct approach without being stifling; someone who could get us thinking about how we worked together.”
“Michaela helped us to get the building blocks in place to manage significant growth; quadrupling our workforce in 18 months. Michaela’s initial input was to help us re-evaluate our business model, support business planning, define roles and responsibilities. Michaela then worked with the Senior Management team one on one, identifying and working through day to day challenges. Michaela’s input has now filtered through to coaching our employees and we have retained her services as we really appreciate and understand the value that she adds.”
“What surprises me most is how little I knew myself. Working with Michaela has given me a new feeling of liberation and confidence I didn’t know was possible. I am now clear on what I want and have taken bigger steps to start making my dreams reality.”
4. A chance to download
“My monthly meeting with Michaela is one of the most important dates in my diary. I value the time to ‘download’ hugely. It’s a great investment of my precious time because l always go away feeling lighter and better equipped for the coming month.”
“Michaela is a very capable and skilled professional with excellent listening skills. In all of our meetings she has been able to probe where appropriate so that I can reflect more on certain areas. This has helped me to more quickly reach conclusions about the heart of the issue and come up with solutions that I have ownership of and can ably work on myself.”
“Without Michaela’s help and guidance my business would probably still be a far off dream that I was unsure how to make a reality. The work I’ve done with Michaela has had a knock on effect in other parts of my life too, giving a much needed boost to my health and personal relationships! Thank you so much Michaela for helping me birth my dream and vision out into the world.”
7. A sounding board
“My biggest challenge as a business owner is loneliness as I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off! Regular sessions with Michaela more than fill that gap. It’s a bit like having a business partner but still knowing the business is very much mine.”
“The area of my business I most needed help with was ‘people’! I haven’t managed staff before but Michaela has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a people manager which is of huge help and value to my business.”
9. Reduced stress levels
“Michaela has given me many explicit tips of how to handle the stresses and strains of the working environment. She is able to identify and help others manage their stress levels and I have come out of our various conversations feeling much stronger.”
10. Creative ideas
“Creativity is an area I struggle with as I’m not a creative person myself. Michaela has encouraged me to think about how I do things and whether there is a better way. An example of this was suggesting that I asked my staff for direct feedback on my performance in an open team meeting. I wasn’t sure about this at first but tried it out and actually got some really good feedback both positive and developmental. This is something I would not have done if Michaela hadn’t suggested it but was instrumental in helping me build trust with my team.”
Have these answers got you thinking about what you might have to gain from coaching? If so, why not take me up on my offer of a free consultation? You can get started here.
Over the last nine months I’ve been lucky enough to interview six fantastic couples as part of my Committed to the Business and Each Other series. All six couples run a successful business together and it’s been fascinating to find out how their very unique business partnerships work.
We’ve heard from:
These six businesses have been very generous with their advice and the insight they’ve given us has been very valuable. Below I’ve collated some of the most useful gems of wisdom.
JJ Associates International on working with your other half: “Be understanding with each other and realise even couples are different people. Think before you speak and when you do talk to each other only use positive terms, that way you will both always feel good about the way ahead.”
Hoobynoo World on business planning: “Chiara is a meticulous planner, but the business grew at a slow and steady rate. In this sense, we weren’t taken by surprise and could snatch the time to do strategic planning week by week, ahead of any large events that might take place (for us, being a gift company, these include all the ‘special days’ of the year).”
The Acorn Gallery on sharing ideas: “We love chatting with other businesses and swapping notes. Pocklington is great for that too! We’re members of the York Lifestyle Group too which gives us another forum to work out and share new ideas. We’re always happy to pass on ideas and helpful tools too… in fact someone joked with me yesterday: ‘that was a great chat, thanks, how much do I owe you?’”
RC Bridgestock on who to turn to for support: “Our most useful resources have been our family/friends and ex colleagues in all walks of life who have eagerly joined us on our journey – and now they are all very much part of ‘Team Dylan’. From them we gain up-to-date knowledge of various professional enterprises”
Colin Murdoch Studio on developing a working style that will suit you both: “Think about (and talk about) your different work styles – do you like a quiet workspace or do you like lots of chat and brainstorming throughout the day? Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and see how they balance out between you. If one of you is highly organised but the other isn’t so great with that, it might work perfectly within your business that one of you is doing the organising, whilst the other can do what they do best. You’ll each have different skills and talents.”
Sara@StJohn’s on being prepared for the unexpected: “Always look beyond in terms of business development. Never assume business will be static: there is always something that disappears overnight and you must have options up your sleeve.”
Want to read more? You can view the full Committed to the Business and Each Other archive here. I’m always on the hunt for inspiring new couples to interview. If you’d like to to take part, please get in touch!
We all want to do the best thing for our business, but sometimes it’s difficult to prioritise working on our business over working in our business. (In fact, I’ve blogged about this exact issue before). I often remind my coaching clients that even a small chunk of time can make a difference, especially a couple of times a month.
Almost all of us could commit to setting aside ninety minutes each fortnight to work on growing our business. Need convincing? Here are some ideas from me for productive things you could do for your business in that time.
Review your business plan
Business plans are really valuable tools, but when was the last time you looked at yours? You might want to review it to reflect on how well you’re meeting your objectives and whether you’re moving in the direction you expected.
Set some actionable targets
It can be difficult to move forward with your business when you don’t know exactly what you’re aiming for. An hour and a half putting together some actionable targets could help you to stay focused.
Put together a customer experience survey
If you want to know how well your business is doing, why not ask your customers? Surveying the people who use your products or services could give you some excellent insight on how to improve.
Give your accounts some attention
Many business owners don’t give the financial side of their business as much attention as it really needs. An hour and a half spent looking at where your money is coming from and where it’s going could help you to maximise your profits.
Research outsourced professionals
I’ve spoken before on the blog about the value of bringing in specialist professionals to support your business. An outsourced professional could help you overcome a stumbling block in your business.
Update your web presence
The internet can be an excellent storefront for your business, but only if you’ve invested the time to get your presence right. It’s important to set aside regular time to keep everything up to date and looking good on your website and social media profiles.
Develop a marketing plan
Most business owners would like to grow their business by gaining new customers. If this is true for you, taking the time to actively put together a marketing plan could be well worth it.
Research new product or service ideas
A new product or service could breathe some much-needed new energy into your business. Why not give yourself a bit of space to brainstorm new ideas and research how they could come together?
Have a session with a business coach
What might you gain from discussing your business with an impartial experienced professional? An in-depth session with a coach would give you a whole new insight and help you to pinpoint what kind of growth is right for you.
If this last option sounds appealing, you might want to explore whether you’re ready for coaching. Why not take my questionnaire to find out?
I often get asked who business coaching is for. Or, more specifically, whether it’s right for small businesses and soloprenuers. Many people think that business coaches and consultants are only for big businesses with big budgets.
This isn’t the case! In fact, business coaching is particularly well suited to small businesses and soloprenuers.
Want to know why?
Small businesses and solopreneurs need trusted advisors
As you know, running a business isn’t easy. When you are a small business owner or solopreneur, it can be difficult to know who to turn to for advice. A business coach can be invaluable in these situations as they can act as a trusted advisor. A good coach will be able to act as a sounding board, support you in making difficult decisions, help you to see the bigger picture, and share their experience with you.
Small businesses and solopreneurs need to be smart with their budgets
Most business coaches offer accessible and affordable services. Setting aside part of your budget to work with a coach like this can be extremely productive. A good coach will provide an excellent return on your investment by sharing a wide range of expertise and helping you to increase your profits.
Small businesses and solopreneurs need to protect their business
When you work for yourself your income is generally less protected than when you have a salary. Because of this, it’s smart to ensure you’re safe guarding your business in every way possible! Working with a coach can help to ensure you and your business are working at your full potential. It can also help to protect you against common business shortfalls, and ensure that you spot and act on problems right away.
Small businesses and solopreneurs need an outside perspective
It’s easy to become short sighted in business and only see things the way you have always done them. This is especially true when you’re working on your own or with a small group of employees. Working with a coach can be an excellent way to bring in some fresh eyes and make sure that what you’re doing doesn’t become stale.
Small businesses and solopreneurs need to think big
If you want to compete with bigger businesses, you may need to think more like they do! Big businesses know how important it is to benefit from outside expertise. Many small business owners and solopreneurs overlook this, which often holds them back. Working with a coach is a great way for small businesses and solopreneurs to catch up with their larger competitors.
Are you a small business owner or solopreneur? If you are, you may be interested to know about my business membership programme Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business. It’s designed to give business owners like you regular access to valuable support.
If you’d like to find out whether this could be of benefit to you, take my questionnaire: Are You Ready for Coaching?