Owner / Manager as Coach

3 Simple Activities to Bring Out the Best in Your People


Can you imagine Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) waiting until the end of the season to give his team feedback?  To review and discuss their performance? To talk about how they can each improve personally and help the team?

Of course not.   Owner as Coach

That is not the way any coach runs their team.  It certainly not the way a great coach builds Championship teams, year after year.

Coach K gives frequent feedback about performance and is always challenging each of his players to improve.

The same should be true in your business.

The most effective owners and managers are giving their people feedback about performance every day.

They have high expectations and challenge their people to get better.  They are never satisfied with current performance and are always looking for ways to help each individual and the team improve future performance.

In other words the most effective owners and managers behave very similarly to great coaches, like Coach K.


How Often Do You Give Feedback

What about you?

When was the last time you gave any of your people feedback about performance – good or bad?

We have noticed that many owners and managers rarely give feedback or discuss performance with their people.

Do you only give feedback when you are basically “forced” to give it:

  • Once per year at the Annual Employee Performance Review, or
  • When an employee does something so wrong (or repeatedly wrong) that you feel you can no longer ignore it and you need to “sit down” and discuss it with them

You already know employee performance drives business performance.  So why leave it up to the employee and hope they improve on their own.  Why not do more to help each person improve.  Why not coach your people and provide them with more frequent feedback.


Assume Everyone Can Improve Performance

It starts with how you think and act.  The most effective owners and managers act like sports coaches.  They see it as their job to help their people improve and bring out the best in everyone.  Their mindset is that your best can get better, and your marginal people can move closer to your best.  They believe it is part of their job description to help improve their people.

Just like Coach K’s coaching style is different from say Kentucky’s Coach John Calipari (Coach Cal), there is no singular management style.  However, the most effective managers tend to do three things really well.  They have a great relationships with their people, provide them with frequent feedback and push more challenging work down.

The way we teach our clients to do these things is through the implementation of three core activities:  

  1. Employee Development Meetings
  2. Behavioral Feedback
  3. Delegation.

These three simple ideas work together and will feed everything else you need to lead and manage people.  Together these activities are our basic framework for getting started with employee coaching.  The purpose of coaching is to improve future performance.  To help you remember this coaching framework we have named it the Performance Coaching Trinity:

Performance Coaching Trinity


Employee Development Meetings

These are regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports.  The purpose of these meeting are to develop your people through goal setting, teaching and mentoring.  The benefits will be seen in each employee’s growth and skill development.

A less obvious benefit, but maybe more valuable, is these meetings will enable you to build better relationships with your people.  Relationship power is more effective than position power when it comes to influencing others.  It is easier to get someone to change or add a behavior when they like and trust you.  As opposed to trying to make an employee change because you are the boss.

Behavioral Feedback

An employee’s performance is a sum total of all of their behaviors.  Observing your people as they work and providing them with feedback about productive and non-productive behaviors is the fastest and easiest way to improve performance.

Behavioral feedback is a daily habit for the most effective owners and managers. Without feedback an employee may not be sure how they are doing and therefore has no reason to improve.  Similar to the way Coach K or Coach Cal give players feedback during a game, feedback is your tool to coach your people every day.

Learn how to give feedback based on behavior and you will see dramatic and lasting improvements. We teach a positive feedback methodology that elevates and inspires each employee to continue to get better.


You may not think of it this way, but delegation is a great way to develop your people.  Pushing more challenging work down will test your people’s abilities, increase your understanding of their strengths and determine what skills and capabilities they need to work on and develop.  Delegation is a useful tool in succession and career development.

To ensure delegation is done correctly, we teach a written delegation system. It will help you know what work to delegate, when and how. Delegation will not only free your time to work on more important higher value work, it will increase your people’s capabilities.  Just like the great basketball coaches mentioned, you are always looking to increase your team’s capabilities and delegation is a smart way.


Performance Coaching

Don’t wait for an annual performance review to give your people feedback about their performance.  By then it is too late to do anything to improve.  Implement these three simple activities into your routine and you will see dramatic improvements in all of your people.

Performance Coaching is an educational process that enhances the employee’s ability to increase his or her capabilities, productivity and performance.  It is a process.  It is personal and focuses each person’s strengths, which is a proven methodology to get the best out of everyone.

You may be thinking you don’t have time to do these things.  The reality is that each activity doesn’t take that much time.  Ultimately, doing these things will actually free up more of your time.  What it does take is a change in your behaviors.  You will need to use your time differently.  You will spend less time doing, and a little more time getting results from your people = coaching.

If you need tools and help implementing these ideas we have created a special Owner / Manager as Coach Program.  We will teach you step-by-step how to implement the Performance Coaching Trinity.  You can learn more about the program here: http://therenaissancegroup.us/?p=2669  or contact Kevin directly.

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Essential Leadership Skills for Business Owners

Your Path to a Better Future

Your Path to a Better FutureIf you are the owner operator of a small business, by default, you are the leader.

Many small business owners are not all that comfortable as leader.  They prefer doing over leading.  However, they are smart enough to realize, if they are more effective leaders their business will produce better results and be less dependent upon them.

The challenge is where do you turn for advice on how to become a more effective leader?

There is an overwhelming amount of information on leadership.  Even if you pay attention to just a small fraction of it, you end up with a very long list of things you need to do to be a “good” leader.  It can be very confusing.

Of course there are lessons to be learned from the famous CEO leaders (i.e. Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, etc.) who tend to be studied in MBA programs and the dominate examples cited in much of the leadership development information. Your leadership challenges are different than theirs. You are interested in practical and relevant skills for your situation.

Leadership is Situational

There is no one list of leadership skills for small business owners. Understand leadership is situational – different situations require different skills. As a small business owner your situation is unique. You need the skills to lead a relatively small number of people who will help you grow your business your way.  One that is less dependent on you, affording you more freedom and financial success.

As the owner you have multiple roles in your business.  When you are filling the role of leader, what is your job?  You may not consciously make a distinction between your leadership role and what you do every day.  Defining the work you do when wearing the leader hat will help you determine the skills you will require.  I like Marcus Buckingham’s definition of leadership: 

“A leader’s job is to rally people to a better future”.

I think this is a perfect way to think about leading a small business.  It is simple, practical and easy to remember.

Five Essential Leadership Skills for Business Owners

If your role as leader is to rally people to a better future, what skills do you need to do that?  Here are five skills that will serve as your building blocks to becoming a more effective leader:

1. Vision

This is your ability to paint a clear picture of what your business will look like at some future date. If you expect people to follow you, you better be going somewhere.  Think of what you want to accomplish as your destination.  If you know where you want to end up, it will be easier to figure out how to get there.

Create or refine you vision for what success looks like.  Clarity is the key to an effective vision.  In addition to your destination, clarifying what is important to you and your business like core values, core purpose, culture and what role you want to fill in your business are all key elements of this work.  If you are going to rally people to a better future it starts with your vision of the future.

2. Strategic Thinking

If vision is your destination, then evaluating and choosing the best path to reach your vision is strategic thinking.  It includes your ability to focus on outcomes and keep your eye on the “big picture”.  The challenge is it is so easy to get caught up in what needs to get done today, you can easily forget about your destination.

It’s important to make some time to step outside of the day-to-day and stay on top of trends in your industry.  Anticipating future business opportunities and potential competitive threats are all part of the strategic work an effective leader does.

3. Communication

It is not enough to have a vision and a strategy in your head. You also need to be able to share it with the people who are going to help you achieve it.  The challenge for many small business owners is how do you share what is in your head with other people in a way they get it.

Just telling them once is never enough.  You need to repeat your message often and consistently.  Your ability to help people confidently see what comes next, how the work they do every day aligns with where you are going, and what’s in it for them is how you will engage your people and rally them to a better future.

To help business owners become better communicators we have developed tools plus a specific meeting rhythm to allow them to easily and more consistently share the vision, strategy, mission, core values, goals and priorities.  This ongoing sharing and conversation about the business creates a common point-of-view and language for your business which is foundational in building your culture.

4. Relationship Building

Being able to understand others’ perspectives and deal with them effectively is a key leadership skill. Business is all about relationships. The higher the quality of your relationships – in your personal life and business life – will often lead to a more enjoyable and successful business.

Relationship power is a more effective way to get things done than position power.  Better relationships will lead to more frequent and meaningful conversations.  This will allow you to have deeper connections, and give you more opportunities to share the vision and strategy.  The more you share and connect with people the more they will trust you.  It is much easier to influence someone when then they trust you; as opposed to when they are afraid of you.

5. Action

You have all heard “lead by example”.  The small business owner may take this concept a little too far.  Believing if they put their head down and work really hard, go the extra mile for the client and keep an eye on every penny, people will follow and do the same. Visibly working hard is their version of leadership.

Instead, I want you to think about action in terms of what actions you can take as leader to get more and better results from your people. It is like moving from being the main player on your team to being a player-coach (and depending on your vision to being just the head coach).  Involve more of your people more often.

This means adapting more leadership behaviors like coaching, mentoring, supporting and team building.  These are the leadership actions that will enable you to grow your business in a way that is less dependent upon you and ultimately more enjoyable.

Decoding Small Business Leadership

Don’t over complicate your role as leader; don’t ignore it either.

Simply spend a little more time envisioning and thinking about the future.  Clearly and regularly share your vantage point and the direction the business is going.  Involve your people where ever you can. Connect and engage them in making the future better.

Focus on these fundamental skills.  They are skills that you will always use and will serve as the building blocks for you to become a more effective leader.  You will need additional leadership skills throughout the life of your business.  Your unique situation will determine which skills are required.  Leadership is a learned skill.  Once learned it is part of what you do – a set of beneficial behaviors.

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Build Your Dream Business

Imagine it is the year 2020.  The Wall Street Journal is doing a story on your business.

What is the headline?

Dream Business ArticleTake some time and think about it.

The answer to that simple question could be the difference between you building your dream business or just being average.


What Your Article Would Say About You

How would that article answer some of these questions?

–         Who does your business serve?

–         What problems do you solve for your customers or clients?

–         Why do people buy from you rather than from one of your competitors?

–         How big is your business?

–         Who are the people that work there?

–         What is your role?

In business, thinking about how to answer these types of questions is strategic work. Strategic work is considerably different than the tactical work you do day in and day out; like answering emails, serving customers, training staff, putting out fires, creating an advertisement, updating your social media, doing the books, networking, following up with people, and, on and on and on.

Dreaming about what you want your business to become is some of the most valuable work you could be doing.  Unfortunately, dreaming about the future feels like you are not being productive, so you just don’t allow yourself to do it when there is “real” work to do.

Dream Business


A Dream Come True?

Of course just having a dream about your future is not enough to make it happen.  You also need a plan.  Envisioning where you want to take your business and creating a plan to make it happen is the essence of strategic planning.

You know you need a plan to run your business better.  All of the business books tell you that the “most successful businesses” all have a plan.  Of course, you would prefer to run your business from a plan.  Many business owners embark on creating an annual strategic plan.  For some it has become a habit that enables them to continue to grow year after year.  For most, it becomes an annual exercise in futility.  You spend your time and staff time creating your plan that frankly doesn’t get looked at again until…well, the next year this time.

Your reality is that maybe you have a rough plan of what you are suppose to do each week.  The truth is very few business owners work from a plan; or spend any time articulating how they intend to run, manage and grow their business.


Business Growth by Design

Strategic planning is not as complicated as you may think and the best managed businesses treat strategic planning as a business process and not an annual event.  The typical strategic planning process has these four basic steps:

  1. Update the plan annually
  2. Execute the plan weekly
  3. Track and monitor the results quarterly
  4. Making adjustments and updates as need dictates

Because your business is unique there is no one-size fits all strategic plan you can make your plan. With our business coaching clients we use a strategic planning framework that is flexible and adaptable to each client’s needs.  We call our version of strategic planning the Business Design PlanTM because it will help you design, build and grow your dream business.  It is both a framework to create and execute your strategic plan. It is centered on just three questions.  You can get your plan started by answering these three questions:


1. Where are you now? 

As you think about where your firm is now, look to see if you have the foundational elements of your strategic plan in place: your core values and core purpose.  These two elements rarely change and they probably will not require a lot of time to revisit or potentially revise.  Here is where you want to step back and “see how you are doing?”  You can do this by:

Analyzing Key Metrics –  As Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great “you need to confront the brutal facts”.  Pull all of your key numbers together and understand your business’s current performance.

Conducting a SWOT Analysis – This is a traditional strategic planning tool.  It helps you to understand and evaluate your company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Together your Key Metrics plus your SWOT analysis paint a picture of where you are now.


2. Where are you going?

This is the “dreaming” part. You want to envision the most ideal future for you and your business.  For many owners this is the hardest part of strategic planning, trying to envision what your organization will look like in the future.  As the economy has demonstrated over the past few years, almost everything seems unstable and unpredictable.  So how exactly are you supposed to predict the future of your business?

You probably can’t.  But you can create your future.

It starts with envisioning what your business will look like at some future date.  You may have some revenue targets and other goals you would like to achieve.  Go further.  Describe how your company must look, feel and act in order to become your dream business.  Use the questions at the beginning of this article (the Wall Street Journal questions) to paint a picture of your dream business.  The value to answering these questions is they will enable you to be more intentional about designing and building your business.


3. How will we get there?

Now that you know where you want to go, you’ll need to determine how you will get there.  What are the specific strategies you will use to reach your destination?  Usually there are multiple routes you may take.  The path one business might choose may not be exactly right for you.  Brainstorm and choose the best strategies for you.  This “strategizing” will drive your strategic planning process.

Important strategic areas you will want to work on include:

  1. Your life design strategy
  2. Marketing strategy
  3. Client service strategy
  4. People strategy
  5. Organizational strategy
  6. Management strategy
  7. Succession and exit strategy


Actions Speak Louder than Plans

In order to reach your long term vision of your dream business you next need to covert your vision and strategies into action plans that focus on what to do in the short-term.  For each strategic priority you need an action plan.  Each plan will include the deliverable, action steps, responsibilities, costs and due dates.

Now is the best time to decide what your 2020 Wall Street Journal article will say about you.  You still have the opportunity to intentionally design your future.  It is easy to get caught up in the urgency of getting through each day.  Don’t fall into that trap.  Dedicate some of your time to your long term dream and strategic plan.  There are multiple reasons why having a strategic plan is an imperative:

  • Adding new business
  • Increased revenues
  • Higher profits
  • Increased valuation
  • Getting your team on the same page

The overlooked and more valuable role strategic planning plays in your business is that it helps you clarify your dream.  Which enables you to take consistent actions toward that dream.  This in turn results in a much more enjoyable business ownership experience.  This work will help you design the life and business you want.

We offer Annual Strategic Plan coaching and facilitation. Contact us to get more information.

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Five Strategies to Improve Employee Motivation

Happy, motivated employees are something every business owner wants because those employees are more productive.  Job performance is a function of ability plus motivation.  Assuming your people have the ability, what motivates your employees? Do you know?  If not, how can you motivate them?Improve Employee Motivation

Motivating employees is a core component of most management training.  If you’ve had any type of training in management and motivation theory, it may have, in part, been based on the work of Frederick Herzberg.  He was a pioneer and a thought leader on the subject of employee motivation from the 1960′s through the 1980′s.  His theory asserts that the most powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money.  It’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others and be recognized for achievements.

Can You Improve Employee Motivation?

These are important and fundamental concepts to understand if you want to improve your team’s productivity and performance.  Why?  Because now you know where to start when thinking about how to help motivate your people.  Your first job as a manager of people is to help them be more successful.  You do that by having clear goals and accountabilities, documented systems and ongoing training and development.  Then, utilizing behavioral coaching, you deliver positive feedback to recognize good work and habits.  In just a very short time, you’ll see your employees’ motivation and performance improve.

A contemporary, Daniel H. Pink, has written several books on the topic of motivation. One I would recommend is his book titled Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  You can also watch the video of his TED talk right here (about 18 minutes) to get a brief overview of this theory:


Pink’s research shows that intrinsic motivation – doing things we enjoy, things that matter, things that are interesting or part of something important – is more motivating than extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is the carrot vs. stick approach – reward or punishment.  He cites the three most important intrinsic elements of motivation are autonomy, mastery and purpose.

5 Strategies to Improve Employee Motivation

Based the concepts outlined by these two experts, here are 5 strategies you can start to apply in your business to motivate your people:

  1. Achievement – put your people in a position to achieve their goals; nothing breeds success, like success.
  2. Positive feedback – recognize your people when they do things right.
  3. Autonomy – understand their need to direct their own work and determine how to leverage that in your business
  4. Mastery – provide opportunities for your people to learn and encourage their desire to improve.
  5. Purpose – connect your business purpose with each individual’s work and their own personal purpose and desire to contribute to something beyond just a job.

Just by employing these strategies, you have the basis of your operating system for managing and motivating employees.  Now, you have to put it into practice.  Make applying these five strategies part of your personal weekly goals and activities and you will see improved employee performance because your people are happy and motivated.

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Why Do I Need a Strategic Plan?

Most business owners do not plan very often or very effectively. You have seen more than one study which proves that companies that use a strategic plan are more successful than those that don’t.  I know you already know planning works. Yet you don’t plan.

Why Do I Need a Strategic Plan

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am not trying to lecture or scold you, but rather point out the reasons why most business owners do not plan. Because when you understand the reasons you can then choose to do something about it. Here are the common reasons I hear:

  • Too small to have a strategic plan
  • Do not have the time to plan
  • We are already successful, why do we need a strategic plan now
  • Do not see the benefit of planning
  • Things change too fast to have plan
  • I don’t like planning
  • I do not know how to do strategic planning


Why Plan?
It doesn’t matter if you’re stuck, already in your comfort zone, or you desire additional growth, there are multiple benefits to strategic business planning. Here are four fundamental reasons why planning is not just necessary, but essential:

  1. Clarity – it compels you to focus on the long term.
  2. Working ON It – it allows you to recognize the need for and manage change.
  3. Prevents Commoditization – it helps you find and keep a competitive differentiation.
  4. Engages and Inspires – it enables you to communicate and involve your team in setting the direction and building of the business.


Planning is a Critical Strategic Process
Your strategic business plan is the plan you use as a road-map to execute your strategy and reach your envisioned future. This is not the business plan you would put together for financing. This type of plan is something you will actually use to run and grow your business.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer to call this type of plan a business plan, a strategic plan or a growth plan. Documenting your plan is extremely important, but understand the physical plan itself is not the most important part of planning. The real critical activity is the process of planning – the way you and your team create, discuss and update your strategic plan.

The real value is in the ongoing process and not the physical document. Of all the tools available to the business owner, strategic business planning is perhaps the most powerful for moving your company forward and giving you the feeling you’re in control. There is an opportunity for every business owner to grow more effectively and more strategically by making strategic business planning a standard process in your business.


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