Are you scaling your business or in the process of trying? I meet numerous founders on the scale up journey who have turned to heavy tomes to find inspiration and advice on how to get the best from their team, and themselves.
It’s commendable and I always suggest people learn from other people’s experiences. But regardless of the knowledge acquired, putting it into practice is a different story.
They all say it’s especially hard to inspire “ordinary” people to deliver something extraordinary. That’s because it takes great leadership, which doesn’t always come easily, or from a textbook.
In our previous article, we looked at the ingredients for scaling success and hit upon the notion that great execution of the plan is intrinsically linked to great people and leadership. But as I can vouch for, it’s quite a minefield to get right.
Look in the mirror
That’s why when I first speak to clients about how they will get over the hump of “OK” growth to the international success, I make them consider who they need to be to successfully deliver the strategy.
We list the things they are great at and the qualities that have got them to where they are today.
But we are also frank and make a list of the things they don’t have in abundance but need so they can scale.
Invariably, they have great plans for the future but if they are really honest with themselves, they can see it will take more than the skills they possess to make it all happen. And often they find that they don’t have the skills to make ordinary people extraordinary.
It feels like a brutal conversation but such honesty helps leaders see how they must develop to deliver their ambition.
We ask what are the skills you need to build teams and inspire them to deliver an exceptional customer experience? How can you get people working at their best and believing in a plan?
Do a gap analysis
As you work through the skills you and your team have, and align them to the plan, you will uncover the gaps in the skill set. Sometimes these can be addressed by training, other times it’s new hires, or perhaps those gaps are best filled by freelancers or agencies that specialise in a particular area.
Test your assumptions
Whatever you discover, it’s crucial you test your assumptions. Make sure the team you’ve identified is capable of meeting new standards.
You don’t want to go headlong into a plan and then find the people you thought were capable are not.
You should be asking if they can create a flawless customer experience that can be scaled? Can they develop a strategy that will deliver? Do they show signs of being extraordinary?
This will also help you uncover blind spots in your thinking and clearly answer whether you have what it takes to get the best out of them.
If it’s unclear and you think you’ve run the right tests, then you have to ask if they are the right people to have in place as you scale.
They might be perfect for the day-to-day running of the company – competent and safe hands you can trust the business to while you build a different team that can take on the bigger challenge. Or you might decide you need to make some tough decisions.
The value of a coach when scaling your business
In my experience, you will probably decide that you need to keep a solid team in place, perhaps replace or reassign a few members of the team, and combine this with experts who can help and oversee a particular area of focus like operations or sales.
And I think it’s really important to acknowledge that getting this right is also a test of your own leadership skills. It will be stretching, and there is no shame in admitting you need help as you venture into new territory.
1. Look for experience
Firstly, a coach will have been in your shoes and scaled a number of businesses. They have a wealth of experience and can spot the problems, pitfalls and missed opportunities a mile off.
They can stop you before you go down a blind alley and can help you navigate unchartered waters. It’s this experience that will give you valuable, clear and immediate feedback.
2. Look for someone who will hold you accountable
A great coach will bring accountability to the plan and motivate you in a different way. They will set out exactly what the first 30, 60, 90 days of your plan needs to look like and what it must deliver – and they will hold you to it.
They will make you step away from the day-to-day nitty gritty and make you take on the big tasks that will make a genuine difference to your company’s direction.
3. Look for accreditation
Always look for an accredited coach as it is a sign that they set and adhere high quality standards and conform to a code of practice.
Most of all it will tell you that you are working with someone who takes their role as coach seriously and will have your best interests at heart.
4. Look for chemistry
Coaching relationships are built on trust and won’t be successful if it’s lacking. So be sure to meet them a few times and pose a few challenges to check you have personalities that complement each other.
The chemistry is vital because there will be ups and down in your journey to greater things and having someone you can trust and speak openly to is paramount.
You need to know they will push you to new heights, not push you to the brink of despair.
5. Look for referrals
Don’t forget that a coach needs your business to work as it’s their reputation as much as yours on the line. They won’t get new business unless they can show they help businesses like yours succeed.
Referrals will help show you how the relationship will work and how they will be a strategic partner as a result.
The bottom line is that with the strategy, cash, extra capacity, a flawless plan and great leadership to oversee the new direction, anything is possible – and with a coach on side you can achieve it.
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