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The Right Partner in Business

Business Development, Professional Development Comments Off

Your business coaching client, who is thinking about starting their own business but is unsure about whether they should become partners with someone they know, asks your the following question: “A friend and I want to go into business together but I’m not sure if we can work together. How do I find out before we start?”
Here’s a response from LCI’s Master Coach Terry Neal…
This statement reflects an increasing occurrence in today’s work environment where more and more people want to start their own business so that they can be their own boss. This in itself requires great planning and organisation even for a sole operator of a proposed new business. However a far greater challenge can occur when two people who may not have worked together before or who may have been in the same industry and even in the same workplace, decide that they want to go into business together.
Your client has raised an important question which probably is underlined by concerns about how it will be to work together away from either their individual or collective current workplace situation (that possibly does provide stability for your client financially and socially), as well as how will it be to work closely with their friend.
Initially as the coach you would need to gather information about your client, the business that they are proposing to create with their friend, what their goal is for the business and what they see as their strengths and challenges in the proposed business.
From this investigation you and they will have a clearer picture of in relation to the intended business as well as their vision for the business. You could then ask questions to help them to start finding out how much they know about their friend and if they could feel comfortable about working with them.
Questions like: How long have you known your friend? How long have you worked together and/or worked in the same industry? What qualities do you like about them? What challenges do you have with them? Do you two mix socially? How did the idea of working together come about? Who approached who? Do you know why your friend wants to go into the proposed business in general and specifically with you?
There could be more questions that flow from this but the point is to assist your client to become more aware of aspects of how well they know their friend as well as becoming more aware about themselves in areas that they hadn’t realised or weren’t sure about before in relation to their friend as well as their proposed venture.
Your client needs to be made aware that the more honestly they look at how well they know both themselves and their friend, the more likely that the proposed business venture will start on a solid footing (if indeed it starts at all).
Following on from this information gathering exercise, you could set your client a task to be done between this and a subsequent session. In this case the task would be to set up a meeting with their friend to talk about some basic issues that have come to light as a result of the questions you asked of your client that may have changed some of your client’s perspectives around both working with their friend as well as the whole business proposal.
Remind your client that this could assist both them and their friend to obtain as clear a picture as possible of how each one of you sees both the working together and the business itself. All of this assists your client to acknowledge as far as it’s possible to do so about what it could be like to work together.
You could provide a list of questions for your client to assist the process with their friend. Questions that you might suggest could include:

  1. If our proposed business were to have exactly the impact that you wanted it to have, what would this look like?
  2. What’s your vision for the business?
  3. Where do you see our individual and collective challenges being?
  4. What do you think are our individual and collective strengths?
  5. What do you think we’ll need to do to get started in our own business?

Your client needs to be encouraged to assist with the best possible outcome when asking these questions by reminding them to pick an appropriate time and place to talk over these questions; a situation where there will not be any interruptions or where the meeting could be overheard by anyone else; so not in the work place but in a relaxed “away from work” situation.
Encourage them also to model open and honest communication and answers with their friend in the same way that they have done with you.
Finally, your client needs to be reminded that the information gained for themselves from both your session with them and those with their friend will assist them to say what is true for them about starting a new business venture and to go with what they feel is right for them no matter how persuasive their friend may be.
You could also suggest another session with your client to allow for any other issues that may have arisen from their meeting with their friend and/or to deal with the result of that meeting which may or may not have gone according to plan.

Fostering Effective Communication

Personal Development, Professional Development Comments Off

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” ~ Robert McCloskey

“Seek first to understand and then be understood” is an instruction first delivered by Stephen Covey in his acclaimed book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey’s message is a simple but powerful one. Too often we enter into communications with others with pre-conceived assumptions or notions about what the other person’s expectations, ideas or judgements will be.
Rarely are communications entered into without a predetermined idea of the response we are seeking or expecting. This does little but make communication more complex and susceptible to misunderstanding.
Studies into interpersonal communication have continually discovered that three core qualities foster effective communication. These qualities are defined as: 

  1. Genuineness;
  2. Respect and
  3. Empathy. 

By incorporating these qualities into your everyday interactions with others, you can ensure that your relationships and communications become increasingly authentic, valid and meaningful.
To be genuine in communication is to be open, honest and self-expressive. The degree to which you behave in this way is the degree to which you’ll be able to significantly relate to another. A conversation devoid of genuineness sees people conceal their thoughts, values or motives. Concealment can lead to defensive responses and ultimately minimal connection between people.
Of course, it is neither advisable nor appropriate to be completely self-expressive in all situations. Genuine communication means engaging in sincere, honest and responsible conversations. It means accepting yourself and expressing who that is.
Take a moment to reflect on the relationships in your life, both professional and personal.

  • In which relationships do you feel the most genuine?
  • In which relationships do you feel the least genuine?
  • What is it about your most genuine relationships that encourage you to express more of who you are? 

Respectful communication is communication that values the other person. When you engage in respectful conversation you appreciate the other person’s separateness and self-identity. To facilitate respectful communication:
Show consideration for personal boundaries. Avoid asking questions that are overly personal or intrusive. We often show this respect to colleagues and acquaintances but can fail to do so with our children or other family members.
Don’t impose your personal values onto others. Appreciate differences in other’s values and beliefs.
Avoid making assumptions. Don’t assume someone is thinking or feeling a particular way simply because that would be your natural response or reaction. Always check with them.
Empathy exists on a continuum between apathy and sympathy (see below):
APATHY                         EMPATHY                                           SYMPATHY
e.g. “I don’t care”            e.g. “Looks like you feel down today”   e.g. “You poor thing…”
Under-involvement                                 <>                              Over-involvement
Effective communication means showing genuine care and concern for somebody. It does not mean identifying so strongly with another’s situation that it becomes debilitating or difficult for you to manage. Empathy means viewing the world through another’s person’s eyes. It requires abandoning self-focused communication for authentic connection and understanding.
The more you develop your communication skills the greater the possibility for genuine conversations based on honesty and respect. It is these conversations that have the power to influence your life.
Interactions based on genuine connection and consideration lead to improved understanding. This, in turn maximises the likelihood of successful communication that is not only authentic but leads to results. Increase your professional effectiveness by using your communication skills to identify the expectations of others and express your needs clearly and succinctly.

Aligning Your Vision with Reality

Personal Development, Professional Development Comments Off

A client approaches you with the following question: “My visions and goals are great but they aren’t real. How can I start living them now?” Master Coach Zahava Starak answers this dilemma…

Wow! A dilemma of a question! How can one start living something that isn’t real? More likely the client in this case has goals and a vision that are very real – but perhaps not realistic or attainable in their view.

Or perhaps they feel that other people in their life might not appreciate their goal or that they are silly to have any aspirations. As a coach it is therefore a good idea to discuss with your client what is happening in their life at the present and what they want to see happening – and then whether there is any synchronicity between the two.

To this end you could follow the WDEP acronym.  Each letter of this acronym refers to a cluster of strategies that can be implemented by the coach to promote change and assist the client in living the life they want.

In this acronym the letter W stands for Wants and Needs.

The coach asks a number of questions that encourage their client to discover what their needs are. Clients are given the opportunity to explore every aspect of their life and determine what they want from family, work, friends and so on. 

Typical questions include: “What do you want that you don’t seem to be getting?” or “What would you be doing if you were living how you wanted to?” By answering such questions that client is painting a picture of their “quality world”.

Next, the coach addresses the letter D which stands for Direction and Doing

The coach now discusses with their client the overall direction of their life, including where they are going and where their behaviour is taking them. Once again, through questioning, the focus is on the client’s present reality.

Questions to be asked at this stage include: “What are you doing about this?” and “What did you actually do this past week?” As it is evident, these questions examine the behaviours of the client to determine whether they are helping them attain their quality world.

This then brings us to the letter E which stands for Evaluation. The coach now asks such questions as: “Is what you are doing helping you or hurting you?” or “Does your present behaviour have a reasonable chance of getting you what you want now?” These questions help the client evaluate their behaviour and to honestly look at the consequences of their actions. With this realistic appraisal the client is now ready to make effective choices that may lead to change and goal attainment.

So they can now address the letter P which stands for Planning and Commitment. Clients can now explore the behaviours which can satisfy their wants and help them live their vision. Questions to assist the client at this stage include: “What plans could you make that would result in a more satisfying life?” or “Are there any other ways you achieve this goal?”

By following this acronym the client is empowered to start making their goals real and attainable thereby enabling them to live the life they want. Let’s now see how this acronym works in a real situation.

Case Example

Our client in this case is Linda. She describes her life as one that should be ‘satisfying’. She is happily married to an accountant and enjoys looking after her two children aged 5 and 7. Her husband earns enough money so that the family has all their basic needs met without Linda having to work.

Before the birth of her second child Linda worked in the hospitality industry and enjoyed the interaction with people. It is only recently that she began questioning her ‘quality world’ and talking about goals and visions. Linda wants to expand her world and says that she is probably ‘silly’ and that she should abandon her ‘grand plans’ and take up a hobby instead.

Linda is basically saying that her goals and vision aren’t real – but asking – how can I start living them now.

Based on our model the first step is to determine what Linda’s wants and needs are, and so we can ask Linda “What do you want with your life that you don’t seem to be getting?” We can further this exploration by asking Lind to describe the world that she would like to wake up to if, while sleeping, a miracle happened and her needs were met (the Miracle question).

Linda does know what she wants and she explains that she would like to see the children off to school each morning and then work on her catering and special events business that she has dreamt of for the last two years. With enthusiasm she explains in detail her business concept and who she would have helping her run it. Her wants and needs would be met by the challenge of the business and by the social interaction it would offer.

Next we can ask Linda what she is doing to get her wants. More specifically we ask, “What did you actually do this past week to take steps to start your business?” and “What do you see for yourself now and in the future?”

Linda’s enthusiasm wanes and she indicates that all she has been doing is talking about her dream to both perspective employees and supporters. She has only briefly mentioned it to her husband. She owns up that she feels foolish to have such aspirations and so until now has chosen to dream but not to act.

This statement leads us into an evaluation and we ask Linda “Is what you want realistic?” and although Linda hesitates and stumbles in the discussion of her vision, it becomes evident that her dream is possible. She has the skills, the contacts, the finances and the passion – and so we now ask her “Does your present behaviour have a reasonable chance of getting you what you want now, and will it take you in the direction you want to go?”

Linda, as expected, answers ‘no’ but there is a smile on her face as she now realises that she can actually start doing something to make this goal come true. And we can now enter the Planning and Commitment Stage of the Model. Goals can be more specifically addressed using the SMART format and a vision can be described in more detail.

We can ask Linda to indicate how committed she is to attaining her goal and she answers that on a scale between 1and 10 where 1 is not committed and 10 is fully committed – she is a 10. We are now ready to formulate an action plan and initiate the first steps towards establishing Linda’s goal and having her live the life she wants. 

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. ~ Carl Jung