Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Losing in the family business – be right but have no team

business-man-big-jumpMany of the family business entrepreneurs we work with are very strong minded individuals who have had a lot of success in the business.  Their success further strengthens their position that their way is the right way.

The problem is there’s been an ongoing trend over the past several years of people wanting to have autonomy – the ability to make their own decisions and add their own individual fingerprints to their work.

For the stubborn family business entrepreneur this seems like a bad direction.  I hear things like “Why fix it if it isn’t broken?  Why would we possibly want to do things differently when we’ve had such success with our current way of doing it?”

I have a client right now I’m working with who has been struggling with this dilemma for quite some time.  He continues to “be right” and continues to run off talented and hard-working people who would love to help the company move forward.

And truthfully, this guy is extremely smart and knows the business well.  Many of his ideas are great ideas.

I keep reminding him that if he wants it all to be done with his ideas he may be a leadership team of one.  He knows he wants to someday successfully transition the business and I have to give him a dose of reality with the fact that if he doesn’t start letting other people do things in their own unique way they will never stick around.

We’re a bit of a victim of the way we have raised the up and coming generation. We have encouraged them to be strong minded, confident and willing to speak their mind.

So the successful family business entrepreneur needs to find a way to gently straddle that line of letting people have a say in the matter but not allowing them to make decisions that will put the company at undue risk.

In family business coaching we teach the entrepreneurs how to use the Socratic method of teaching, mentoring and coaching to use their experience and expertise to ask better questions and do a better job of developing the younger generation.  When we teach the family business to create a coaching culture it accelerates development and communication and improves business results.

I know how hard it is to watch people make mistakes but ultimately it’s one of the best ways they really learn the lessons.  Remember you have a decision – you can be right and be a one man band or you can learn how to be a better mentor and build a great team and have a successful transition! Choose wisely!

From screaming to calmly taking 360 feedback

Here is a great article about all things family business.  References to fights of biblical proportion, to finding ways to being a business first family. I thought the best quote came from West Mathison who said “Stemilt has progressed, Mathison said, from days when his father and grandfather “screamed at each other” when meetings grew hot to personality profiles and 360-degree reviews by one’s boss, self, peers and subordinates as tools of improved communication.”

It’s amazing how a little outside feedback can bring some calm and objectivity to the situation. A 360 degree feedback process can be quite simple and help family members see themselves as other (non family members) see them. It’s pretty much impossible to be objective with your family members.

I recently worked with a father to do a 360 process for his 3 sons. It included feedback from not only employees in the business but outside stakeholders like key customers and vendors of the business. The feedback provided great information that helped us create specific leadership development plans for each of the siblings. It was so much more valuable coming from sources other than Dad. Consider the 360 feedback process as a possible gift to give to your kids next year!

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Make Your Practice Plan

By now you understand theat practice is the key to high levels of results.  What is your practice plan?  Let me make a few suggestions of typical business structures that could be good practice plans for you.

  • Weekly staff meeting
  • Weekly one-on-one meeting with direct report(s)
  • Monthly leadership team or all staff meeting
  • Annual performance review
  • Quarterly performance review
  • After-action review on major projects
  • Quarterly or semi-annual leadership offsite retreat (practice, NOT boondoggle!)

Everyone of those meetings and structures is an opportunity to develop and implement deliberate practices for yourself and your organization.

Coach Early and Coach Often!

There are many ways and places to coach, but I want you to err on the side of over-coaching, not under-coaching. Repetition is the key to success. Every time you coach, you are building your coaching repertoire and muscle. Every time you let coaching slip by, you are sending the wrong message to your team that it is not important. Coaching happens in thousands of conversations over the course of a career. The greatest coaches are coaching almost all the time. There are probably a hundred opportunities to coach in any given day and you want to find the right places and the right times. As coaching becomes an integral part of your leadership style, you are always thinking about openings for coaching; what is the gap, what is the skill, what is the practice, and how can the team’s performance improve? 
  • Posted by Coach Pete
  • Thursday, March 8th, 2012
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Coaching Pitfall – No Patience to Allow Coaching to Develop, “It Takes Too Long” Attitude

I hear this from a lot of leaders.  I believe this is the wrong way of looking at it.  Yes, it does take you a few more minutes to coach than it does to manage or to just do it yourself.  Remember, coaching is about building capacity in others.  The investment and time you make on coaching should pay major dividends down the road.

Coaching is not a quick fix. It is a mindset and general philosophy about leadership and business. If you do not have the patience or fundamentally do not believe in coaching, do something else.

Coaching Pitfall – The Uncoachable

This is the person who is so stubborn and hard headed that they just won’t be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.  I do not know why some people are so damn stuck in their ways.  One of my first teachers said, “Why is a booby prize!”  In other words, it is not worth looking for why people do certain things. 

There are people I have come across over the years who just seem uncoachable.  They are not open to new ways of doing things.  For a while they will tell you that they are willing to change, and they will pretend like they are, but they never really commit to anything different.  Do not waste your time coaching those people.

One test we use for this is “How hard am I working on the coaching?” If you are working a lot harder than the Coachee, something is wrong. The Coachee should be the one breaking a sweat!

Small Business Challenges

The biggest challenge I see my small business clients facing is leadership in the “new normal” business climate.  Their staffs are constantly bombarded with negative economic news, mounting economic pressures and increased workloads.

Leaders need to find a way to help their teams be focused, resilient and ready to compete in this new economy.  The brain scientists have proven that stress seriously limits people’s access to their own creativity and effectiveness.  Today’s business leader needs to understand how to create the right mindset, mood and messages that will create a focused and highly competitive business team.  Most small business owners reach their position because of their passion for the business, not their the leadership prowess.  The most successful leaders know their team’s winning record will be a direct result of their leadership effectiveness.

Leaders who can become Coaching Leaders will learn from the best lessons of effective sports coaches. They’ll learn how to coach people to be more successful and competitive and at the same time build loyal teams. When you are a demanding boss you are a jerk…when you are a demanding coach you are respected and loved. Think about it.

Coach to Win the Leadership Game

Pete Walsh's new book cover

Our new book is now available to order online at or

  • Posted by Coach Pete
  • Monday, November 8th, 2010
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Leadership and Competition

Opportunity for a New Form of Leadership

By now we have a clearer picture about the world in which we lead.  In every crisis is an opportunity.  People are looking for teachers and a beacon of light in this tumultuous world.  Leaders who can understand this opportunity and adjust to the new form of leader will create the most competitively vibrant teams and financially successful organizations.  In my new book you will learn about the coaching leader.  This new form of leader knows how to inspire, engage and hold people accountable to higher levels of performance and business results.  But more importantly, in the coaching and development process, both leaders and team members experience a much higher level of personal satisfaction and reward for their work.  Coaching is deeply rooted in helping people understand their true talents, gifts and how to use those to reach their potential.  This new form of leadership will create higher business results and greater levels of personal satisfaction for you and your team’s needs. 

Competitive World

It is a competitive world. Just look around,  you see new organizations popping up all of the time and at the same time you see old stalwarts like General Motors, that we thought were unbeatable, falling to the wayside.  It is an extremely competitive world.  Survival of the fittest is really what it comes down to in our economic system. Believing that there is room for charity or keeping organizations around for sentimental value is unrealistic. Only the most effective, competitive and profitable organizations will succeed.  The sooner we understand that as leaders, and the sooner we can convey that message to our staff in a way that they can hear it; the better off we are all going to be. 

Average equals extinction is reality. Think about it, if you are only maintaining the status quo; you are probably not going to survive.  So the challenge from a leadership perspective is to continually have your organization staying ahead of the pack.

 How do you do that?  That is why coaching is so critically important.  Coaching focuses on performance, improvement and potential.  Getting better and higher levels of performance really isn’t an option anymore.  It is the only option!  I am not saying that the highly competitive world is the right world, but it is the world we live in as business leaders today.  To deny that reality would be poor business strategy. 

You would be better off to understand that this is the world we are in and the sooner you can create a highly effective and competitive team, the sooner you are going to enjoy success, profitability, loyalty and retention.

The End of Leadership!

The end of leadership is a pretty bold statement!  If you look around you will see some very dramatic changes in the world.  I believe that our traditional leadership structures are falling away and a new form of leadership is emerging.

In fact the genesis of this bold statement came from Warren Bennis, a pioneer of the field of contemporary Leadership Studies, in his article, “The End of Leadership: Exemplary Leadership is Impossible Without the Full Inclusion, Initiatives, and Cooperation of Followers”.  Bennis previously had been an advocate of TOPdown leadership.  After being asked to debate against his TOPdown position, Bennis came to a startling conclusion, he writes, “I came to the unmistakable revelation that TOPdown leadership was not only wrong, unrealistic and maladaptive but also given the report of history, dangerous.”

My experience as an executive coach brings me to the same conclusion.  Leaders are struggling to connect with their workforce in a way that brings engagement, personal accountability, loyalty and high levels of results.  This lack of accountability for results is a very frustrating situation for leaders. 

Our past beliefs, and subsequent strategies about leadership are no longer relevant.  There are a number of factors that have brought this about.

Failure of Leaders

Some of our most revered political leaders and corporate CEOs have been caught in outright lies that have undermined the credibility and trust we have traditionally bestowed upon them.  These leadership failures have created a backdrop of cynicism and doubt amongst the broader group of followers.

 “Pay Less, Get More” Mentality

The next factor is the extremely high expectations of consumers.  As consumers, we expect high levels of deliverables from everywhere we exchange our time and money.  With the advent of warehouse stores, major discounters selling everything, we expect to “pay less and get more.” In fact, that is one of the most successful and popular marketing slogans in retail.  This mindset spills over into the employee/employer relationship.  People want to give less and be paid more. Deep down I would like to think that people are fair and are willing to have a fair exchange for their time for money but they get caught in the cultural drift of “give less, get more” mentality.  

Get a Trophy for Just Showing Up

Let’s layer on another dynamic.  I do not know if you have raised children lately, but we started giving trophies just for participating on a team.  This new cultural norm has created an expectation of reward and recognition for just showing up.  There are bodies of research now revealing that this may not be the best approach in terms of teaching young people how to work hard and achieve something.  Parents are afraid to let their children feel anything other than “success” and they have no idea how to deal with adversity or disappointments that might come their way as adults.  They expect to be promoted to vice president within a couple of years after college. 

People Want More Satisfaction and Meaning

In a recent poll by the Conference Board, the 90 year old business research organization, it appears that job satisfaction is at an all time low.  This is another indication that our current forms of leadership are not creating work environments that have people satisfied and engaged.

As we look at the cultural context of leadership today we see a shift occurring in the employee-employer relationship. Cultural context is the background of experiences and beliefs that are shaping our collective thinking.  This is the cultural context in which business is done today.  We have four dynamics:

  • Cynicism due to major leadership failures
  • Give less be paid more mentality
  • Reward and recognition for just showing up
  • People want more satisfaction and meaning

 How easy it must have been in the days of leadership 50 years ago!  “Work hard, don’t complain and you’re lucky to have a job.”  Well, ladies and gentleman, we are not in Kansas anymore.

So, it is really not the end of leadership, but leadership as we know it is no longer effective.  So, what type of leadership is best suited for today’s business world?