How To Use Coaching When Growing Your Company

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How To Use Coaching When Growing Your Company

Written by: Caterina Kostoula, Forbes Councils Member




Executive & Team Coach at The Leaderpath. Coaching pioneering leaders and teams to maximize their impact and fulfillment. INSEAD Coach.

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In the startup phase of your business, the goal is to find product-market fit. As you grow, your people, teams, leadership and culture become increasingly important. The companies that fail to sustain their growth often do so due to people-related issues. During the scale-up phase, individual contributors may quickly become managers, and then managers of managers. Many leaders often feel overwhelmed by their additional management responsibilities and the breakneck speed they have to move the business. It is not unusual for some to feel a sense of loss as they cannot be so hands-on with the work anymore.

Communication often gets more difficult as you keep adding more people, departments and offices. Information does not flow as easily as before and teams may not feel as cohesive. You often introduce new processes and organizational structures to support the growth, and it is not uncommon to face resistance. I often hear scale-up employees reminisce about the good old startup times.

One company I worked with faced similar challenges. The founders wanted their team members to remain happy and fulfilled with their work as the company continued to grow as one of the leaders in its field. They wanted them to build their confidence and expand their skills so they could all get to the next level together. When one of their vice presidents asked for coaching support, the founders listened.

The Plan

We developed a one-year coaching plan for 17 of the leaders of the company that included the following three components:

1. Insight collection. We collected insights with 360-degree feedback surveys for every leader. Their stakeholders provided feedback about the leaders’ strengths and opportunities for development. We had three-way conversations with their managers to align on coaching priorities. We conducted interviews to identify the key themes to work on at a team level.

2. Executive coaching. We matched every leader with their own external executive coach — someone they could confide in and trust. The coaches did not coach two leaders who had a reporting relationship to avoid conflicts of interest. The coaching topics included leadership skills, influencing peers and strategy, among others.

3. Team coaching. We had a quarterly 8-hour team coaching session with the newly formed product and engineering leadership team. We worked on the new team’s vision, purpose, culture, accountability, feedback and roles and responsibilities. 

The Results

A year later, the company leaders’ confidence and skills had increased, and it showed in their 360-degree feedback survey results. Many claimed that coaching helped them find their executive voice and style. 

The new product and engineering leadership team had established a strong collaborative ethos. Team members made high-stakes decisions even more effectively. You know you have a cohesive, high-performing team when they produce extraordinary results.

When Covid-19 hit, the company quickly developed a new free product for their clients in under two weeks. Team members were passionate about helping their customers and their communities deal with the crisis. The development of a product took months under normal circumstances, but the team was able to work together to produce something remarkable at breakneck speed.

How To Use Coaching To Grow Your Company Sustainably

Your company can get results like these too. Here are some tips for using coaching to help you scale:

• Start small and expand later. Depending on your budget, you may want to start small. Begin with the coaching of the founders first, as theirs can be an incredibly lonely job. Their psychology and leadership have a massive impact on the company’s performance. Continue with team coaching for your executive team. In continuation, you can provide coaching to key leaders and high-potential employees across the company. Eventually, you may want to create a coaching culture across the company. Every manager and peer should be able to act as a coach when needed.

• Collaborate with a trusted coaching partner. Look for coaching qualifications — ideally either a postgraduate degree in coaching, or an International Coaching Federation or European Mentoring and Coaching Council accreditation. Ask for a track record of success and an understanding of high-growth environments. Partner with someone who has the scale to provide a team of coaches. That way, they can do the vetting for you, and you can have a selection of coaches to choose from. By collaborating with a company that has many coaches, you can also ask them to raise any anonymized systemic themes that come up in coaching to you. 

• Measure the results. Coaching is an investment of time and money, and you need to make sure it is working for you and your company. With our client, we measured the results in three ways: coaching satisfaction surveys, key team-health metrics and comparing the 360-degree feedback survey results from before and after the coaching. You can use additional metrics such as the results of your employee engagement survey, retention rates and, of course, the company’s financial results.

Final Thoughts

Growing a business is not an easy task. You move fast. It is easy to neglect leadership development as you often have a fire to put out. But investing in your executives and leadership team can help you speed up. You can prevent burnout and help support the motivation and clarity of your leaders. They will likely be better managers and it will be easier to attract and retain the best talent. Finally, your leadership team will be able to make better decisions as they will have developed trust, openness and mutual accountability. When you have a team of confident leaders who collaborate well with each other at the helm of your company, you can move faster.

Consider this oft-repeated scenario: A company CFO asks the CEO, “What if we invest in our people and they leave?” The CEO responds, “What if we don’t invest in our people and they stay?”


Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?


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July 29, 2020 at 05:43AM

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Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman

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