Startups are a lot like a football team at the beginning of the season. You need the right amount of talent, technical skills, leadership, and vision to excel in competition. And you need the right coach to help bring out the best in each individual player and the team as a whole. Just like the right football coach can make the difference between a winning and losing season, the right executive coach can make the difference between startup success and failure. 

Fortune 500 companies have been using coaches for decades. And now, as talent flocks to early stage growth companies, these companies are also catching on to the many benefits of effective coaching. Typically, startups try to put their best business ideas into practice in a timely and efficient manner in the hopes of scaling their businesses quickly. Oftentimes, evolving companies get so wrapped up in their business plan, their "playbook," that they forget to invite outside advice. This is where the executive coach comes into play. 

Here are things an executive coach can do to help propel your startup to the next level:

1. Lend objectivity.With startups in particular, leaders tend to treat their ventures like their “babies” and understandably have an invested, emotional attachment to their business. While passion and emotion are important, sometimes leaders can be trapped inside their own perceptions, planning, and execution. An effective executive coach can work with your leadership team to lend objectivity and enhance your performance if you are confident enough to realize that you can learn from someone not emotionally invested in your business plan.

2.Facilitate team building.Team dynamics can be tricky, particularly given that team members bring unique experiences, perspectives and other baggage to the table. A good coach is skilled at identifying differences in personality and work styles and making suggestions for how teams can gel better and staye focused on the company’s overall goals and objectives. Team building facilitation is an important part of a coach’s core competency and can make a critical impact on how early-stage companies blend talent and thinking to form effective teams.

3. Help leaders develop their own style.Great leadership qualities are critical to success regardless of what type of startup you are launching. But how can you develop a leadership style that works best for you? Executive coaches can play an important role in evaluating individual leaders and determining their strengths and weaknesses, and they can do so more readily than anyone inside the leadership team. Coaches are trained to work with all different types of leaders to bring out their best qualities to address everything from delegation to conflict management. Good coaches provide the right level of guidance and insight into personal behavior and thinking to help individual leaders find a leadership style that works best for them and their company.

4. Visioning and goal setting. For startups to succeed, companies must have a unified vision for growth and clearly understand what it will take to get there. An executive coach can work closely with leaders to ensure that the vision and goals are aligned and achievable. A coach can also help individuals set their own personal goals for professional growth and development.

5. Identify points of failure early.With 8 out of 10 startups failing within the first 18 months, it is critical for companies to have a plan in place for handling and reacting to the inevitable change to come. However, reading oncoming change is challenging for even the most skilled leaders. A good coach uses their objectivity to anticipate change before a leadership team can. The coach may or may not be part of the solution, but he/she has the ability to identify it and suggest ways to forge ahead.

Like football teams, startup companies are constantly vying for victory. They carefully design each play, assess their talent pool and make substitutions, as needed. A good coach can be the heart and soul of a strong team, guiding both the individual players and the team as a whole on the path to success. Just as you invest your time and energy into startup success, do the same for finding an executive coach for you and your business. The right coach can truly be a game changer. 

Published on: Nov 7, 2014