Family Business, privately held firms face many challenges. Coaching the Owner is often needed to keep focus, to understand the enemy named average and the virus called status quo.
“I have difficulty sometimes talking to people who don’t race sailboats. When I was a teenager, I crewed Larchmont to Nassau on a 58-foot sloop called Candice. There was a little piece of kelp that was stuck to the hull, and even though it was little, you don’t want anything stuck to the hull. So, I take a boat hook on a pole and I stick it in the water and I try to get the kelp off, when seven guys start screaming at me, right? ‘Cause now the pole is causing more drag than the kelp was. See, what you gotta do is you got to drop it in and let the water lift it out in a windmill motion. Drop it in, and let the water take it by the kelp and lift it out. In, and out. In, and out, till you got it.”
The lessons learned on Candice relate to Family Business, privately held firms. Letting the water carry the boat pole is a good lesson. Working with owners and entrepreneurs, helping them consider change can be quite a challenge. Similar to sailing, coaching your boss or senior member of the Family business has a few key points.
A few points to consider the first is check the weather and plan. Your boss has good days and bad days, so plan ahead, outline ahead of time the three or four items or issues. Unlike the crew on the Candice, you cannot yell about a behavior, instead you might want to offer a few suggestions.
Coaching the Owner
Coaching your Boss, or helping the owner can be challenging, you may want to consider some tools. Marshall Goldsmith, the best-selling author and pre-eminent executive coach, calls this “feedforward,” ongoing dialogue about what you observe. You can integrate this with suggestions about what to do differently as well as affirmations of what is going well.
Another tool that can be used is Two-alternative forced choice (2AFC). This psychophysical method was developed by Gustav Theodor Fechner, for eliciting responses from a person about his or her experiences of a stimulus. A simple example of the 2AFC is often used in development, early child development. Consider this question, “Billy would you rather have peas or broccoli for your vegetable?” Care needs to be taken with presentation and tone; when you use the two-alternative forced choice with leaders.
Helping your Boss or coaching the owners, in Family Businesses is important work. In 1963 while commissioning a dam that many thought was a Pork barrel PR object, John F. Kennedy said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Kennedy’s speech writer, Ted Sorenson admitted in his memoirs that they had borrowed this aphorism from the New England Chamber of Commerce. “A rising tide lifts all boats” is associated with the idea that improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants in that economy. Improving the Owner, the boss, helps everyone in the business.
Coaching the Owner or the boss is not an easy task to get started and needs to be maintained. Providing feedback has long been considered to be an essential skill for leaders. As they strive to achieve the goals of the organization, employees need to know how they are doing. They need to know if their performance is in line with what their Team expects — what their Family Business needs.