This article is part of the fnSummit Speaker Series. Every October, Founders Network members meet in Napa Valley for 3 days and 2 nights of programming, real fireside chats, break-out discussions, panels, wine tasting, hiking, swimming, and yoga. Founders Network sat down with each speaker contributing to fnSummit to discuss this year’s theme— growth. Learn more about the upcoming fnSummit, Oct. 19-21, 2016.
Helge Hellberg is a Professional Coach, and creator of An Organic Conversation, an award-winning national podcast and website on green living. After 5 years of incredible growth and current reach of 3M users he is scaling the platform to become the Organic Media Network, the online publisher of education and entertainment for the lifestyle of health and sustainability. Helge is an organic food advocate, business consultant, inspirational speaker, and writer. Before that Helge was Executive Director for Marin Organic. He holds an MBA from Communications Academy of Hamburg and is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist.
Q: Why do you coach entrepreneurs, and what is your philosophy behind it?
Helge: To achieve our goals or a certain level of excellence, most of us decide to work with a coach, mentor, or other trained expert who helps us stay focused, see our blind-spots, and go beyond what we already know. Whether that’s in the gym where we work with a fitness coach, or in business, where we work with a mentor or business coach, it’s the same principle. As a professional coach, I am dedicated to your success. I am experienced in recognizing anything that might be in your way of achieving your goals, grow your muscle of self-recognition, help you stay focused, and reflect my clients brilliance in order to go where they might not have been able to go alone. We all need that “other.”
Whether in relationship to our spouse or partner, children, parents, colleagues, food, or personal health—to name a few—there are areas or moments in all of our lives in which we are not quite as connected and as powerful and free as we would like to. As a professional coach, I work with my clients on becoming the most amazing, powerful, beautiful, happy, and aligned leader they could possibly be. For their personal lives and their professional lives, because of course, one is affecting another.
Q: In order to scale their business, a founder must learn how to scale themself. When a founder is pulled in a thousand directions, how do they keep centered and not get caught up in the mayhem?
Helge: Yes, of course this is incredibly difficult. We can barely keep up and also don’t know what will be required of us in a year if our company is growing, and how to prepare for that. In an exciting and often totally overwhelming way, we are always playing “catch-up.”
In a way that is part of running a start-up, and yet, we do have the responsibility to ask “How do I learn to grow?” and “How do I learn to lead?” Without those questions, a start-up can ruin your life. Not just financially, but also personally, your relationships, your health. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Working yourself into the ground is not the definition of success, nor a requirement for running a start-up. Yes, there is a lot of work and a thousand hats that need to be worn, but the question is who are you becoming in the process, a better version of yourself, or a worse one? A professional coach keeps that question and your path and growth in focus while you grow your business. I honestly don’t know how founders can do it without the help of a professional coach. It’s often left to trial and error and many mistakes could be prevented if recognized sooner. Breakdowns happen, there is nothing we can do about it. But how do we deal with them, how do we use them to create a trusting and effective corporate culture? That’s what sets companies apart. And it all starts with the CEO’s leadership and willingness to learn to be better than he or she was before. Coaching is muscle training. In this case, it is an internal muscle…
Q: How do you recommend founders maintain balance between work and everything else?
Helge: Well, it’s important to define the “everything else…”!
There are specific areas I pay attention to in my coaching: the physical, the psychological, and the spiritual. Body, as in exercise, food, water, air; Mind, as in thoughts, intellect, growth, stress; and Soul or Spirit, as in God, faith, Nature, and collective consciousness— those are the general building blocks of someone’s life. And how ever much we are able to create some form of balance between and awareness for all of these elements will impact and shape all of our relationships – to loved ones, family, friends, colleagues, investors, and advisors. You could say that the quality of these components make up the quality of our lives. You can’t feel healthy and great on a really poor diet. You can’t be a great husband if you are stressed out and feel like drinking every night. We have our limits of what we can shoulder, and coaching helps you focus on what you truly want and reveals ways to do things better. It keeps you present to what is healthy, meaningful, and in your overall highest interest.
The answers are different for each individual. The goal of coaching is happiness, balance, security, and success. My clients define each area and decide what that means for them. Security for some means community, for others it means money, or a mix thereof, for example. As a coach, I am committed to you living exactly the life you want to live and run your business in a way that is fun, creative, and successful.
Q: What do you think is the main obstacle for a founder in terms of self-improvement? How can they overcome that barrier?
Helge: Entrepreneurs have incredible workloads and responsibilities. And personal growth and self-improvement is tough to fit into our schedules. We often also feel we don’t “need” to grow and rather keep doing it our way, even though we already know the way we react to specific situations is not ideal, or breakdowns keep happening. So, hopefully, there is a moment in which we stop and say that it is no longer the other person’s fault, but that it is a pattern, and that it starts with me. When we have the awareness that breakdowns start with us, when we can own that, that’s the beginning of transformation and growth.
Whatever the next step might be, hiring me as your coach, or creating change in another way, at that moment, change is possible and inevitable. So my invitation to anyone, but to founders in particular, is to have that moment of reflection and to acknowledge where patterns repeat themselves or in which areas work and life are not as aligned, free, and empowering as they should feel. When you can own that, you already started changing it. A coach can be a trusted partner in that work.
At fnSummit 2016, Helge will be applying his coaching methods to provide founders with actionable methods to reflect upon their own lives— growing as entrepreneurs while improving their physical and mental health.
Briana manages Founders Network’s community of 600+ tech founders.