As founder, you may have advisors or mentors to turn to for help in solving specific business problems. But those figures, while important, may not be able to help you make fundamental shifts in thinking and behavior that drive success over the long term.
“I worked at Hewlett Packard Enterprise for 10 to 15 years, and had a lot of opportunities to be mentored,” he recalled. “When I decided to start NoMo FOMO four years ago, which was my first startup, I didn’t have anybody to guide me. I had a lot of people who ended up being mentors in the short-term. What I realized was that there are a lot of people who call themselves mentors, or call themselves coaches, and it’s hard to figure out who you need in a way.”“A coach helps you think about how to become better: Dealing with change management, or focusing on a certain soft or hard skill, and helping you unlock that.” - @JeffSWalsh Click To Tweet
Founders are likely used to pulling in advisors or mentors for guidance in making certain tactical decisions. But when it comes to developing leadership skills that will carry you through a career, founders should consider making an early investment in a dedicated coach to help cultivate skills and unlock potential.
“A coach helps you think about how to become better: Dealing with change management, or focusing on a certain soft or hard skill, and helping you unlock that,” said Walsh.
At a Founders Network curriculum, Jeff Walsh and Rebecca Taylor, co-founder and COO of GoCoach, explain how a coach fills the gaps that other advisors miss, helping founders tackle change management, effective communication, building culture and other key ingredients in long-term success.
- What Coaches Do that Mentors Can’t
- How to Discover What’s Holding You Back
- Unlocking Soft and Hard Skills for Long-Term Returns
- Getting the Best From Your Employees
“When you’re starting a company and you’re building something new, ideally you’re building something that’s never been seen before,” added Taylor, who founded GoCoach after serving as an HR and talent leader at several startups. “There’s a lot of opportunity in that, but there’s also risk that you make the wrong decisions or go the wrong way.”
Coaches serve as an agnostic, unbiased force in a founder’s career development, helping founders understand what’s holding them back and where they need to improve to become a better leader going forward. Unlike therapists, they’re specifically tuned to the demands of startup life and what emerging business leaders need and they’re there to hold founders accountable as well.
“Coaching as a practice is about forming the path forward, and basing it on what your journey needs to be for what you’re trying to accomplish,” Taylor said. “It instills leadership behaviors in the founder, which is what a company needs.”“You miss out on really innovative input from people because you’re not coached to pull that out of them.” - @JeffSWalsh Click To Tweet
Having a coach also creates positive downstream effects for your whole company. Better culture, communication and leadership lead to better outcomes, as well as the ability to retain and develop talent, helping employees do their best work and ensuring they’re happy.
That’s no small benefit, given that founders regularly cite recruiting and people management as some of the most difficult tasks they face over the life of a company. Likewise, communication with employees, and among co-founders, can make or break a startup. Yet it’s one aspect to running a company that, too often, doesn’t get the attention it deserves until a problem arises.
“You miss out on really innovative input from people because you’re not coached to pull that out of them,” Taylor added. “When someone is coached, they also become better coaches for the people who they hire.”
Founded in 2011, Founders Network offers lifelong peer mentorship to over 600 tech startup founders globally. Our platform, programs and high-touch service facilitate authentic experience sharing, warm introductions and long-term professional relationships. Additional benefits include over $1M in startup discounts and mentorship from 50+ Institutional Investors. Members are located in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, London and other tech hubs. Each month our Membership Committee admits a new cohort of full-time tech founders who are nominated by an existing member.