Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Executive coaching: what's in a name?

It bothers me when people call themselves ‘coaches’ and they don’t really coach.

Executive coaching is a skill that all leaders and managers of people should have. Coaching is to get inside the person and look out from where they are. To be a new pair of eyes with which to see the world around them, its problems and opportunities. This is inspirational work. That is to say coaching is a mechanism for inspiration, to encourage, motivate and instill belief into those who either may have lost it or who need more of it to do their job and make the decisions they need to make. This is not done by either shouting and instilling fear (although there is a role for fear and I will say more about this another time) but through skilled questioning and strong (but subtle) encouragement.

This is a skill – the questioning particularly. I learned it from a coach I used to have. He was amazing! Whatever answer I gave to a question he would ask another until we both got the answers that we needed to move ahead. It took me a while to ‘get it’ but when I did – and applied it to others – WOW! The impact was immediate and long-lasting. The interesting thing is that anyone can apply this technique.

Anyone can use coaching skills in this way. Just because a person doesn’t give themselves the title ‘coach’ doesn’t mean they can’t use the skills. In fact I have seen plenty people ordinary managers, parents, and even kids with this skill. In fact, being a coach then isn’t just about calling yourself a coach its about doing what coaching does – questioning always. There is a big difference!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How to find a Niche Market

How to find a niche market
from: www.coaching-coaches.com

This may not have much to do with executive coaching but I wanted to write something for all those coaches who have written to me to ask how they can start an online business - since I'd mentioned earlier that a lot of the people I coach want to leave their corporate roles and start up their own business online - so here goes...

Becoming and internet marketer has never been easier than it is now. However that is not to say that is easy.

The first step for anyone starting out is to decide what their niche market will be. This can be a really fun thing to do but it is also a serious, and probably the most important part of any internet business. It is when you put all those 'great' ideas you've had down on paper and start to think hard about what it is that people want to buy.

Central to all this though is knowing what a 'niche'. Essentially a niche is a group of people looking for an answer to a problem which they are unable to fine. Never lose sight of this! It is the foundation of your business. I've seen so many people set up a website then find out that no-one is interested in it.

Try these to start with:

Perhaps a hobby you love: there are lots of hobbies that turn into great businesses. And since it's something you enjoy you won't find it hard to go to work!

Life experience: We all have experiences in life. You can use these in a business. I've known people use their work experience to set up a business around, I know someone who had cancer, someone with their kids starting out in school, someone who loves computer games. All of these started a successful business.

Your knowledge and skills: we all have these. You can start a business using your talents whether this is pony riding, cooking, teaching, management, or gardening. I started my executive coaching business using a skill I had (offline first, then online) go here to see a site that sells for me www.coaching-coaches.com

Once you've done this, do this ...

1. Prioritise the ones you like best.

2. Go to Google keywords and do a search on the words related to the areas you have chosen. This will give you a rough idea of what words are being searched for. You can also find out the websites providing these and so who your competitors are. There will always be some competition. But don't worry about this too much. Competition means that there is a market - people want your stuff...

3. Generally if you find something which is demanded in quantity but which is low in site offering a solution, then you are really in with a chance of profiting Try this as your special niche market. A niche market keeps down the competition.

Be different

Once you have found your niche market you need to decide how you are going to be different. In business terms they call this a USP Unique Selling Point. You need to make what you are offering different in some way from the competition. That is, either better, cheaper, faster, easier, etc. in some way etc than the competition. This will give you an edge over your competitors and you will emphasise this in your sales copy.

Now you need a marketing model.

This defines how you will sell. How will you get your product out there and get people interested in it. There are several things to think about here:

1. Find the people who will buy from you?
2. Network market - join forums, and some social networking sites
3. Write a couple of articles and post them to some free article sites
4. Getting involved with some affiliate programs. This will offer you variations in what you can offer
5. Decide how you will 'deliver' what you are selling (service, product) and whether you will deliver this physically or electronically (for example see how I deliver one of my products on one of my sites here www.coaching-coaches.com

This is just a start and there are lots of other things to do and think about. But this should be enough to do for now. Good luck!

Michael Anderson www.coaching-coaches.com

Sunday, September 7, 2008

10 Things an executive coach needs

I know some of you are seasoned coaches but for me it always helps to go back to basics and remind myself of some of the foundational things you need to coach well. I consider some of these in my guide at www.coaching-coaches.com

1. Know what you want - what is really important to you in coaching? Think of 10 things and list them. Then choose just three. Keep these in mind when you are coaching someone.
2.Curiosity - think of as many questions as you can about a number of coaching issues. You can start with this list. What kind of coach are you? How do you help people? What are your strengths. What are your weaknesses?
3.Open yourself to new ways of thinking - we easily get fixed into ways of thinking - even about executive coaching. Challenge this! Try different techniques.
4.Seek support from others - don't be afraid to ask others what they think of executive coaching - your skeptical colleagues, friends, clients...
5.Be conscious of how you apply your learning - we all apply learning but unconsciously. Be aware of how you apply something you've just read and want to try. Or something you have tried but want to try again.
6. Reflect on the progress you make - Think about the success you've had (and the failures) dwell on the successes and try to identify what it was that worked so well. And don't try to hide the failures - think about why they were failures.
7. Enjoy it - do everything you can to make your executive coaching enjoyable. Don't be afraid of humour in the coaching relationship. Don't force it though. Just be natural.
8 Tell all - tell as many people you meet what it is you do. And take advantage of all opportunities to say how it works and why it is such a successful technique.
9. Improve - do something everyday to improve your executive coaching techniques and skills.
10.Have a web site and blog so that as many people get to know who you are what you do - I have two. One is currently being redone. The other is www.coaching-coaches.com

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Testing Testing!

Some say they are the greatest things ever and a large proportion of organisations use them regularly for a variety of positions. I've also used them as a coach and also in coaching coaches (www.coaching-coaches.com). But the use and reliance on psychological testing and assessment is growing!

They are certainly useful and have their place in a range of different circumstances. For example, they can help managers and leaders hire a certain kind of person for a job that might require particular personality. However, in my opinion they are over used and really can't help recruiters predict everything about the potential performance of a prospective candidate. Employers rely too much on crunching their candidates and not enough on really getting to know them. Tests can be used as a supplement to in-depth interviews and other assessment procedures but should never be used as a substitute. This is insulting to both the candidate and to the whole process of recruitment, not to the mention the company.

As a coach I would always advise you to be cautious about using assessments and psychological tests of this kind unless they are used as part of an entire selection process. Also if you have to use them or be involved with them somehow check that the authors are reputable and that the tests themselves have been tested and authorised by a reputable body. I don't cover psychological tests in my guide at www.coaching-coaches.com as they are a whole new area in themselves but they are certainly something that executive coaches need to become more aware of.

Check my guide at www.coaching-coaches.com

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Selling products rather than time


Are you selling your time or are you selling

It may not seem important or relevant to you but
the distinction is the difference
between one that has a limit on what it can make
and one that doesn't. I talk about this at www.coaching-coaches.com

The thing about executive coaching and coaching coaches
is that it can be quite lucrative. It's true that selling your time can make
a lot of money. But those who earn a living doing so
have a high rate of burnout and low job satisfaction.

The problem is there are only so many hours in the day.
You can't bill for more hours than there are.
By selling products you can half the time you
put into your business and remove all limits
on your profits. Don't think your services can
be made into products? Think again!

See the difference?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Coaches Online

Coaches Online

As with many other knowledge professionals, executive coaches are increasingly selling their knowledge and services on line in various forms. This is certainly true in executive coaching and coaching coaches. I don’t want to talk about these various forms however, but do want to make some general comments about presenting yourself on line. What are the best ways to do this? There are a number of points to make but what is clear is the importance of website design.

It has been proven and shown over and over again that non-pretty but basic, functional websites sell better than fancy sites with all the bells and whistles. In fact my site www.coaching-coaches.com follows this formula. Some of the most popular ecommerce sites: eBay, Amazon and Skype, are not that strong on fancy design. They are simple and clear.

So forget about flashy introductions and all these are just distracting your customers. When someone comes to your site you don't need to get their attention because you ALREADY have it. Rather you want to offer them attention by answering the questions they came online looking for your information in the first place.

People come online with an aim. You need to have a site that helps them in the accomplishment of that aim. So, if you are promising a free article or report then show them CLEARLY how they can easily get it.

Also, most surfers are impatient. If your site does not immediately answer the aim the surfer is seeking to satisfy they will ‘bounce’ away.

Here are some ways in which you can design a website that's functional:

1. Make your navigation system as easy and intuitive as you can. Don’t force your visitors to have to look hard for things.

2. Make sure that the design of the text is readable and grammatically correct. Don’t use too many dense paragraphs and make sure you have plenty white space.

3. Make your main headlines stand out by using a larger font and
A different colour from the rest of the text.

4. Help the visitor to accomplish their task. What's obvious to you may not be obvious to a new user.

5. Label your ‘action’ buttons appropriately, such as: "Click Here To Buy","Click Here To View!" Click here to …”

Evidence shows that 'marked up' salescopy like yellow
highlighting, underlining, and bolding, etc. have a higher response than standard text. Long sales copy sells better than short sales copy. And only one thing sells better than long sales copy and that’s even longer sales copy!

Colleagues who say to you that your website looks "pretty" or “nice” tend not to buy from such sites. "Does this site look good?" is a wasted question. The real question is "Would this site sell?

Don't be flattered by those who say how “nice” your site looks. Go for the site that will sell!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Leadership and Ethics

As an executive coach I often get asked what makes a great 'ethical' leader. The answer always depends of course. At www.coaching-coaches.com we are often asked to produce them as much as define them. Of 462 executives who were asked, "What characteristics are needed to be an effective leader today?" 56 percent ranked ethical behavior as an important characteristic, followed by sound judgment (51%) and being adaptable/flexible (47%).

(Source: American Management Association, New York)

Interesting statistic this one. Not surprisingly it has gone up since ENRON and WORLDCOM fiascos. Executive coaching as a profession also developed significantly at this time. But being an anthropologist also my question is whether how ethnocentric this is? Would the same figures come out in different parts of the world and given that leaders are leading in international roles more frequently how 'shared' is their ethical behaviour and what happens where ethical systems collide. In much of the west we are proud of what we see as transparency in business and corporate process and operations and leaders have to legislate strongly. But in many other countries family ties and 'blood' are seen as sufficient or 'better' ways of deciding who should be a leader. I am not saying that one is better - though for obvious reasons I prefer the former - but that they are very different. How are 'ethics' judged and behaviour decided with respect to this potential conflict?