Editorial by Greg McCann, Author, Educator, Coach and Founder of McCann & Associates, USA
Leaders in a family enterprise have to contend with a higher level of complexity than their non-family business peers. Therefore, agility – finding an approach that best serves the circumstances as well as your goals – is a necessity. Moreover, the capacity to think critically, manage emotions and maintain perspective to see where your internal narrative does not line up with reality, are critical factors in the health of a business. Coaching helps leaders maintain this health by deepening awareness to result in more effective action.
What Coaching is Not
There are two common misunderstandings about coaching. The first is that coaching in business is similar to coaching in athletics – someone who tells you what to do. Instead, the opposite is true. Professional coaches practice deep listening, make observations and help create options. In my experience, this leads people to do amazing, even transformative things.
The second misunderstanding is that coaching is the same as therapy, but coaching is more of a wellness-based model. Typically, business coaching focuses on translating deepening awareness into action measured up against an increasing level of accountability.
Coaching top performers is a collaborative practise that requires trust, courage, commitment and humility. It creates what leaders need more of today in our rapidly changing, increasingly complex world: white space – a place to pause, reflect and get in touch with the head and the heart.
This coaching framework is an adaption based on vertical leadership development in general and leadership agility in particular. Vertical leadership development says let’s evolve the leader themselves relative to their thinking, emotions and perspective.
Leadership agility, as adapted, focuses on four fundamental agilities: self-awareness, empathy, innovation and framing.
Through this work, coaches can accelerate vertical development by helping leaders become more aware – of themselves, of others, or of the system they exist in.
Coaching for Agility and Capacity in a Family Enterprise
A day in the life of a family enterprise leader might easily include having a meeting with their 18-year-old niece to coach them about not coming across as entitled during their internship, to a review of this year’s strategic plan, to receiving feedback from the board on their leadership.
A coach can help those in positions of leadership slow down and step back to see the patterns that we default to when problem-solving – a transformative process.
Leaders need to be agile enough to step back, see how they show up (self-awareness), what the other person cares about (empathy), factor those into an accurate understanding of the issue (framing), and work to (help them, their team, their family, or their organization) create value from change, which is what innovation is.
Leaders have greater demands on them than ever before, especially those that lead the family enterprise. Vertical leadership development offers a proven road map for developing capacity relative to emotions, thinking and relationships as well as agility.
This all starts with greater awareness. After all, you can’t work on something until you are aware of it. That awareness translates to a greater level of choice. Patterns are no longer unconscious habits, but one of many gears to choose from to be more effective.
Greg McCann has been coaching for over 20 years within his roles as the (founder and) director of Stetson University’s Family Enterprise Center, director of its executive MBA, as a consultant and coach in his firm, McCann & Associates (see www.greg-mccann.com). He has had several coaches throughout his career.