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The Advisor As Coach

Learn the basics to coaching employees and some compelling reasons to view yourself as more than just an employer. By Dick Zalack

By Dick Zalack

As your business grows, you need to expand your role as leader, and reduce or give up your roles as manager and producer. If you want your business to grow and stay successful, you have to become a coach to your employees.

Regardless of what you decide to do, you become a full-time coach as soon as you hire your first employee.

Traditionally, small-business owners have a difficult time training their staff properly because they don’t usually have the financial resources to send them to programs or develop an in-house training system. The answer is for the owners to become trainers, coaches or mentors and drive their philosophies—how they do things, and illuminate their principles—why they do those things.

Regardless of what you decide to do, you become a full-time coach as soon as you hire your first employee. You might as well become a good one.

Three steps to coaching
There are three steps involved in coaching:

  1. Become crystal clear about your philosophy and principles. This takes introspection and lots of writing and rewriting to synthesize them into as few words as possible. If you can’t reduce your philosophy to words, there is no way you can teach them.

  2. Determine the results you expect from your business and from every activity within the business. If you don’t know what success is, how will your employees know if they are being successful? If your employees don’t have your philosophy as a guideline, they will provide their own.

  3. Just do it. Become the coach. Start the process. Schedule formal coaching and evaluation sessions, which you and your employees need to write into your calendars as legitimate appointments during the business day. The time you spend on these activities is time that you are investing in your business.

Steps to success
Whether in business or sports, you must follow these steps to become a successful coach:

  1. Clearly communicate the result you desire. If your employees don’t know what you expect, they can’t possibly achieve it.

  2. Have your employees communicate the desired results to you. Feeding this information back to you is an indication that they understand it, and the process of conveying it to you reinforces it in their minds.

  3. Have them perform. You can only read about how to swim for so long; then you have to jump in the pool. Push them in.

  4. Evaluate their results. See where they are and where they’re going. And whether the results are positive or negative, make sure you allow them to create the next action steps—with your immediate guidance.

In your coaching, remember that employees are by nature risk averse. You will have to encourage them to continue on the right path and have them identify the wrong ones. To become truly empowered, employees have to create their own ways of doing things, which follow your philosophy and principles. If you only tell them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, you will create nothing more than robots that you will have to constantly control.

And that’s not the way to grow a business.

Based in Cleveland, Dick Zalack is president and founder of Focus Four, which helps entrepreneurs develop personal strategic plans, and ResultsPlus, which helps small-business owners develop systems to train and motivate their staff. Contact him at 330-225-0707 or at or


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