I have concluded that even the best, most driven individuals & teams need a validated second opinion from time to time. Having access to 10,000+ corporates & scale-ups within Epicenter across four cities helps me make this conclusion. Let me explain more in this post.

Key takeaways from this post:

  1. How to know you need new external perspectives?
  2. How to qualify the help you need?
  3. How to get the right type of help to give you breakthrough results?

Patterns to look out for to know if you need new perspectives:

  1. You are stuck: Certain projects, plans, or structures can make us feel stuck. If you are trying to find a new market or scale innovations within a complex corporate structure, this is not uncommon at all
  2. You see the destination, but lost in the way: You know the vision, the great goal, but you feel lost along the way. You are reading all the maps you can get your hands on, speaking with anyone who can help, but you are unable to find clarity.
  3. You relish the challenge but secretly wish this would go away: Most of us agree that tough situations are a great way to pick up new skills and experience. Very rare are challenges so daunting that one feels entirely out of hope for a sustained period, primarily when you reflect with the cushion of time and experience.

Common patterns rooted in psychology:

  1. You are a good problem solver for others: Most of us are generally better at finding solutions for others. Since emotions or lack of perspectives blind us, we fail to see the forest for the trees.
  2. Avoid Embarrassment: Almost all of us feel it would suck to do something that costs a lot of time, money, and embarrassment for us as individuals or as teams.

So, in short, things could get tough, and you are up for solving it, but you don’t want to embarrass yourself. You would like to find new perspectives, challenge your thinking, and make sure you improve the probability of your success.

Ten examples of such challenges:

Validate / Invalidate:

  1. Do we have the right strategy?
  2. Are our objectives & key results clear? Does the team get it fully?
  3. Are we executing on the right set of activities to build value now?
  4. How can we work at a higher speed to validate x?

Decisions:

  1. Are we making the right choice by taking decision x?
  2. Should we take external funding or not?
  3. How do I get my stakeholders/board to support us on these choices?

Feeling Stuck or lost:

  1. We are not able to find our market for our product. What are we missing?
  2. We are not able to grow our revenues fast enough. I need help to fix this.
  3. We are not able to get our organization to execute on the strategy. What am I not seeing?

Consultants or Agencies can help but don’t solve it:

  1. Reports & Analysis have a role to play but don’t help in most of these challenges.
  2. Agencies get into execution too fast, which can lead to the wrong items being executed.
  3. You do not retain the knowledge in-house with external solutions or control, especially in corporate contexts.
  4. It can cost an arm & a leg to do this right.
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Enter Coaching:

Enlisting a coach is a much more accepted form of help in the United States than in Europe.

Why do only athletes and have mentally sick have coaches? We find that weird.

Funnily most successful people have either a qualified sparring partner or a coaching structure around them. Most don’t know about them.

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Don’t believe me? Ask Eric Schmidt, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Marissa Mayer, Elon Musk. Or just read this book by Eric Schmidt.

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Having a neutral support vehicle behind you or your teams can be highly valuable.

While the culture from the United States through startup programs, accelerators have brought the coaching culture, but they have forgotten the principles that make for a good coach.

Coaching today is riddled with experts and mentors that are trying to preach. Many coaches do not take enough time to give teams breakthroughs through an elegant combination of show, nudge, and inspire.

But why do I need a coach when I can ask my friend?

Maybe. But just asking a friend who you know might give you views you want to hear or perhaps even an honest 2nd opinion. However, if you wish to gain new perspectives, you want to go deeper with a structured approach:

  1. Do they take the time to understand your situation? Does the person or group you are asking for help understand your situation enough to find patterns with you?
  2. Do they ask you the right questions? The combination of why, who, what, when, where & how can go a long way if you keep repeating them.
  3. Do they challenge you to get outside your box? Feedback can sting, but if you do not feel challenged, I would argue you are not getting new perspectives.
  4. Do they help you get breakthroughs yourself with the right combination of “show & nudge”? The best help, in my view, makes you smarter by either helping you find the “breakthrough” yourself through 1–3 above or give you pointers for you to discover this yourself.
  5. Are they for real, or are they preaching from a book? Have they done things you respect, or did they invent a title & read a book recently? Many that say they are business coaches, unfortunately, fall in the latter category.

So what are you looking for in this support structure?

  1. Neutral perspective: They are unbiased, not tainted by their investments or a board seat
  2. No one size fits all: The structure & time spent is customized to your challenges and is not a standardized course. As much as courses can help, you want the support you get to fit your needs.
  3. Giving clarity in almost every interaction: You should get microdoses of clarity in every interaction. Good coaches help you see things you don’t. They help you discover the path ahead through a beautiful combination of their expertise & aggressive listening.
  4. Aggressive listening: They listen to you carefully, aggressively without preaching all the time. With the right toolkits to help you cut through complexity and find insights during and after such sessions.
  5. Finally, chemistry: If you are going to work with someone a couple of hours a week, you better have chemistry and enjoy it.

These are the reasons we added coaching sprints to our service portfolio in our ecosystem:

6–12-week sprints with scale-up founders (min. 500K€ in turn over, a growth rate of 30% YoY for 2 years) or innovation/business development teams within enterprises. We try to balance listening, showing, nudging, and inspiring. With Epicenter, we bring in peer to peer learning & sharing, which, in our opinion, can be an excellent source of energy for problem-solving.

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Examples of such sprints can be generic such as setting the right scaling strategy or aligning objectives & key results within teams, issues. They can also be challenge-based such as finding new distribution channels to scale or running pilots within corporates.

We believe 6–12 weeks is a reasonable time to combine problem-solving with testing the building blocks to see if the approach can generate clarity and precise business results. Most of our clients after this time frame fly alone with us as light sparring partners on demand. We also see that running 2–3 sprints per year increases the cadence of execution, teamwork, and general problem-solving skills in the team, helping you retain all that knowledge in house.

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Our approach to help teams find clarity & speed up execution.

A perfect solution if you ask us, of course, we are slightly biased.

We run coaching sprints for scale-up entrepreneurs and corporate innovation teams and business development units. Book a free 30-minute call or come to our free events to explore if this could help you get to your goals faster.