What Kind Of Coach Do You Want?

My colleagues and I are asked all the time for recommendations for coaches, mostly for the founders and CEOs we work with, but often for others on the senior team. I am a huge fan of coaches. I think they can be game changing for leaders and their teams.

I always ask a bunch of questions to find out what kind of coach someone wants before making suggestions.

A key question is whether you want answers or questions from your coach.

My partner Andy wrote a bit about this, in a very different context, the other day.

I’ve spent a large portion of my career investing in early-stage companies. Part of that job is to advise and counsel, to assist a company in reaching its potential. I try to ask for feedback on how I am doing in that job. A constant thing I hear is to provide more direct answers to problems posed to me. Typically, I am told, I answer their questions with further questions.  

Yet, I think it’s important to tolerate ambiguity. Maybe there isn’t a direct answer. Maybe I don’t know the answer. Maybe I want to assist others in coming up with their own answers.

I have to confess that I am more of a “why don’t you try this?” sort of advisor.

Andy is more of a “why do you want to do that?” sort of advisor.

Both can be very valuable but it really depends on what you want/need in an advisor. Getting answers when you want questions can be frustrating. Getting questions when you want answers can be equally frustrating.

So think about what it is you want from a coach before going out and finding one. Getting the fit right is important.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    The thing that frustrates me the most working with early stage companies CEOs is when they think that their situation is unique and they ignore previous startup experiences or practices, and they want to reinvent the wheel, leaving themselves open to blind spots.I try to bring analogies to them as a way to open up their mind to think differently. So, my type of questioning is more along – “this reminds me of this situation, and these were the learnings,- see if it applies to you.”You can lead a Founder to water, but you can’t make them drink.

    1. awaldstein

      Of course but honestly if we can’t communicate the value of a different point of view, it is our failure as well as theirs in my opinion.I am a huge proponent of Beginners Mind btw as a tool to both enter a new situation with an open mind AND finding a way to tie the strings between experience and a different future.http://arnoldwaldstein.com/…I’ve come to realize long ago that ‘Been there done that’ is really bullshit and a non starter as a communications strategy.I honestly do believe that each generation does indeed invent it anew and they are inviting us in to guide them not tell them how it is from how it was.Relevance and respect are the most interesting dynamics of working in my opinion. If I can’t communicate to them, I simply fail at my job and it is partly my doing.

      1. Adam Sher

        …inviting us in to guide them Yes. But is it inventing anew or just a different take? For example, I saw a team pitch Angel Shave Club on Shark Tank last night. The pitch was a copy + paste of Dollar Shave Club + pink. Based on the TV presentation of the business, the owners did not understand the history of the market – so invent it anew they did.They would have benefited from a mentor who could gently tell them they didn’t invent sex and steer them towards creating a product that took and modified what was successful with Dollar Shave Club and applied it in a new niche/vertical.

        1. JLM

          .Catchy line, “… didn’t invent sex … “JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Adam Sher

            I swear I’ve heard you use it. Someone, somewhere said, “Your generation didn’t invent sex.” I think about that line whenever I hear how busy someone is with work or how they can’t do anything because they have kids.

          2. JLM

            .” … or business.”JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. awaldstein

          We don’t know each other but no one i’m certain would call me gentle.I make a commitment to listen and listen hard, and expect it in return.But–my job is not to give my opinion but as a communications strategist and writer, my job is to create a form for it to be heard.What you say doesn’t mean shit, what is heard is what matters.I read ideas and pitches often. When I think they could be different, I rewrite them and say, think about this differently.They invariably do.

          1. Adam Sher

            You effectively communicate a non-gentle writing style. what is heard is what matters yupFrom your initial comment… If I can’t communicate to the, I simply fail at my job and it is partly my doing. You have a style, and a subset of people seeking advice will jive with it. You already know that. I am sure that you are astute at identify potential clients who will be receptive to your delivery method.I’ll steal a phrase from Fiddler on the Roof: with the way he talks and the way she listens, they’re a prefect match.

          2. awaldstein


        3. LE

          Hah the other side of this is that they got on Shark Tank perhaps because the producers knew the idea wasn’t unique (this is TV you see).Also part of reality tv (I have studied it some of it is an art to me production wise) is putting things up that you know the audience will find fault in and can relate to in some odd way. For example easy questions on a quiz show (not something I watch but know of casually) you can see obvious patterns of easy questions that anyone can answer. Especially good is when some smart person misses an easy question.Likewise on Shark Tank, ‘The Profit’ and so on you want some businesses that look like total losers. That way the audience has hope. They think ‘wow I can do that’. Ditto for bachelor and bachelorette shows (ABC). You want contestants that someone watching can think ‘wow I am better than that’. Other lure of these shows (Shark Tank; The Profit) investments that are so small for such large amounts of ownership that many people think ‘wow I could give them that money!’.Shark Tank et all would be an entirely different show if it was completely filled with super high capacity ‘never make a mistake’ types. And all super large investments that are sure bets.One of the reasons reality tv works is because of the faults. (As the saying goes it’s a feature not a bug).My point is with a mentor they may have had a better business but they would not have gotten on Shark Tank. (And an appearance on Shark Tank is worth it’s weight in gold and publicity). [1][1] I helped someone who made it on Shark Tank two times and got funded 1 time with 1 offer they turned down (which I thought they were wrong for doing).

      2. LE

        if we can’t communicate the value of a different point of view, it is our failure as well as theirs in my opinion.Agree. As I have said the first step in selling is getting someone to listen to what you have to say. [1] The 2nd step is ‘communicating the value’ of what you are selling.In the case of someone doing coaching ‘getting someone to listen’ is pretty much a given (I would guess). Hence the failure is in communicating mostly unless the person who is being advised is off the charts in some way that makes them not likely to listen to anything.[1] This is one of the only advantages of having some connection that gets you in the door. However it doesn’t help with the 2nd part ‘communicating the advantage of buying what you are selling’.

    2. JLM

      .”When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”One thing advisers always have to remember is that while you may have done this hundreds of times (said the guy with 33 years of CEO experience of both public and private companies) for the new CEO, it is his FIRST time.There is no “open up their mind to think differently” at work here. They have never done it before. Huge difference.CEOs must independently discover what others may already know. In that process of discovery, they also find their own genuine leadership voice, authority, and style.Nothing at all wrong with sharing learnings, but the key thing is to be asked first.Whenever I deal with a CEO, I always ask, “Would you like some advice?”That simple point of inflection seems to set the tone for the discussion and is an admission by the CEO that they want help.You cannot help somebody who does not want help or is not ready to be helped.I cannot tell you how many calls I have taken from people that start out with — “OK, my way didn’t work. Would you give me some advice?”Don’t MAKE anybody drink. Let them dip their own water when they are thirsty enough.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. William Mougayar


      2. Vasudev Ram

        >”When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”Beat me to it. I was going to say exactly that (it’s an old Indian saying related to spiritual seekers for enlightenment), and was going to customize it to modern times and the topic of this post, but I think your way of putting it – the original – is better.https://www.google.co.in/se

        1. JLM

          .I have hacked your mind and been reading it, lately. Sorry.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Vasudev Ram

            Welcome. I’ve learned a lot from you myself.

    3. Joe Marchese

      “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas Adams

      1. William Mougayar

        Great quote. If Bill Gates has acknowledged learning from Warren Buffet, then anyone should be open to it.

        1. LE

          I think that is actually something I learned in college which I will call “A Dr. Shils’. Dr. Shills was the head of the Wharton Entrepreneurial Center. He started it. Back when I was there nobody knew what that word was. Anyway there was a picture of Dr. Shills and Dr. Zucker. Zucker was the head of the Real Estate center. A big deal but Shils was the bigger deal. Anyway in this picture Dr. Shils was positioned in a way and putting his hands on Dr. Zucker and a Phd instructor said to me ‘that is a subtle put down and shows who has the real power’. To this day I use the expression ‘A Dr. Shils’. The implication is that it’s done for a reason that is not entirely obvious. Dr. Klemm was the Phd. Don’t ask me what I ate a week ago but I do remember this event fully. You know when you are ‘newly hatched’ things just enter your brain and take on significance well beyond what they are.In a way I see Gates talking about Buffet as a bit of both ‘I am humble hey I don’t know it all’ but also ‘I am superior’. Can’t say why but that is what comes to mind. Superior because he is latching onto someone who is thought to be big himself. Really big and really admired. And not because he rode a wave or did the things that Gates did. Very subtle to me.Now if Gates had told a story about what he learned from the trash guy that would be 100% ‘I am humble’. People often do that. They say things like ‘wow the trash guy he is so smart he puts the extra liners in the bottom of the can right when he changes the trash so he doesn’t have to get them from the supply cabinet that is so smart!’.

    4. TeddyBeingTeddy

      The difference between “good” and “great” leaders (and umpires) is decisiveness. Given an answer. Make a call. Have a recommendation.It’s easy to answer questions with questions. Look all the best leaders, umpires, athletes and parents. Be decisive, make a recommendation, or get out of the way.,

      1. TeddyBeingTeddy

        *give (not given)

  2. Niko

    The best coaches master both:Asking the right questions to foster “self discovered logic” (=most powerful) and providing answers, where insight + behavioural change from coaching through questions do not seem attainable.Of course, the “questions vs. answers” decision is highly dependable upon context as well as coachee personality. Nevertheless, as self-discovered logic from questions typically leads to more profound / sticky behavioural change, it seems always preferable to me whenever usable.Some intermediate form between questions and answers is telling the story of a similar company / situation or using an analogy from a similar context. Here, it is easier for the coachee to come up with own conclusions vs. open questions, but still more impactful vs. just providing the answer straight away.BTW: At least for me, in a typical everyday situation it is always tempting to jump straight into answering mode (Kahneman would say, I use “system 1”), where taking a step back and deliberately look for the right question to ask would be better for the person asking for advice.It is about building the right habits…

    1. David A. Frankel

      I would agree that as an effective coach you should be able to provide both and modify your approach with each person you are coaching and each situation. By nature, I am a “here’s what you should do” type of coach and mentor, but I have learned that helping the other person see the picture themselves often leads to the better result for them. Also, there are perfectly smart, accomplished people that tend to do the opposite of the “here’s what you should do” advice they get.The reality is, unless there is an absolute right or wrong approach in a certain situation, my answer is probably no better than the one you will arrive at yourself. So I can share my thoughts and experiences as a coach/mentor/advisor, but I also make sure I equip the person I am coaching with enough food for thought to ask more questions of themselves to find the optimal path for them in a given situation. That seems to work best.

  3. iggyfanlo

    Both feel like viable paths, but they seem correlated to previous industry paths. So, if this is well trodden ground, with many reasonably close real-world examples, then answering with examples and a directly advised path seems best. If this is new virgin territory, where the entire team (Board included) is learning, then I would think framing the right questions is the best path.But I would also say that more impatient and aggressive founders want answers and may need the opposite (questions) and the more deliberate and calculating founders many need a push to the best answer

  4. Jeffrey Warshauer

    As one constantly seeking advice and learning, I ask a lot of questions. My favorite thing to hear is, “That’s a good question” because if you get this response you know you’re on the right path. You have independently identified issues to which more knowledgeable people have given some serious thought. If they add “I don’t know” (sometimes) that’s even better. Not only are you on the right path but you’ve identified an important area where you may find the opportunity to provide value.

  5. Jeremy Robinson

    Agreed- most of this is about who is the coaching Client. What does she prefer in her coach? Does she want someone who uses thoughtful questioning to help her find her own solutions? Does she prefer someone who is more like a consultant who gives information, dialogue, advice? Time an important context. When the ship is taking on water, there’s not enough time to ask the big questions. Ultimately, the best coaches are able to pivot and do both, responding in the moment to each Client’s needs. This requires both high empathy/humility in the coach as well as confidence. Same traits we look for in leaders- even though coaches are absolutely not leaders.

  6. Kirsten Lambertsen

    My acting teacher used to take us through a series of “why” questions, but first he’d set it up and let us know that’s what he was going to do. You’d finally get to an answer that couldn’t be asked “why.” By the time you got there, things had become crystal clear… and there’d often been an epiphany.The thing that’s cool about answering a question with a question is that it can elicit answers that come from core values.Your own answers that you come to by asking “why” tend to make for a better compass. So if you hit some potholes along the way after that, you’re more likely to have an inner sense of what to do about it.Of course, that works best for “what should I do?” questions. If someone asks, “What’s your experience with X?” they probably don’t want a “why?” in return 🙂

    1. Adam Sher

      That sounds like a close cousin to the Five Why’s Eric Reiss wrote about in The Lean Startup. Bruises a lot of egos.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Yeah, it does!

      2. Vasudev Ram

        Yes, it does. I haven’t read Eric Ries’s book, although I’ve heard about it. I think the Five Why’s may come from the Japanese Lean Production movement. I may have read about it in the book The Toyota Way.An example: Why was there was damage to the factory floor from a liquid chemical?Because there was a leak in the pipe carrying the liquid.Why was there a leak in the pipe?Because it had not been inspected recently.Why had it not been inspected?Because inspection of it was not in the factory’s regular maintenance schedule.Why was it not in the schedule?[ And here we may have the root of the problem, whether we reached 5 whys, more, or less (5 is just a number, not a strict limit). Putting the inspection of that pipe in the regular maintenance schedule will solve the problem not only for the next time, but for every time. And an even more proactive approach would be to check for other areas that need regular maintenance but are not getting it as of now, and add them too. ]IOW, root cause analysis, and acting on it, not just the band-aid kind of action. which is so common – “fire-fighting” endless times for the same issues. I actually worked much earlier in a (hardware) company where that was a common phrase used by the support engineers – “there’s a fire” (at so-and-so customer) – for usually the same preventable reasons as a zillion times before. Yawn.

        1. Adam Sher

          I believe Reis quoted that very example in his book.

        2. PhilipSugar

          Navy Seals have a saying slow is smooth, smooth is fast.What I have seen over and over is there are two types of people in technology.Those that run around with their head cut off setting up deadlines with no plans. They never make the deadline, and when things go wrong the blame game starts flailingAnd those that plan and then make the deadline. When things go wrong no blame, but determining why it went wrong.As you say it doesn’t have to be five why’s, but it has to be why did this go wrong and what can we fix.

        3. Lawrence Brass

          The last paragraph hurts, really hurts.*wiping forehead with back of the hand*

    2. JLM

      .I think acting lessons are the best preparation for leadership that is not actual leadership imaginable.It takes a long time to become a real leader. In the interim, we are all actors.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. SFG

        Yes, yes, yes!

  7. PhilipSugar

    Here is what I think the key is. Just like history business rhymes. Now note that does not mean it repeats itself.I’ll give an example.Software has radically changed since I started. We started off with client server software and a licensing model, and now we are at SaaS and a MRR model.Ok, totally different right? Nothing to transfer from one to the other? Wrong.So many of the issues are the same. How do you balance that one big customer, how do you find lighthouse accounts, how do you have the discipline to not whipsaw your developers, how do you orchestrate between departments.Mark Twain said it best. I have good judgement because of experience, I have experience as the result of bad judgement.Norman Cohn once told me: Once blessed are those that learn from their mistakes, thrice blessed are those that learn from others.That in my mind is a good coach, not to give answers or ask questions, but to discuss history and patterns and figure out what matches and what doesn’t.Edit: I shouldn’t say not. I should say the goal of the questions and answers are to get to patterns.

    1. falicon

      The truth is a great advisor/coach asks questions when they are needed AND provides suggestions when they are needed AND discusses history and patterns helping to figure out what matches and what doesn’t when it’s appropriate.Because coaching is all about putting the “athlete” in the best possible position to win.An ideal coach understands the “game”, can see the angles (usually through hard-earned experience), and knows enough about the strength, weaknesses, experience, and mindset of the “athlete” to nudge them in a winning direction given the situation.(and continues to study the “game” and evolve along with it)

      1. Adam Sher

        Most coaches don’t come close to providing these benefits and some provide negative value. That’s why NBA and NFL championships are won by teams that are coached by a handful of coaches.

        1. falicon

          I believe coaching is harder than playing in a lot of ways…def. takes a special kind of mindset/person to be any good at it.

          1. Adam Sher

            Absolutely. You are simultaneously in charge of the team’s success but not in charge of anything (there are President’s and GMs). Many of those coaches, Steve Kerr, Phil Jackson, were also players. You’re managing your own ego, your players, who are at their apex of wealth, fame, and sexual drive, and the unknowns. It’s a minor miracle a team even happens.

          2. LE

            The fact that coaching is an art and not perfect in any way is what makes sports interesting, right? Not just the winning and losing but the mistakes that people make.I think this is in ways similar to my idea of planned defects [1] in reality tv (of course in sports it is not planned but same attraction). That is one of the attractions of sports. When some slob in a bar can sit back and talk about he would have done differently if he was the coach or the player and the stupid mistakes that either made that led to losing.Do I have that right?[1] In my other comment about content that on purpose makes the viewer feel superior in some way.

          3. falicon

            I think it depends a lot on the sport – sometimes the “in-game” strategy, and by extension, the “in-game” coaching plays a critical role…and sometimes, the coaching is all about preparation (so mostly invisible to the spectator).Critical in both cases, but not always obvious to the spectator.Think American football vs. olympic swimming as just one example….in this way, entrepreneurship (and it’s related coaching) is more like olympic swimming than American football…

          4. LE

            For one thing in football vs. swimming … well in swimming … you have to worry about only say two things primarily:a) Yourself and how fast you can swimb) That nobody else is better prepared or coached better than you are.In other parts of life (entrepreneurship or traditional business) you have to worry about [1]:a) How fast you swimb) That nobody else is better prepared or coached better.c) The rest of the team. <—- Can be + or can be -The only good thing about ‘c’ is that it allows people to ‘win’ and get glory (the superbowl ring) who would never be able to do so on their own.This ‘c’ also plays out in entrepreneurship and companies (and for that matter rock bands). You have people who are where they are as a result of the efforts of either others or the fact they are on a team.Funny thing is they probably think they are great and that is why. Not that they aren’t great but in no way as great as they actually are.[1] Also with both health and all that jazz, family and so on. Spouse whining you shouldn’t be working or practicing as much.

          5. PhilipSugar

            Don’t know. I would say that in entrepreneurship you always have several critical moments.

          6. falicon

            I only meant the association as an illustration of where/how a coach’s effort can be seen from the outside or be ‘realized’ or ‘appreciated’ by the average spectator…

      2. PhilipSugar

        Yes you are right. I should say you get to the patterns by through questions and answers.

    2. LE

      I have this loose theory on parenting. Given all else equal it’s better to have either complete loser parents that you never listen to or complete winner parents that you feel are always right (and you listen to and benefit from).Reason is parents who are ‘just good enough to listen to’ you end up following their advice but will never achieve greatness. Parents who are total losers (or close to it that’s an exaggeration obviously) you don’t listen to at all and you open up your world to other things that are going on. Parents who are big winners (and you listen to) you at least get pointed in a solid direction with advice.Next up: Con men statistically would have simplistic naive parents who they were able to dupe as a child hence they had seat of the pants feeling for taking advantage of the general population. Someone with parents who held their feet to the flame are less likely to feel they can pull that off it’s baked into them that people will not believe everything they are saying.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        I suspect that no one has done any scientific testing of your theories. That is, work up some measures, collect a lot of data, and see if the relationships hold. You will want science, that is, a theory and measures with clear and solid, well tested, predictive value.Such a study would be part of the efforts at making sociology scientific. My late wife got her Ph.D. in that, and I learned a little about her field from her. In particular, in sociology, solid science, with significant predictive value, is less common than hen’s teeth. Part of the reason is that the sociology researchers are not very good at formulating theories, designing measures (with reliability and validity), data gathering and processing, and the associated math and statistics.IMHO there are opportunities where the main, core math is just cross tabulation and the main source of good testing is just some relatively simple statistical hypothesis tests.

  8. JamesHRH

    It’s all personality driven,Most people are who they are and don’t manage their bahvoour.

  9. Jeff Janer

    In addition to or instead of an individual coach – there are also CEO and Key Executive peer groups (e.g. Vistage, YPO, etc.) consisting of non-competitive company CEOs from various stages and industries that can prove useful for both questions and answers. The diversity of experience and thought can be super helpful, especially when offered in the context of having no agenda other than helping the individual.

    1. JLM

      .I was a member of YPO at a fairly young age, but with a large company I had founded. In my chapter were Michael Dell, and two other billionaires (Pace Picante and Harte Graphics).What you are describing is what is called “Forum” which is an ultra secret group of 8-10 CEOs of similar sized companies and with similar levels of experience.I have been coaching CEOs (having been a CEO for 33 years) for the last 7 years (can’t believe it’s been that long).The big difference is the peer-to-peer approach v the mentor approach. Both are valid and both are useful, but they are not the same thing.A peer will stay up late with you and listen to you cry in your beer. He will be sympathetic.A good CEO coach will allow you to whine for ten minutes, and, then, get down to brass tacks.Not all CEO coaches are good. You have to find people who have actually been CEOs — the secret sauce of YPO also.There is no shortage of bad advice from people who have never been a CEO.When I graduated from YPO — turned 50 — I worked with Vistage and TAB (The Alternative Board) and came away with the notion that groups are fine for peer-to-peer contact, but that is not the same as coaching.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Girish Mehta

        50 is too young to graduate from being young.

        1. JLM

          .When you are 50, you go from Young Presidents Organization to World Presidents Organization — they are never going to stop those dues.YPO-WPO is the best network for business I have ever encountered.At 50, one is still a novitiate.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. LE

        How much listening does it take to get to the bottom of a problem do you find? I generally find that it takes more than 10 minutes of whining (and I am assuming that is not maybe what you mean).Just personally I find the more nuance and details actually matter in terms of coming up with a solution.I don’t do coaching of course but gratis I help various people with different issues (let’s say). I find the more they say the better. Even if they repeat themselves. To me everything matters in terms of coming up with a solution to a problem business or otherwise.Look at in terms of even accounting advice. You ask a question w/o detail you get the standard answer. Something like ‘sure you want to lease that car that is what you do’. Or ‘sure you want to be an LLC to protect yourself’. You don’t need an advisor to give you the stock answers. You need someone who is going to tailor information to your exact situation specifically. And that can only be done after a great deal of info is passed.That said if ‘brass tacks’ means ‘now let me ask some questions’ then I should have started out my rant with this sentence (and not ended with it).

        1. JLM

          .When you are listening to a problem you are doing two things — letting the CEO vent/explain and also gathering info.The best thing is to let the CEO run free, purge the poison, and when finished say, “This is what I heard you say. Is that correct?”Never start solving anything until you know what you’re solving.Most of the folks I am talking to are doing 1-2 hour Skypes twice a month, so there is plenty of time to get into the weeds.When somebody calls me with their hair on fire, I am more conscious of trying to understand the facts because I may not understand the person as well as a regular.Before every call, I ask the CEO to whip up an agenda — the stuff he/she wants to talk about and then I ask them, “What’s keeping you up at night these days?”When you work with somebody for a year or more, you develop a huge appreciation as to how they see the world and what level of detail they go into.A lot of CEOs need someone who is not going to be critical to just talk to them to ensure they are not the first person on the planet who has felt like this or experienced this particular problem.Being a CEO is a tough job and sometimes you just can’t win. All of the alternatives suck. That comes with the territory.I do know from experience what is fair, normal, appropriate — particularly in dealing with boards and funders. I keep a mountain of exemplars and copies of docs that work.There is no substitute for having been a CEO, not always because you can show them a shortcut, but because sometimes you just tell them — sorry, that’s normal. Not good, but normal.There is a huge amount of linkage created from having run private and public companies. All the public company mojo is really easy, but only because I did it for so long.In the land of the blind, the one eyed Jack reigns supreme.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. jim mchugh

      I co-own and co-facilitate 2 independent CEO Peer Groups. One meets in Portland, Maine, the other in Hanover NH. Combined there are 15 manufacturing CEOs. My partner and I have different coaching styles, but we are both fully engaged in the group meetings. While there is some ‘crying in the beer’, the members are there to get input, ideas and be challenged. I tend to let the line out a bit, ask a lot of questions. One of the CEOs calls me Columbo (if you are too young for Columbo, google him…). However, I usually can only take the back and forth so long and get to where Fred says: “why don’t you try this?” At a recent meeting, one of our long time members was noticeably quiet, very introspective. Unusual to the point of us asking him what was bothering him. Finally he unloaded with a gnarly issue. As Jeff said, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.

  10. Adam Sher

    Do any of you find value in personality / management style tests as part of coaching (e.g. Teamability)?

    1. JLM

      .Meyers-Briggs is a useful tool to build teams so you don’t end up with everybody having a field marshal’s baton in their knapsack.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  11. Mike Krupit

    There is one kind of coach, the one with the questions and who will make observations or share reflections. Yes, perhaps varying styles of doing so, but not relying on being prescriptive. That person with the answers is an advisor, not a coach.

  12. Vasudev Ram

    >Both can be very valuable but it really depends on what you want/need in an advisor. Getting answers when you want questions can be frustrating. Getting questions when you want answers can be equally frustrating.>So think about what it is you want from a coach before going out and finding one. Getting the fit right is important.I have a question about your question (“What Kind Of Coach Do You Want?”) before I can answer your question. How can I answer your question when I don’t know if I want answers instead of questions or questions instead of answers???/cc @JimHirshfield

  13. Tom Labus

    The coaches I want to see are at first base and third base at Yankee Stadium. A nice 70 degree sunny day/

  14. JLM

    .I got into CEO coaching because of an entreaty from a reader of AVC.com, so I blame Freddie Wilson for it. Today, I have been doing it for 7 years which seems incredible.Having been a CEO for 33 years, it was an easy transition. I closed my eyes and remembered when I was at the comparative level of experience as my clients.I stood on a lot of lonely, cold, scary ledges in my day, so it’s not hard work to talk a CEO off one. But I did make it to the paywindow a few times.My operation is called The Wisdom of the Campfire and is based on an experience of sitting at a campfire in Grafenwohr Germany in the mid-1970s when I was a young combat engineer officer.We were doing explosives training which is always a lot of fun — blowing up bridges we built, blowing abatis (downing trees across a road from both directions to forestall or slow down the passage of armor).Graf was a big training ground in West Germany, NE of Nuremberg and due west of Czecho. We were training with a German armored unit led by a Colonel who had fought in WWII in Berlin as a member of the Hitler Youth.We got to talking about the difference between combat soldiering and peacetime soldiering and the power of being on the “right” team. We talked for about three hours, toasting our feet at the edge of the fire, and drinking schnapps. [His English was good; my German was weak. His schnapps was excellent.]When I returned to my sleeping bag (sleeping in the open on a rubber ground sheet in an arctic sleeping bag), I was already a better leader. I stole that Kraut’s wisdom and his schnapps.CEO coaching is a lot of fun. Here’s a good, real world voice on CEO coaching:https://www.anthonybucci.co…The author (regular AVC.com reader) was a client of mine — one of the best, who got his company to the pay window. He tells a good story, but there is one small inaccuracy.I won’t tell you the inaccuracy, but if you guess it, I will PayPal you $50. See if you can figure out which of his three coaches I was?If you want to be the best CEO you can be, then you will — at some time — have a CEO coach. A good CEO coach doesn’t give you the answers; he helps you find them within yourself. It helps immensely if they have been a CEO coach themselves and can tell you that fire in your gut, those voices in your head? Normal. Sorry, normal.There is a lot of competition out there at the CEO level. I get a couple of calls a week and do absolutely no advertising. Not even a The Wisdom of the Campfire website.Every CEO and every company is unique. A good CEO coach recognizes and respects that. No one size fits all.What is the same are the principles of business, markets, and the economy, the ability to draw the story from somebody who isn’t quite sure they have it right yet.Amongst the readers of AVC.com, I suspect I have worked with more than 50 persons. Some for a long time. Some for a short time. I like to think I left them all better for the experience.I have worked with C suite occupants of some of Freddie’s companies, but like everything I do, it is confidential.Why work with a CEO coach rather than unburdening yourself to a board?Because a CEO coach cannot fire you. Never, ever confide your fears to somebody who can fire you.When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Vasudev Ram

      > if you guess it, I will PayPal you $50. See if you can figure out which of his three coaches I was?You were his first coach. Gimme!

      1. JLM

        .Yes. What was the inaccuracy? You get paid for the inaccuracy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Vasudev Ram

          As you probably guessed, it was a (lame) joke, putting your words in a different context via selective quoting. I didn’t think you would fall for it 🙂

  15. brentjanderson

    A coachee also needs the meekness to receive questions when they want answers. Frequently we want to be told what to do, however when we take the questions instead of the answers, the coach is giving a tremendous gift: ownership. The recipient of the questioning, as they follow good questions from a seasoned coach, is more likely to own the choices that they make and find the outcome they actually want in the end.

  16. Douglas Craver

    I’ve been coaching founders for 10+ years. The thing that drives me crazy is when some funders, in the unsophisticated midwest, and their advisers tell the founder what they already know. I then give the founder permission to not listen if that is what they want since it only frustrates them. Having been a founder and partner myself I know that whether a founder wants answers or questions, they should be ones they are not already thinking about if valued is to be added.

    1. JLM

      .One of the best things I do with my coaching clients is to shut my notebook and ask, “What is keeping you up at night?”Invariably, they tell me something they should have already told me.I learned that in the Army when a salty battalion commander asked me — a combat engineer company commander getting ready to build a floating bridge across the Rhine River to cross three armored divisions already on their way to the bridge site at full speed — “What can go wrong here?”We worked through every single thing. There were a bunch of them. I felt better. He felt better. None of it happened. We set the Army record for the fastest crossing of the Rhine since WWII.I took every single one of those potential problems and wrote them down, ordered a lieutenant or a senior sergeant to figure out our contingency plan (some of those sergeants had bridged the Rhine a hundred times while I was losing my cherry that day).Senior combat engineer sergeants like to say stuff like, “Sir, I’ve spent more time pissing into the Rhine off floating bridges than you’ve spent in the God damn Army.”Shit we worry about has a price. It kills initiative and when we face it, it often turns out to be nothing.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. sigmaalgebra

        (1) I’m surprised that anyone, say, Joe, with any authority or responsibility would ask anything like “What can go wrong here?” or even tolerate any hint that anything could go wrong. Why? If something did go wrong, then others could BLAME Joe, describe him as irresponsible, for proceeding when he KNEW that something could go wrong. That’s because nearly everyone else is a chicken shit, is determined to avoid any responsibility or chance of blame, wants to pretend that everything is perfect with nothing wrong and with no risks, and if something does go wrong or can even be described as going wrong wants to rise in the organization by cutting off at the knees Joe.E.g., recently as athttps://youtu.be/aYuza9TzT18Senator Kamala Harris questioned DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen: From this video clip and more, e.g., General Kelly and AG Sessons, Harris seems (i) to believe or want to appear to believe that the Trump Administration is going dirty stuff, (ii) to be acting like a prosecutor in court going after some dirt bag drug dealer, (iii) is looking for where the DHS can be criticized, (iv) wants to pretend that all the work, situations, and realities should be flawless, and (v) for each micro issue keeps asking for evidence that there have been clear, thoroughly detailed, written statements made, promulgated multiple ways, and passed out in formal training programs. One of the frequent responses is that they are following the laws and long established regulations. Soooo, Harris wants to push the Administration into extreme, rigid formality and then nail them to a cross at any gap with reality.Nielsen responded like a total goody-goody, straight A+ student. As a result, Harris would have Nielsen so afraid of criticism and, thus, in such a legalistic and formalistic structure that she just could not address reality, which is rarely so well structured, and would be forced to make mistakes.I did like better the responses of General Kelly and AG Sessions: Sessions was cool, relaxed, etc. and willing not to appear as some OCD nit picker. Kelly was much better and kept just repeating that he had all the problems solved because of his “leadership”, totally secure and confident that Harris didn’t know even as much as dip squat about leadership, and, in particular, stated that he had given his commands and refused to acknowledge that there should be lots of detailed written documents and corresponding “training programs”.My point: Harris shows that there are people who will strain to find fault with any situation other than total inflexible rigidity which, then, facing reality, is sure to fail.To me, Harris is nasty, arrogant, badly misinformed about real work, angry, dysfunctional, and destructive. But, such people do exist. She wants to be POTUS: She couldn’t do a responsible job as a dog walker or leading a 1 person parade, would be way out of her depth managing a Girl Scout Troop of more than 1 girl, and I’d worry about that one girl.IMHO one example of being responsible addressing reality is how, in the recent, highly publicized Oval Office confrontation, Trump responded to Schumer by saying that he, Trump, would be proud or some such to take responsibility for the shutdown as a way to get The Wall and stop the national security and humanitarian disaster.From Kelly’s responses to Harris, I guess that on his way to 4 stars he saw a LOT of total Harris-style formalistic, legalistic, dysfunctional, destructive, dangerous crap-ola and found good responses.For what the US military does about such crap-ola I have to guess: First, put the chief of crap-ola in charge of something operational, somewhat challenging, and real, where the criteria in reality are clear, and see what happens: Maybe ask them to bridge the Rhine, march 50 miles and right away set up a kitchen and feed 2000 hungry troops, move tanks and trucks 100 miles overnight in a blizzard at -20 F with 40 MPH winds. If they do poorly on more than one of those, then don’t have to listen to their crap-ola again.As I recall, the US military has extreme scorn for brown noses or sycophants of irresponsible commanders.Of course, if a commander ignores the possibilities of things going wrong, then they (he/she) will not attempt to protect against such risks, some of which might be easy to see and dangerous, and, thus, have a disaster, get soldiers killed, lose a battle, etc.But, IIRC, the US military has a hugely respected norm of NOT playing it safe and, instead, of “moving to the sound of gunfire”. To me, it might be better just to get some more information and look for a way to stay hidden, circle around, and attack them from behind or some direction where they are poorly defended, maybe. Maybe create a diversion and, as they move to that and weaken their defenses, attack the weakness. Etc.(2) I don’t get the partitioning and very distinct roles of the relatively green commissioned officers and the highly experienced, capable, technically knowledgeable non-commissioned officers.In particular, IIRC the non-commissioned officers who stay out of serious trouble can continue to serve until they have lots of gray hair while the commissioned officers are up for promotion each 2 years or so and, if “passed over” three times without a promotion, are automatically retired.I know; I know: An old idea was that the officers, commissioned, were the sons of wealthy families, had college educations, were supposed to have high integrity, etc. while all the rest were rabble to be directed, ordered, and led, and bled.(3) Some of (2) carries over to US business, but just what and how is not so clear.

  17. Joe Marchese

    “The four most important words in any organization are ‘WHAT DO YOU THINK?’ ” —Dave Wheeler

    1. sigmaalgebra

      As long as you don’t tell anyone or even let them suspect you might be thinking! If you tell, then: (1) They have you on the record with something to shoot at. It doesn’t matter how good the thinking is, the others in the organization can always find a distortion of what you said to make you look bad. (2) If somehow your thinking is regarded as good, then everyone else in the organization can feel threatened by you. Even the COB/CEO can feel threatened, at least their ego threatened because the old norms continue, i.e., the manager knows everything important and the subordinates are there ONLY to add their routine muscle-like efforts to the THINKING of the manager! There was a nice joke about this in a James Bond movie where the tool guy Q has a new subordinate. Talking to Bond, the subordinate starts to say “I think …” and right away Q interrupts him and says:You are not here to think. You are here to do what I tell you.or some such. Apparently at least the director of the movie believed that quite commonly the audience knew enough about such organizational behavior to get the joke.One guy joked with me that he kept his head down, didn’t say anything, but kept a finger in the air to sense the direction of the political winds.Lesson: Thinking, especially good thinking, is from good to crucial. Usually giving the good or great results of your thinking to someone else is foolish. Instead (1) have some good ideas that can make you money and (2) don’t give the ideas away and, instead, be an entrepreneur, start your own business, and use the ideas as the crucial core of that business. Net, make money with your thinking.

  18. LE

    Coaching btw is an artifact of the ‘new’ economy and internet money.Prior to the internet sure there were mentors, coaches, YPO (as JLM has said) and things like that.But generally the idea of giving someone (who was right out of school and had no clue) a large check was pretty much unheard of. Not that it didn’t happen but it was close to never. And if it was done there were strings attached to that money.Of course there were businesses that grew by their own money generated but that was because the person who started the business was ‘survival of the fittest’ and earned that level of success.One wonders (not me but ‘one’; whoever he is) why wework does not have onsite coaches at their facilities.

  19. curtissumpter

    Hey Fred,USV wouldn’t happen to have any extra unused tickets to StackSummit 2019? 😀 😀 😀 I know your partner Rebecca Kaden is speaking and … I was hoping????

  20. Lawrence Brass

    I need a navigator, a shield, a friend.Someone who will teach me and help me sail this shining new ship into the future.Someone who is willing to learn to read my mind.Someone like John Kelly or Jim Mattis, who will protect myself from turning into an asshole and burn the ship into flames…Luckily for me, I think I already found him.

    1. JLM

      .When dealing with generals always look at their boots. If they are shiny, they may spend a lot of time kicking your ass.The guy you want in the military is a Colonel with 35-40 years of service who will never make general.I had such a mentor in two assignments — same guy. He was the longest serving Colonel on active duty. Somewhere along the way, he pissed somebody off and was never going to make general. I asked him who and he would never tell me.He had more awards for valor and “been there badges” than anybody I ever met in the Army.He was the chief of staff of a division and then a post. The generals above him protected him — kept him from being forced to retire — because he was so damn good.For some reason, he took a shine to me and would have me over for coffee. I was a Captain at the time.I learned so much I should have paid tuition or have assigned him my GI Bill benefits.There are people in the military who know everything and will share with you if they see themselves in you.Don’t worry, you’re not an asshole. Yet.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Lawrence Brass

        What a coincidence, I was just thinking about you. 😉

  21. Pete Griffiths

    The risk with the ‘why don’t you try this?’ approach is that you own it not them.