Aug 16, 2023
I am always amused by rather youngish “life coaches” or “executive coaches”. It seems incongruent, because their experience of business life seems so thin. They haven’t risen inside their organisations, have never had massive responsibilty or a major P&L to worry about. They seem to be everywhere and astoundingly they find people willing to give them money. The person best able to provide coaching should be the boss and not some external freelance coach. Bosses though often restrict their coaching to the detail of the task and don’t really educate their people on life success. Part of the reason is the way we were all brought up in business. Work was over here and life outside of work was in a different basket and the boss’s role was to stick with one and not get involved in the personal business of the staff. That is changing though and the demand is bottom up.
Younger people want more coaching, advice and direction and not just about tasks. They expect more from the boss than previous generations. I was reminded of this the other day when watching a presentation by Jim Rohn. He is one of the legends of self-development and after a long career in the nutritional supplements business, though Multi Level Marketing, he started his own motivational speaking business. He relates how Earl Shoaff was his boss and mentor who taught him all the lessons of business he needed to be successful. I was thinking to myself none of my bosses were like that. They taught me how to do the job perhaps but nothing beyond that. It was that era of a clear separation of work and non-work and bosses didn’t cross the line, because that was thought intrusive. Earl Shoaff died in 1965, so obviously he wasn’t hamstrung by any issues about work and non-work.
So as the boss can we become a mentor to our people? Jim Rohn has a very simple message and he nominates a few areas of concentration where we can help ourselves to become more successful. He asks about our Philosophy. No boss has ever asked me about my philosophy and through dint of self-study I have created one. Now might be the time to share this with the team. Our philosophy creates our guard rails about what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad for us. It informs us how to live and how to be successful.
Another area he nominates is Attitude. Are we a quitter or are we prepared to do what is required to be successful in an ethical honest means. Are we buffered by the winds of good fortune and luck or are we determined to make our own luck? Are we leaving it up the company to make us successful or are we talking full responsibility for our results?
He talks about Activity - doing the work. Having a considered philosophy and attitude is great at the theoretical level, but nothing happens without doing the work. That means doing the work when we don’t feel like doing it and when it is hard. It means discipline to be consistent and to see the task to the end without distraction.
Another area of concentration is Results. We need to check if we are making progress and that means we need some means of measuring where we are relative to the targets. There can be any number of measures, some personal and some work oriented, but the point is to use them and to keep using them, so that we can achieve the end result we seek.
The fifth area is Life-Style. How we decide to live is a very important decision and has ramifications for many areas. We need to live an intentional life, so we need to decide the life-style we want and work towards achieving that. This isn’t just about money. I was attending my son’s university graduation in Bristol recently and there was a family there from another country staying at the same Hotel. The way they were dressed showed they were obviously wealthy. The mother was massively overweight. I don’t exaggerate when I say she was almost as wide, as she was tall, which is a very unhealthy situation. She was rich, but very poor in her lifestyle, because dealing with that amount of additional weight must make even the most simple things in life difficult.
Jim Rohn’s experience with Earl Shoaff is a good role model for bosses to think about not just being the one who hands out the salary, but also being the one who becomes a mentor for the team. What if the boss doesn’t know much about this stuff? Then it seems like the boss needs to get busy and start studying about these things first and then be in a position to help others. Start with the works of Jim Rohn would be my advice. It is very homespun advice but also very sharp, on target and relevant to any era and any stage.