We all have a little voice in our head… and there’s a conversation going on all the time. Most of us call this “thinking”. But did you notice that this voice has “opinions” and “judgment”? Further, did you know that the little-voice will often LIE to you? The lies will come from all kinds of places, and they are told so many times that we start to believe they are true. The best way for me to convince you of this “truth”, is to share a few coaching stories with you.
Business Owner Lies
I coached a business owner who told me that he was frustrated. His employees were terrible. And the worst part was that he had either directly hired or participated in hiring everyone in his company.
He told me, “I just can’t find good help. I did the best I could in the hiring process, and all my employees are duds.”
I asked him, “What does this say about you?”
He replied, “Either I’m a terrible judge of talent, or there are no good employees who can be hired.”
I asked, “What is a different way you can view your situation?”
He replied, “I don’t know.”
After I reminded him that “I don’t know” is not a response I allow in my coaching sessions, he said, “Maybe I’m not leading my employees properly.”
It turned out that my client had difficulty communicating to the people he had hired; and had difficulty giving them responsibility. We worked on his leadership skills and he turned his situation around. Had he never realized that he was lying to himself, he would continue to be frustrated; he would continue to think his employees were duds; and he would continue to be fearful in picking the wrong employee the next time he needed to hire someone.
A business owner came to me with two of his employees that would not get along. They both were quite talented. One was a Programmer (George); and the other was a Sales Woman (Sally). Sally sold accounting software. Many clients would ask Sally for specialty program for their company. Sally believed that by offering this special programming, she could capture more clients. However, when she would go to George with her request, he would give her a long lead times and an outrageous prices for changes. Sally new these outrageous conditions would kill her specialty deals. Everyone in the office could hear these two fighting on a daily basis, and their boss had had it with them both.
I worked with them both together. After establishing ground rules of relationship coaching, I asked both to state their problems with the other including their feelings and thoughts.
Sally started, “I am so frustrated with George. When I get a client who will sign with us if we make a simple change to our software, George gives me this outrageous timeline and cost to make the least change.
Following relationship coaching protocol, George responded, “You are perfectly justified in getting frustrated. You work hard to gain clients, and when you have one that will sign with us, if we make a simple change, you are frustrated when I tell you that it is almost impossible to do. You are disappointed that the deal will die, and angry at me for being the cause of your disappointment.”
Sally had tears in her eyes, “Yes…” I cut her off as she was about to continue and said it was George’s turn.
George said, “I am buried with work because I seem to be the only programmer in this company that knows what he is doing. Then Sally comes to me and wants me to give away programming time to some new customer, just so that she can earn a big fat commission.”
After I asked George to re-frame his comment, he said, “Ok. I am buried with work and am stressed when Sally asks me to provide additional work, when I’m already too busy as it is.”
Sally responded, “It’s perfectly understandable that you feel stressed when I come to you asking for you to do more work when you’re already overburdened with the work you have. You must feel like I’m a heal for asking you to work even harder than you already do.
Both Sally and George left our meeting feeling like they better understood each other; and we all agreed that the company had an opportunity to create a niche in the accounting software industry, if they could figure out how to create custom changes to software that couldn’t be done by their competition. All three of us met with the business owner and he decided to hire an additional programmer so that he could accommodate this new market niche; and not over-burden George.
In relationships, we usually lie to ourselves about the thoughts and feelings of the other person. We characterize ourselves as “good” and the other person as “bad”. We then want to WIN an argument rather than solve a collective problem. Sally and George finally realized how the other was being hurt; and changed their ways to make the company better.
A sales manager was having difficulty with one of his account representatives, June. June was struggling with meeting her sales quotas. In fact, her activity was way low; and her close rate was almost non-existent. I was brought in to coach June on her sales skills.
I told June, “Your boss is concerned about your sales numbers. I’d like to hear your side of the story.”
June responded, “You know, it’s hard to sell our products when they are so expensive.”
I asked June, “What price do you think will result in increased sales?”
June said, “It’s really not the price… it’s our super-high markups we are putting on our products. I know that we are charging 100% more for our products than what it costs to make them.”
I asked, “What do you believe would be a reasonable markup?”
After a few ‘I don’t knows’, June replied, “I suppose a 10% markup seems reasonable.”
I asked June’s boss, Sam, to join our conversation. I asked, “Sam, why are you requiring your sales people to sell your products at a 100% markup?”
Sam was defensive with his first few answers, then he calmly said, “It costs our company an additional 40% to pay for our sales force, another 30% to pay for administration overhead, and 20% to pay for research and development to create new products for our customers. After we’ve paid all of these costs, the company makes 10% net profit.”
I asked June, “What do you think about what Sam just said?”
June was somewhat indignant, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
After calming them both down, Sam decided he would be more open about their cost structure with his sales force; and I continued to coach June on selling value and benefits instead of price. In this case, June was lying to herself about the value of the company’s products and this lie prevented her from representing the product as ambitiously as she should have. Sam believed that his sales reps should do their job and had no business knowing how the money was being spent in the company. Sam’s lie was a lie of omission. When he finally told June the truth about pricing, she was better prepared to represent the product and felt good about convincing customers to buy it.
How Does Coaching Help?
Coaches are trained to pick up on “limiting beliefs”. A limiting belief is something that a coaching client is convinced is true. And this perceived truth combined with ego creates dysfunctional behavior. Unfortunately, in business, many managers think that an employee is flawed and needs to be given a performance improvement plan, or a pay cut, or fired. Instead of asking questions, they tell their employees to “shape-up”; or they tell them exactly what to do… ignoring their perception. This type of management almost always results in the employee digging further into their belief system and never improving.
A coach will question the perceived truth, and ask his/her client if there are different ways to think about a situation. When the person changes their viewpoint and their thought process, they see the situation differently; and will decide to change the way they think and they way they act. This change is almost always sustainable and positive when done through coaching.
As a business coach, I love to see the awareness increase in my clients as they become more in tune with their situation and make wise decisions; instead of choices predicated on lies they are telling themselves. If you’d like to experience coaching for yourself, I urge you to contact me. The first session is a freebie.
Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster. I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”. I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace. I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013. I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.