Follow the Leader

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Doing business undoubtedly requires leadership skills, whether they are in service of managing employees, representing the public face of a company or networking effectively with community and colleagues. While some may see strong leadership as an innate quality that only exists in certain individuals, business coaching sees the potential for it in everyone: It’s simply a matter of unlocking or unblocking it.

A business coach can help uncover leadership qualities or bolster the ones that a person already possesses. According to Daphne Valcin, who runs her own leadership and business coaching practice near West Palm Beach, Fla., the best way for a coach to help cultivate those qualities is to help a person step back and take a look at how they live.

“Often the way that a leader approaches [his or her] life impacts the way they approach their business,” she says. “The way that you respond to stress and the way that you behave when you are at your best strongly impact the way that you lead.”

For example, if a person is conflict-oriented in their personal relationships, or perhaps tends to see him or herself as victimized, they are more likely to burn out quickly against the tougher-skinned team-building demands of business leadership.

“Relationships are the biggest theme when it comes to breaks in leadership,” she says. “I believe it’s because in order to be a great leader, you have to lead in a way that is in the best interest of the whole team, despite the dynamics the team might have had before you got there (if you are new), and despite the ways the team might be having difficulties functioning with each other or towards you.”

Since clients don’t come with a window or crystal ball that can give the coach deep insight into their lives, Valcin says that she begins her work with an assessment that includes a number of questions that apply to different areas of life and business. If there is a group dynamic to address in a business, she would do the same for each member.

“After doing that assessment, I debrief the leader about what kinds of things I noticed,” she says. As she notices difficulties, she will ask each participant if there are different things they might try in approaching these issues. She also reinforces the traits she sees as strengths. “Little by little, we go through these action sets,” she says. “I support them, celebrate with them and hold them accountable.”

Communication is one of the critical skills Valcin helps her clients develop in order to become more effective leaders.  Sometimes a client may need to look no further than the issues they have interacting with their spouse to help them run a business more effectively. “A lot of people who have aggressive tendencies in the workplace tend to be timid about the way they communicate at home,” she says. “Sometimes we are so afraid to communicate transparently that we hold what we have to say inside and comes out aggressively.”

Fear can also be an obstacle to leadership, particularly for an entrepreneur. “Fear comes up in almost every meeting I have with leaders. The fear factor can prevent a great business person from calling a number of leads,” says Valcin, noting that even seasoned businesspeople can get comfortable with existing clients and afraid to reach out to new contacts or investors.

“Fear can keep a person from revolutionizing their business.” Valcin has had clients who, simply by coming to terms with the fact they had a fear of sales and taking steps to address it, began to increase their client rosters dramatically.

Getting a coach to provide an outside perspective on one’s leadership qualities can be a make or break proposition for a business.” If the leadership piece isn’t present, it’s extremely difficult for the individual to run a successful business,” Valcin says.

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Tracy Z. Turner

Tracy Zollinger Turner is an award-winning feature writer and editor with a knack for getting people to talk about things that matter to them and then telling their stories with compassion. She resides in between the hills and cornfields of the Midwest with her fiancé, son and three interrupting dogs.

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