Coaching with Sid

Empowering Entrepreneurial Success: The Art of Coaching for Exceptional Decision-Making

sent by Siddharth Anantharam    |   July 20, 2023

sent by Siddharth Anantharam
July 20, 2023

Picture this – you are working with someone who is about to take a decision that is going to completely shift the trajectory of their life or business.

In the words of Eminem,  

this is their one shot, their one opportunity. To seize everything they have ever wanted.

They are standing at the crossroads of something big, unsure of which path to take. The pressure is on, the stakes are high.

And they reach out to you as their coach to support them. What do you do to coach them through this situation….knowing fully well that your coaching can have a trickle impact on everything – their business, teams, finances, reputation?

As a coach, the opportunity and responsibility that you hold in this moment is tremendous.

And it’s what entrepreneurs pay you for – to be their secret weapon in decision making situations that might be overwhelming, scary or even seem impossible. They need you to coach them through 4 critical voices of self talk that creeps in.

Too many coaches struggle with playing a pivotal role that helps entrepreneurs think clearly through these voices and act decisively in such situations. I did too!

As a coach to game changing entrepreneurs who regularly confront high stake decisions, I realized very early that traditional coaching education does not train you enough to coach in such scenarios.

In order to become better, I had to learn from other diverse disciplines – ones where the small decisions make a BIG difference such as Chess, Investing, High stakes negotiation and Improv comedy so that I could show up fully for my clients.”

In my newsletter I am going to share 4 key principles that have helped me unlock the decision-making potential of the entrepreneurs I work with over the last decade.

Principle #1 - It’s not about Analysis. It’s about the Process.

Many people in the world of business put their trust in careful analysis and spend a lot of time and energy putting together the “right data”. However, after investigating 1048 business decisions over five years – tracking both the ways the decisions were made and their subsequent outcomes in terms of revenues, profits and market share, researchers found that “process mattered more than analysis by a factor of six.”

Often a good process leads to better analysis by removing faulty logic but the reverse was not true.

Knowing this is critical for you as a coach because it means the most important role you can play in a high stake decision for an entrepreneur is not to analyze their existing data but clarify their decision making process.

Don’t be surprised to see that most entrepreneurs don’t have one. They rarely use a “process” for thinking through important decisions like whether to fire an employee, take the next round of investment or pursue that merger.

Coaching Question – What process can we use to help you make this important decision?

Principle #2 - It’s not about the hidden Answer. It’s about the not so hidden Question

Most people think in black or white and this or that. Binary thinking doesn’t just limit our options, it also limits our possibilities. It narrows down our choices so our brain can process it to make quicker decisions. However a quicker decision need not be a good one.

This is why as a coach, your role is not to work on the answer that the entrepreneur is seeking at that moment. It is to ensure that the question they are asking is framed for maximum possibilities and deeper exploration.

Instead of, “Should I start this business or not?” try exploring “What are the ways in which I can increase my income?”

Instead of “Is this partner the right one for me?” try exploring “What am I really looking for in this relationship.”

Instead of “Should I fire this team member or not” try exploring “What can I do to clarify the goals and expectations from this role?”

When a decision needs to be taken, avoid questions – questions that have a Yes / No answer.

Coaching Question – What is the real question or problem we are trying to solve here?

Principle #3 - It’s not Rational. It’s Emotional.

Most decision making research out there makes it seem like our brain is an excel sheet that generates decisions once you feed it the right data. What it ignores is one of the most critical ingredients of decision making that actually makes us human – our Emotions.

Despite our best interest, most decisions we make are more emotional rather than rational. They are based on existing beliefs or biases that we hold true. Psychologists call this the Confirmation bias where we look for data that validates something we already believe just to prove it.

When we want something to be true, we will spotlight the things that support it, and then we draw conclusions from those spotlighted scenes and congratulate ourselves for a sound decision. Scary right?

Now you know why the Pros and Cons process of decision making is quite faulty. Because we tend to give more weight to the pros or cons based on our own emotional biases and assumptions.

This is why as a coach, your role is to challenge the fundamental assumptions that your entrepreneur holds about their problem / decision – an approach called first principle thinking.

You need to coach them to break down their problem into its fundamental parts so you can shine light on the blind spots and unknowns. You  create distance between them and the problem so they are not driven by their short term emotions.

Coaching Question – How can we look at this differently?

Principle #4 - It’s not about hoping for the best. It’s about preparing for the worst.

Most of us think we know more about the future than we actually do. Most of our predictions make guesses about the future based on limited information. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Which is why one of the most important aspects of making a decision is to realize that it’s never about the decision itself – it’s more about are we ready to deal with the consequences of that decision whether right or wrong?

The most important aspect of coaching entrepreneurs comes down to helping them build psychological flexibility so they can think through the best and worst case scenario for a given decision, in advance. So that when the consequences actually unfold, they are as best prepared as they can be.

Coaching Question – What is the most ideal outcome of this decision? What is the worst case scenario and how will you deal with it?

Making better decisions is one of the important skills that you can coach entrepreneurs to practice and live by. By helping them think about their thinking, you can have a ripple effect of success in their lives, relationships and businesses.

They might just be one good decision away from a real breakthrough moment. The question is are you ready to create that breakthrough for them?

Which of these principles did you find most valuable? Share how you plan to use it in your next coaching conversation.

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