Coaching · Leadership

Do investors realize the need for coaching entrepreneurs in leadership skills?

Ram BCC Leadership Coach and Mentor @ Coacharya

September 15th, 2015

My experience as an angel investor shows that more start ups fail for want of leadership skills in people engagement, team building, co-creating vision, collaborating action and leading change than due to product and investment. Do investors recommend leadership coaching to start up entrepreneurs to increase success rates?

Ankita Tyagi

September 15th, 2015

Ram- Thank you for raising this question.Very opportune. Scott and Joe - Thank you for your feedback.
I am very much in this boat right now. I am an aspiring entrepreneur, have tremendous motivation and have a fairly level-headed approach to things. I am not saying all this so as to tout my own most entrepreneurs (or those who aspire to be) have these traits but what I do know is that I still need guidance. Actual business related guidance (financial projections, strategic partnerships, etc.) and just basic "business" sense and a lot of it. Its not just about bringing skilled workforce together and assigning them with an individual task, but I too as an individual need to be guided by those who've done this before. Yet, I dont want to lose my individuality - as that intangible factor is the essence of my entrepreneurial endeavor. My biggest challenge has been in finding a leadership / business mentor who guides based on style / preference and steps in when needed, steps away when not. I assume this is a reasonable request or is this a selfish way to look at things?

I understand that your opinion might be just your's but curious to see what you all think.
Also, in your opinion, what makes an aspiring entrepreneur uncoachable?

Bonnie Lai Past Founder . #500Alum . Startups

September 15th, 2015

Leadership is a sensitive subject.  Many people think they have great leadership skills without realising the one thing blocking them is themselves. Small wins like raising a small investment, hearing a praise, or admiration from friends, are self-validations that they are doing great.  They tune out things they don't want to hear, or are not ready to learn important life skills. 

Founders, particularly young males, are especially prone to this.  It's not unusual to find ego-driven founders basking in short-term glory while losing sight of the important things that truly matter in the long term. Given the hubris, there comes the question if coaching would be well accepted or brushed aside as an 'inconvenient crap' they just had to listen to? I've seen my own co-founder step out of advisor meeting, and say 'that was a waste of time,' when the advisor's words were clearly solid information to digest. 

Maybe the better question would be, why do investors not do more due diligence and invest in the companies with great leadership teams?  They may be harder to find since real leaders are not out there flaunting their micro-successes. But they would be worth the effort.

This subject hits a personal chord. It's exactly why I chose to leave the startup I gave everything I had to build.  

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes but never as bossy egomaniacs. 

Joe Albano, PhD Using the business of entrepreneurialism to turn ideas into products and products into sustainable businesses.

September 15th, 2015

One challenge is that funders will often believe that they will provide the coaching and support needed to develop leadership and ensure success. After all, they are the people who were successful enough to have the funds to invest. 

Coaching and development are still seen by many as unnecessary, expensive, and luxuries ... how do we shift that perspective? 

Scott Milburn Entrepreneurial Senior Executive and Attorney

September 15th, 2015

I have worked with many entrepreneurs as part of the senior management team. Where I have seen the biggest issue is a founder/CEO who lacks the self awareness to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. E.g., just because you are a smart scientist or engineer does not make you a smart business person. Someone who is aware of that is usually open to coaching or bringing on team members who fill the gaps in the founder's strengths. Someone who believes that because they had a success or they are a smart scientist means they are smart at everything will resist or ignore guidance and not seek team members to fill the gaps.

For example, I am both an entrepreneurial business exec and an attorney. I was serving as part time COO of a small startup that got into a dispute with a contract engineering support firm over the quality of work done. Basically it came down to negotiating a contract dispute. You would think the CEO/engineer just might listen to his COO/lawyer about how to best negotiate a legal dispute, but no, he totally ignored my advice and agreed to pay the vendor substantiallymore than necessary, to the serious detriment of his company.

We all have strengths and areas where we are less capable.. The smart entrepreneur recognizes how to seek coaching or bring on support to ensure those areas where he/she is not as effective get handled in the best manner possible.

Scott Milburn Entrepreneurial Senior Executive and Attorney

September 15th, 2015

Ram, you are correct that a significant portion of the high percentage of failures of promising startups are the result of entrepreneurs who lack business skills/experience, but who are not sufficiently aware of their limitations in those areas to bring on people who can provide that expertise and experience. VCs will often insist on adding management with business experience, but angels, unfortunately, will rarely recognize and/or require that added skillset.

Joe Albano, PhD Using the business of entrepreneurialism to turn ideas into products and products into sustainable businesses.

September 15th, 2015

Ankita Tyagi- if you Google "coachability" you can find some excellent ... and some not so good ... instruments designed to identify issues that make the coaching relationship difficult and unpredictable. In my experience a lot of it comes down to a willingness to be introspective and examine the influence and accountability that they have in any situation. I've long said that I could make a lot more as a "coach" if my practice focused on giving clients reasons that their failures are not their fault. I choose to focus not blame, but rather on the behaviors that will increase everyone's level of success.

Bonnie Lai- yes, many (most?) people ... especially young, male entrepreneurs ... believe that they are great leaders.The reality is that most people are great leaders if the measure is "what kind of leader do you (the leader) want to be lead by?" -- EFFECTIVE leadership is becoming the kind of leader that the team that you have and are recruiting want and need.

Marti MFA Founder, Awakening Value™: Technologies of Consciousness

September 17th, 2015

Hi Ram Really important inquiry! From my own observations I think that investor funds should be given only when the start-up team commits, not just to leadership training, but also to training in applying the organizing principles of consciousness to their business activities and relationships. But perhaps the angel investors need the education first. Let’s keep the discussion going! Best, Marti Marti Spiegelman Awakening Value™ - Technologies of Consciousness @martispiegelman 707.874.9578

Bill Warner Executive Director, EntreDot

September 16th, 2015

Just having a leadership coach is not necessarily a sign of weakness. Due diligence will determine if the management team is solid enough to convince investors to make an investment. If they think the team is too weak, a leadership coach is not going to make a difference in their decision. A management change would be called for. If they think the team is strong, a coach can only make them better. 

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

September 16th, 2015

Nice bit of building on my idea, Joe.

When we moved from the farm to the factory, we also moved from a skills based economy to a knowledge one. Factory owners were appalled at the lack of numeracy and literacy among farm workers and discounted their abilities in animal husbandry, crop management etc. Factories were also, unlike farms, not environments where kids could pitch in and help. So formal schooling started - initially as much a creche as anything - and the idea that knowledge was more important than skills took hold. Hoarding and managing that knowledge has been a core part of leadership (we know, you don't so we're better than you).

Now knowledge is democratised and skills are coming back to the fore. The skills may be different - software and UX design, marketing technology, etc. - but they are now the key to success. And a skills environment is a sharing one, with everyone respecting eachothers' abilities and dovetailing the skills together into a single whole, greater than the sum of the parts.

Here's an article which describes some of the problem...


September 16th, 2015

Just being in a point I would like to assert that, people should have something innate, yes its expression should change over time to time, I mean how they creates value over their Leadership qualities and Secondly definitely its good to have some training's for that. But the most important thing is to build a startup and Ship product, so, this things come when Product is not shipped at the right time, isn't yet?

When you are shipping at the right time nobody talks do you need improvement as a leader or training or etc.