The best investment in business is professional development

Stan Peake of InSite Performance Coaching talks about how leaders can ensure success, but it takes work and key values

Stan Peake is founder and executive coach with InSite Performance Coaching.

Stan Peake
Stan Peake

Tell me about your company and what you do?

Peake: At InSite Performance Coaching, we help driven, values-based leaders get unstuck and create their legacies. We do this through a systematic process of diagnosing challenges, exploring opportunities, and setting rigour to strategy and measurement along the way to improving leadership and business outcomes.

In short, we help entrepreneurs with their business strategy to improve revenue and profit through both proven and unconventional sales and marketing strategies and better business frameworks.

We also help entrepreneurial and executive leaders improve their leadership and executive presence, and influence within their organizations and communities.

Why do people need business and performance coaches?

Peake: The world is always getting more competitive. New competitors and disruptive technologies constantly change the landscape of business in every industry. The world’s top athletes have several coaches, ranging from sport specific skills to psychology to strength and conditioning. In Calgary (or any major city, for that matter) in 2019, there is simply too much to do and too little time for leaders to be experts in their field and in business strategy, as well as students of leadership. If we think about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule to mastery, it makes way more sense for leaders to focus on their craft and hire experts to help fast-track their business acumen and awareness in areas they haven’t spent their 10,000 hours.

My colleagues and I wrote a bestseller on sales last year and one of our more interesting findings was that experienced sales professionals spent 50 per cent more time and money on training than those with two years’ experience or less. In other words, once they really started to focus on personal and professional development, they realized just how much there is to learn and how the best investment in business is in their own development.

A good business and performance coach helps leaders by being impartial and objective. We have skin in the game through a vested interest in our clients’ success, but we don’t work for the company and so we’re not bound by politics or having to carry certain opinions. A good coach who can remain objective also helps clarify the forest through the trees so to speak. We can offer perspective by being arm’s length away compared to our client who may be immersed in a given challenge or opportunity.

Finally, a good coach can motivate, support, and hold business professionals accountable. I meet with my clients every week, and keep a record, or dashboard if you will, of our clients’ goals, strategies, and current status compared to targets. There was a famous Harvard study wherein only three per cent of one of their graduating classes had goals written down for their future. Years later, those three per cent had out-earned the other 97 per cent – combined! By committing goals to paper, and to a professionally trained and certified coach, and by following up regularly on those goals and being able to discuss challenges along the way, leaders can dramatically increase their chances of success.

What are some of the key things people can do to immediately improve what they do?

Peake: We already talked about goal setting, but I’d like to reinforce the importance of setting goals as a habit. As rare as setting goals was in general according to the famous Harvard study, rarer still are those professionals who set goals in all areas of their life. I recommend setting goals for any aspect of life that’s important to you. Every year, I set goals for business/career, family, personal interests, travel, friendships/key relationships, and financial. I set financial goals last because the other goals dictate how much I must earn/save.

Though we started with goal setting, the first thing I suggest people can do today to see a better tomorrow is to reflect on their purpose and core values. In the organizational sense, my favourite definition of purpose is why the organization exists besides making money.

For an individual, it could be why you’re working other than a paycheque, or (my favourite) what you hope to accomplish; what you hope people will say about your legacy, after you retire. There aren’t many bigger questions than this, so it’s important not to force an answer. This is not homework to rush in between meetings. It’s better to hike a mountain, or spend a morning feeding the homeless at a shelter, or reflect in your favourite setting for a few hours – before you dare contemplate why you were put on this Earth. On the bright side, the power of a strong purpose cannot be denied once you’ve found it. A strong enough why will help you figure out any how.

In terms of your values, these are not what you aspire to – it’s the moral code you already live by. Think “always/ never” statements. Always statements reflect potential values, and never statements reflect their antonyms. For instance, “I must always strive to get better” would indicate a core value of personal growth; whereas “I would never cheat on my wife” would suggest a core value of loyalty or family, etc. When a leader gains clarity on their values and purpose, they instantly become more trustworthy, consistent, dependable, and ultimately – more effective.

The last three things any professional can do right away to get better is to measure what matters, engineer their day for success, then create a road map for success.

Measuring what matters is a simple practice that builds upon goal setting. If you know what you want and need to achieve, define success through key metrics or ‘done by’ dates. From there, it’s easy to develop a dashboard to measure your success.

Engineering your day for success means adopting a morning routine that elevates your physical and mental state. Leading a team, engaging stakeholders, and making sales are all activities that requires confidence, mental focus, and the ability to command a room. All of these desirable states can be engineered through personal mastery, and this begins first thing in the morning. My morning routine is set up to ensure I have a GREAT day. My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and then I begin the process of GREAT:

  • Gratitude: I reflect upon the people, opportunities, and experiences that I’m fortunate enough to have in my life.
  • Relationships: I ponder the state of all the key relationships in my life; my wife, my son, my extended family and friends, my business relationships.
  • Exercise: Even if it’s 10 minutes, I need to move my body every day.
  • Achieved: At this point, I’m shifting my mind to the day ahead. I think about every meeting and every client appointment. I visualize any sales meeting as new closed business.
  • Tweak/to do: After mentally running through the day ahead, I look at my calendar and ask if I’ve bitten off too much, or not enough.

Finally, creating a road map for success. Most leaders I’ve coached who suffer from a lack of life balance haven’t planned for it. When I want to see a clients’ future, I ask to look at their weekly schedule. If their schedule is blank on their email calendar, or it’s ‘all in their head’, I know this person is going to be scrambled, stressed, and potentially double-booked or missing meetings.

What does it take to become a successful entrepreneur especially in these challenging economic times?

Peake: I wrote an article for Entrepreneur Magazine on this called, “Are you a business owner or an entrepreneur?” At the crux, I believe being an entrepreneur is a mindset. Starting a business doesn’t make you an entrepreneur, learning how to grow one does. Owning a business is a title. Growing a business is an exercise in learning, self-discipline, measuring what matters, taking personal responsibility, and making the tough choices to give your business what it needs to survive and thrive.

In another article on our blog called “Your value proposition is not about you” we talk about the importance of building a customer-centric business. In my opinion, instead of building a product or service from the lens of your own expertise, as vast as it may be, it’s always wiser to engage the customers you plan to sell to in order to gain early market intelligence. You can either build what you want and hope someone wants to buy it, or you can uncover a market gap or need and supply that market with exactly what they told you they want. In fact, gaining market intelligence should be a constant activity for any business, because needs change.

In addition to understanding your target demographic (even better than they know themselves), and building a customer-centric business, I also think in order to be truly successful entrepreneurs need a vision that’s bigger than any of their day to day challenges.

Lastly, an entrepreneur must balance two conflicting ideals. They must have an unshakable conviction that they are going to make it, no matter the odds or the challenges they’re up against; yet they must embrace an openness in terms of how they will get there. In other words, even if everyone else thinks you’re crazy, if it matters to you at the soul level, you must reject anyone suggesting you quit and get a normal job, or that they’re worried you might fail. On the other hand, you must be open to learning from the marketplace that you need to change your product or service, even in some radical or extreme ways. You must be married to your vision, but only ever date your strategy.

How and why did you get involved in this as a career?

Peake: I had entrepreneurial roots in that I started my first business at 21. I was too naïve to even think about the risks, plus I had a side job so I was able to learn without worrying too much about not being able to feed myself or pay the bills. Years later, I bought into a business that later went into a merge and we were bought out. After going through the amazing experience that was the merge, I started to realize the company I now worked for was headed in one direction (a great direction, by the way), but I was headed in another direction. I felt like I lost my purpose, and had to do a lot of reflection to realize that lifting others towards their potential was my ultimate calling, my purpose. I did this as a fitness trainer and manager, but I was doing it less and less as an executive and I had to find a way to return to coaching others through their biggest challenges and opportunities.

In addition, I was very passionate about my last career and so I was promoted to manager at one of my first jobs. Not knowing how to navigate a significant difference in values, I immaturely created an “us vs them” mentality with my team and I was later fired. I learned so much from that experience. I also worked for a boss who was the opposite of what I wanted to embody as a leader right before I worked for my chief professional mentor. Those experiences, plus my background in football growing up, solidified a passion for leadership and creating great cultures.

I went back to school in 2014 for graduate study in values-based leadership, then again in 2015 for executive education in sales leadership. Following my own advice, I got early market intelligence by calling three entrepreneurs I knew in three different industries and asked if I could coach them for free for six months to test my passion and my business model (as well as my skill) in a new industry. After getting both rave reviews as well as improvement insight from all three clients, as well as a few testimonials and referrals, I decided to start my company in 2015.

Around this time I continued to gain more market intelligence, by interviewing some executives I knew. One friend of mine who’d enjoyed a remarkable corporate career kept asking what I would do with my clients that would give them value and justify any fee I would charge. Soon after, I was certified as an executive coach by Steve Jobs’ former coach who was very process-oriented. These two experiences helped me change my original process and business model into the proprietary robust, process-based yet flexible approach we use with all of our clients today.

I’ve just completed my designation as a master certified executive coach, and I also got my certification as a corporate facilitator two years ago. I offer the advice because “no man is an island”. When I was thinking about starting my business, and as I was building in the first couple of years, I got some tremendous advice from selfless coaches and entrepreneurs who had been in similar shoes prior. As I continue to build my coaching practice now with a growing team, I think it’s important for anyone who’s experienced success in business to remember to give back. Also, even in an economic downturn, it’s important to embrace an abundance mindset instead of one of scarcity.

– Mario Toneguzzi

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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