How My Founder Coaching Works
Most founders never worked with a coach before. They wonder how working with a coach looks like. A few questions get asked over and over again. I cannot talk about other coaches; here is how my coaching works.
Most founders have never worked with a coach before. They wonder how working with a coach looks like. A few questions get asked over and over again. I cannot talk about other coaches; here is how my coaching works.
I see executive coaching as a relationship — an organic partnership where we work together to inspire you and work on your most important personal or business challenges. We partner to enable your growth. You are not simply my client to whom I deliver a standard service: I bring all my energy and focus into it, and I expect you to do the same. We co-create the magic that will help you become your best self. My coaching mentor often refers to this as "dancing together," the coaching journey is never danced alone.
I tell my clients early on that the coaching process facilitates clarity, and that's not always a comfortable experience. But from my experience, I know you'll come out the other side stronger, clearer, and full of love for yourself.
Photo by inma · santiago / Unsplash
Who do I work with?
My work focuses on the matrix of resilience, openness, and intention: Versus individual, team, and business. I discovered a few superpowers across those nine squares. Here are the three personas where coaching for resilience, openness, and intention brought about transformative results:
Founders who were looking to formulate their life philosophy as their accelerating companies forced them to step into their CEO role. This happened mostly after a surging market demand (COVID-induced health tech boom; D2C founders turning into media darlings) or substantial financing rounds.
Founding teams who aspired to work holistically on their business as it grew past the 50-80 employee mark: How can we design for financial sustainability (resilience) and set goals (intention) for the entire organization?
Leaders in transition who were looking to plot their next move. Two groups were significant to me: VCs who resonated with my past in venture and CXOs who were getting ready to start their own company.
I see my work with clients as a partnership. Fit is extremely important: we both need to have a good vibe. "No fit" for me means that I might not be able to add great value. Great value means it is going to be transformative and elating for both of us.
How many clients do I take on, and how do I select them?
I currently limit my practice to 8-10 clients. I want to make space for and deliver Great Work.
Recently, one of my clients texted me, "Julius, this is a really intense period for us. Can you spend more time with us for the next few weeks?" I want to be able to say yes when my clients need me. That is my understanding of a partnership.
Clients choose to work with me. They contact me out of their own volition. I have worked with two clients who were "sent" by their co-founders. It doesn't work for me. Effective coaching work is based on the clients' desire to change — not on someone else's desire for their client to change.
Selecting the right clients enables me to do great work vs. good work. Over time, I noticed the patterns when clients described their coaching experience as "transformational." They were ready to connect concrete business challenges to asking themselves deep, personal questions.
They are curious to explore the system of their relationships, business, and personality - and how they interact. They know that strengthening their inner clarity - cognitive and intuitive - will make them radiate clarity on the outside: to their team, investors and family.
While I do not see it in my responsibility to "transform" anyone, these patterns inform the choice of who I partner with.
What does the coaching process with me look like?
All my clients are unique. Their needs are specific and provide the key ingredients to our coaching relationship. In effect, no coaching process is the same.
Here is what I can generally share about the process - taken from my coaching agreement:
Step One: Unfolding the map. First, we focus on identifying what is and is not working right now. We understand the system that is your life: the people, themes, questions — anything that may be of relevance to understanding the client's situation. We will deepen self-awareness and investigate specific thoughts, speech, actions, relationships, and systems that are currently in place.
Step Two: Connecting the dots. Next, we explore how all these elements relate to each other. From this, you will come to understand causality and identify where root causes vs. side effects are located.
Step Three: Setting intentions. Based on this understanding, we will clarify your desired short-term and long-term goals. To do this, we build a roadmap of topics and prioritize those of the highest importance.
Step Four: Starting the journey. Finally, we will identify the key thoughts, speech, actions, relationships, and systems to start, stop, and alter to increase your problem-solving ability.
How long does a coaching engagement last?
This is up to my clients. Some of them have worked with me for over a year by now. Some work with me for one month. When we feel you are not getting anything out of the coaching, I will encourage you to take a break.
Logistics: When, where, and how long?
Usually, we meet every 2-3 weeks for 90 minutes, but as our coaching partnership develops organically, this can often change. For example, I have in the past worked with one of my clients multiple times a week as things were more intense for them. On the flip side, sometimes I don't hear from my clients for over four weeks, so it is organic and flexible depending on your needs.
Thanks to COVID, I have moved to fully remote using Zoom and Miro. For clients who want to do sessions in Berlin, I have a quiet office in Prenzlauer Berg. Sometimes I travel to workshops, retreats, or strategy offsites.
In my office. Come in the morning hours. My client Stefan says I make the meanest coffee of all Berlin!
How can you prepare to get the most out of our coaching?
I send questions to you 1-2 days before every session. They may prompt you to reflect on your biggest challenge or the greatest success of the past week. These questions function to get to the root of what keeps you up at night and help you reflect on the health of your key relationships.
How do I handle sensitive issues?
Your trust is my most valued currency. I will keep all information confidential. Everything you say is between us and only us. For your assurance, my coaching agreement includes an NDA.
Some of my clients use this to make anonymous requests: Executive hires, co-founder searches, reference checks on investors, or looking for a therapist… all these are examples I have helped with.
What are the questions that clients bring to my sessions?
This is a selection of questions my clients have solved with me:
What will be my entrepreneurial legacy?
How can I live my values through my company?
How can I improve my key relationships (partners, co-founders, key executives, family members) in life?
Where do I need to concentrate my energy to really move forward?
How do I set my company up for the next 18 months?
How can I incorporate a long-term mindset in my own life?
What are the initiatives I need to prioritize today to win in the long term?
How do we work between sessions?
I do my best to support my clients during work times. That can take many shapes: I recently helped a client hire an external board member ahead of their Series B. Regularly, I review key materials for internal or external communication, i.e., for major announcements or fundraising. If my clients need a 360-degree view, I have interviewed co-founders, team members, or investors in the past.
That was a crash-course into how I work, and what founder coaching involves. I want to stress that every client is different, and no founder’s needs identical — but the goal is to work together to find practical solutions, and inspire you to be the best leader and human both in your personal and work life.