Today’s podcast features John Murphy.  John has had a varied career working in large corporations as well as coaching entrepreneurs.  He starts with emotional intelligence and then helps his clients figure out how they can improve their performance.

We’re going to speak with John about the executive coaching process and why you need a coach in your life.  After all, if the top performers in athletics, music and theatre all have coaches why don’t you?

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  • How to successfully move into a strategic role.
  • Why being effective is much more important than being busy.
  • How to move from hands on to a hands off owner.
  • Knowing that your business is going to go through different stages of evolution.


Narrator:         Welcome to the Sustainable Business Radio Show on podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. The Sustainable Business is all about creating great outcomes.

Here’s your host, certified financial planner, student, entrepreneur and private business expert, Josh Patrick.

Josh:                Today’s podcast features John Murphy. John is an executive coach who has spent years working in the financial services business, helping owners and managers become more effective and efficient at what they do. I’ve asked John to visit with us today so we can learn more about what coaches do and why it’s important for you to consider hiring a coach. Let’s get right to it and speak with John about coaching and what you should think about if you decide to hire a coach to help you get better at what you do.

John, welcome to the show and thanks so much for spending some time with us today.

John:                Josh, it’s a real pleasure. Thanks for the invitation. I’m looking forward to this.

Josh:                Yeah, me too. I’ve always liked chatting with you. I find that your thought process and stuff is always very interesting. Let’s start off with just having a general conversation about executives because you spend a lot of time in corporate world and now you’re working in the private business world – smaller companies but they both have executives. What’s the biggest thing that keeps executives from being successful?

John:                Yeah. It’s an interesting question. It’s one that I have to deal with, with clients. I think that for many executives and particularly, I work with a lot of executives who may have been, perhaps, promoted to director level. And so, they’ve just kind of stepped a level into a more strategic role. I find that very often, one of the biggest challenges they have is actually being really clear about their role. Exactly, what are the deliverables? What are the things that they actually need to ensure that that they’re going to deliver over the short, medium and the longer term.

For many, they kind of get into that role and they think it’s kind of an extension of the previous role they have. But in actual fact, it’s a different role. It’s a different level of role. It’s a more strategic role. It’s very much about clarity around those deliverables and being really clear about the priorities that they’ve got to do things in. But the other thing that I think you’ve got to realize is that when you get to that level, a senior executive in a company, one of the really important things is that you’re managing the different stakeholders. Now, those stakeholders include your boss, include the people that report to you but also includes the people that are on the same level as you, perhaps on the same management team, and obviously then customers and shareholders and other people. But being really clear about those different stakeholders and what it is that they actually need delivered to those different stakeholders because it will be different.

I’d say, lastly, that the biggest challenge is focus on delivering the right things and focus on delivering the things that matter most because being busy is not a challenge to anybody or to any of us. But, it’s being effective that is really a challenge.

If you ask me encapsulate, I’d say those are the key things for executives, particularly when they step up a level into a more senior role. It’s understanding that it’s not just a different title with a different pay scale. It’s actually a different role and it’s got to be of a different mindset.

Josh:                Do they often have to change personalities or adopt new skill levels they didn’t have before they took the step up?

John:                Well, I don’t think it’s about adopting a new personality because that’s what we are and who we are and we should never be changing the core of who we are. But I do think that in terms of up scaling, my experience is that moving to that level, one of the things they really have got to make sure is that they have a much better grasp of what are the strategic imperatives about a business. I think, that kind of level of thinking. I think it’s a slightly different way of thinking. And also, realizing that they’re in a much more visible role within the organization. Generally speaking, they are in a much more visible role than they have been previously so they’ve got to make sure that they are modeling what the vision and the mission and the purpose of the organization. The more senior you go, the greater responsibility you have to walk that talk. So, I think it’s a mindset shift.

In terms of skills, I certainly say that you’ve got to hone up on your strategic skills and understanding what it is to create a strategy and then what is it to implement a strategy because they are two different skills. So, I think that that’s probably the biggest leap for many people.

Josh:                So, in a private business – smaller businesses, the owners often have to wear both hats. How do you help them do that?

John:                Well, I think for the business owner, it can be slightly different because one of the things as a business owner that can be difficult at a different stage in the organization because when you start a business it’s all hands to the pump – everybody, kind of, jumping in and doing what they can. And then as the business kind of grows and develops, it’s got different challenges. And to really understand the different challenges that come about at different stages because as you know, Josh, in the early stages of any business, it’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s all the things that we actually love about it. But then the business starts to grow and that presents other challenges. You’ve got to bring other people in. You’ve got to put in processes. You put up the structures. You’ve got to put in the management structure. And then you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the right people in and you don’t get that right the first time.

But one of the things that is so important for the business owner is to be so, so clear about the vision and the purpose of the business because that is the context in which you’re making all decisions. And this is not, kind of, all these stuff are ending at that. This is way, way at parity about “Why are we in business?” Yes, of course, you’ve got to make a profit but it’s the real purpose of the business. What is the real core value of that business? What is the vision? Where does this business want to be in a number of years?

So, for the owner, yes, you’re right, it always is straddling between the two but there’s no getting away from that. As the owner of the business, you’ve got to make sure and it’s your responsibility. If you’re in the executive role on running the business, you’ve got to make sure that you’re kind of keeping that vision and purpose very much at the front of it.

I think the other part of it is actually really understanding that as the business goes through different phases of evolution, and when it’s getting bigger, when it becomes a bit more complex where you’ve got to have different processes, where the decision making has got to be made at a different level and there’s more people involved in decision making. It’s understanding those different stages of the evolution of the business and understanding that the organization has got to be different and really moving that organization and leading that organization through those different phases. So yes, the owner has got to wear those different hats and there’s no getting away from it, in my view.

Josh:                Wearing those different hats can often be a very difficult proposition. What sort of specific recommendations would you have for a private business owner who spends probably 95% of the time tactically and only has 5% or 10% to be strategic? How do you help him go back and forth between the two?

John:                I suppose, to a very large extent, Josh, that’s what I see kind of my role as a coach to somebody is the time that I spend with him is really making sure that, yes, we are dealing with some of the issues that have got to be dealt with that are kind of day-to-day issues but we’re also keeping that eye on “Where it is that we’re going? Where it is that the vision? What is the strategy?”

Also, I’m a great proponent of what Warren Buffett said many, many years ago. I think, if it’s good enough for Warren Buffett it sure is hell is going to be good enough for me or most people, that if you have kind of five or six things on your radar – on your dashboard and if you keep your eye on those five or six things and manage those five or six things then you’ve got a pretty good chance that your business is going to be successful. The challenge is to make sure that they’re the right five or six things.

That to me is where when I’m working with clients is really making sure that that time they’re spending—because you’re right, you can’t be off in some ivory tower strategizing but you’ve got to spend some time strategizing. But the rest of the time, you’re actually in the business and doing the work. But it’s making sure that you’re spending your time on those five or six key things that are really the things that are going to drive the business forward and not allowing yourself to get sidetracked into other areas and/or allowing yourself to get sucked down into some of the operational roles that you’ve actually hired other people to do. And that, very often for business owners, is a challenge. It’s that when they bring people in, to actually let go of that role and let somebody else do it.

But to me, when I’m looking at and I’m working with a client, is saying, “Okay, we’ve got to deal with the five or six key operational issues but what are the strategic goals? We’ve got to make sure that we’re keeping track, an eye on those and essentially making sure we’re kind of going between the two.” Because you just simply can’t if you’re in operational mode all the time, you’re just losing sight of where you’re going and you’re going to lose sight and everybody else. And it is your job as the business owner to ensure that everybody in the organization actually is reminded time and time again about the vision and the purpose of that organization.

Josh:                That sounds like really sage advice to me and good advice. Now, I know John that you’re a real proponent of using emotional intelligence in an assessment tool when you work with folks, could you talk a little bit about that?

John:                Yeah, I do. To me, the emotional intelligence–I’ve been working with it for the last number of years. I have to say, Josh, that it has been just the most remarkable tool to use in terms of actually getting my clients assessed in terms of their emotional intelligence. Now, I stand back from it – to me, what is the definition of emotional intelligence? I’m not saying this is the textbook definition. But to me, it’s about the ability to identify, to assess, to control and manage emotion in yourself and others. And for anybody in a leadership position – and that doesn’t make any difference whether you’re in leadership position of one or you’re in a leadership position of 500 or 1,000 people, the importance of your ability to control and manage the emotion in yourself and others is absolutely fundamental.

If I go back 100 years ago when I started out on my career, I mean, the whole thing was measuring your IQ. And now, it would be accepted and it’s not my take on this but it will be pretty much accepted by anybody who has an understanding of business is that if you’re looking at the split, for somebody in the senior position, between IQ and emotional intelligence, they would say it’s 80% emotional intelligence and 20% IQ. I think that’s pretty well accepted because at the end of the day, it is bringing people with you – that is the biggest challenge of a leadership role. Really, what the whole assessment does is that it holds a mirror up to yourself and it shows each and every one of us what it is that what we were inclined to act in different situations. I mean, how good are we in terms of understanding our own emotions, managing our own emotions but also how good are we at perceiving emotions in other people, how tuned in are we to that.

We’ve got to make sure we’re aware of our strengths and our weaknesses in those spaces because how we think, in terms of our emotions, dictate our behaviors which dictate our results. So, when you’re looking at it from a business perspective, I look upon the emotional intelligence as having a direct correlation with the results that a business is going to get. The organizations who are emotionally more mature are the organizations that are actually going to get the better results. That has been proven time and time again because you go to any of the work that [inaudible 00:11:38] has done, for example. He would very much correlate the whole behavior to bottom line results and does it beautifully in the way he writes in his different publications.

But that’s why I think the whole emotional intelligence is really, really important for people to ground on because while a lot of what we do—and particularly, you and I both have a financial background, tends to be on the left brain side but when you’re actually leading a business, it’s much more right-brained. We’ve got to be able to move between one or the other. At the end of the day, as a leader, you are looking for people to follow you. People don’t follow you from a left brain perspective. They follow you from a right brain perspective. So your ability to understand your own emotional intelligence and also to be able to assess the emotional intelligence of others is absolutely fundamental.

I’d have to say that it’s been a fantastic tool to my own business. My clients have just found it to be a great revelation in terms of understanding themselves so that’s why I’m a great proponent of it because I know that it’s hugely valuable from a personal perspective but it’s also massively valuable from a business perspective.

Josh:                So, John, you’re a business coach, what do you think you bring to the party as a coach or a good business coach, in general, would bring to the party that will be highly valuable to a private business owner?

John:                It’s funny because I was talking to a client earlier this morning because I’m about six or seven hours ahead of you. He said “You know, Murph? You’re like my conscience. You keep reminding me of the things that I know I should be doing but I don’t do.” I think there’s an element of that in it.

But I think, for a business coach, what you do bring is that you do bring that external dispassionate point of view and perspective because you’re not emotionally engaged in the business. You’re able to stand back and look at what’s happening. Very much a mentor because, you know Josh, as a business owner, who do you talk to? Who do you bounce off your ideas? If you’re the CEO of an organization, you can’t go to the people throughout that are [inaudible 00:13:38] and to kind of share all your thoughts with them, all your concerns, all your worries because that may not be appropriate. You need to have somebody that you can really, really share everything that is going on inside your head.

Also, be very much a strategic guide and kind of making sure that we’re keeping that whole strategic direction of the organization. We’re keeping that front of mind and we’re having the conversation about how we’re progressing. Very much about “keeping feed to the fire” an old saying that an old mentor of mine said to me many, many years ago and it’s always stuck with me because there is that element. It’s not that you’re coming along and saying some flashing piece of inspiration that you’re going to tell that no one’s ever heard of before. But it is about keeping feed to the fire – doing the things that we know we should be doing and making sure we’re focusing on the things that matter.

The last thing I’d say is that it’s very much around being a sounding board. You know, frequently I’ve had sessions with clients whereby they talk for an awful long time because they actually hear themselves talk out loud. Very often, just simply, in that process and doing it in the correct environment, they find their own solutions. So, it is about being that sounding board.

A lot of my clients I’d find, they would say, “Listen, I’ve got something coming up tomorrow, could we get on Skype for ten minutes? I just want to bounce something off you.” That’s great. That works. So, it is that sort of relationship. It is that relationship of trust. It is that relationship where there is great respect between both parties.

Josh:                So John, if somebody’s interested in getting a hold of you to have more conversation, how would they go about doing that?

John:                Well, they can go to my website. It’s easy to remember. It’s My e-mail address is I’d be delighted to have a chat with any of your listeners, just to bounce some ideas off and to give any help I can. I’ll be thrilled to do that.

Josh:                Oh great, I’d love to do that. We have only about a minute left and here’s a big question. If you were going to give a CEO of a private business one piece of advice, what would that be?

John:                Yeah, a good one. Well, and I say this probably as much from my own experience as a CEO of a large company. I would say, “Get your team right.” Get the team around you that is the right team and have that team that is fit for purpose. You’ve got the right people on it. You don’t have people on it because it’s historical reasons or whatever. You’ve got the right people doing the right job. You really imbue them with the clear vision and that they’re all fully aligned to that vision, to that purpose and they really hold their team to hold each other accountable. But the thing is get your team right, if you are growing a business, if you’re developing a business. Simply, if you do that you will be as good as the team that’s around you. But getting the team around you and then getting them fit for purpose. That’s a significant challenge to do but I would say if I was made to pick one piece of advice that’s what I would do.

Josh:                Well great, John. We’re unfortunately out of time. We could do this again some time. I’m sure we will.

John:                Absolutely, I’d love to do it, Josh.

Josh:                I really appreciate you spending the time.

Give John a call or contact him if you’re interested for more information.

You’ve been listening to the Sustainable Business Podcast where we talk about what you need to do with your business if it was to be here 100 years from now. If you like what you heard and want more information, please contact me at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at, or you can send me an e-mail at

This is Josh Patrick. Thanks for listening. I hope to see you soon for another edition of The Sustainable Business.

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