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Coaches, consultants, advisers, and other help for your agency (featuring Ken Jacobs)

Figuring out the right kind of help you need to grow
Getting help from coaches, consultants, and others

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Part of being successful in business is being willing to ask for help. Nowadays, there are plenty of opportunities to get the insight and advice you need if you know where to look.

With the wealth of options available, it can be difficult to figure out the difference between coaches, consultants, advisers, and others who might be able to lend a hand.

Ken Jacobs has a wealth of experience as both a leadership coach and agency business consultant. He has taken his background as an agency executive and now applies the lessons he has learned in his current practice.

In this episode, Ken helps to demystify the differences in the types of advice that leaders can get and understand the value of each.


About Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs, a certified coach and experienced leadership consultant and trainer, is the principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching. For more than 12 years, he has helped senior leaders and executives in public relations and integrated communications achieve and surpass their goals by becoming more inspired and inspiring leaders.

Jacobs has also helped nearly 50 agencies grow and manage business, improve client service and relationships, and enhance staff performance, communications and leadership skills.

Prior to launching his consultancy, Jacobs spent 25 years in management and leadership positions with a number of firms, including Ogilvy & Mather PR; Marina Maher Communications (MMC); and Maloney & Fox. (read more of Ken’s bio)


The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

CHIP: Hello and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I am your host Chip Griffin. And I am very pleased to have with me as my guest today Ken Jacobs of Jacobs consulting and executive coaching. Welcome to the show, Ken.

KEN: Thanks for having me back. It’s a pleasure.

CHIP: It is great to have you here. We’re going to talk about coaching. But before we do that, why don’t you share a little bit about what you do?

KEN: Sure, well, Jacobs consulting and executive coaching as you can tell from the name probably, but I do help leaders, mostly in the agency space, but not limited, mostly PR marketing, communications, advertising, to achieve their goals, their organizational goals, their career goals, their personal goals, by becoming more effective leaders, more inspiring leaders, more inspired leaders. So that’s part of the business. I also helped those agencies I mentioned, through consulting, you know, to grow their business to manage business for greater profitability, to enhance client service and to improve team Performance Team communications team leadership, and that’s done actually through consulting and training. So very, my Venn diagram is all is all kind of related.

CHIP: Right. And you have deep experience in the agency space. This is you didn’t just throw out a flag and say, You know, I think I’m going to target agencies.

KEN: I should I did, no, no, I didn’t. I spent 25 plus years in the consumer PR agency world in New York, and good or bad. I got into management very early. And I got into leadership. And I, you know, you’ll hear me today probably talk about management and leadership not being quite the same. And I got into leadership early. And some days I wish I’d had a little more training in eater or experience in each before I was I was promoted pretty quickly. So that was true. 25 plus years and I’ve been doing this for around I want to say 12 years.

CHIP: And so the reason why I asked you onto the show is because you and I have had a number of conversations over the last year or so about coaching and, and what it is and the different kinds of coaching. And as as you know, and as many of my clients know, I resist the term coach for what I do. And yet, that’s what I get described as a lot. And so I thought it would be helpful to have a conversation about the different kinds of coaching that are out there because for example, you are a certified coach in certain methodologies. And so why don’t you Why don’t you sort of give us an overview of what coaching is what the different buckets are, as you see them?

KEN: Sure, sure. And I love coaching I’ve seen its power for myself and for my clients. So if I wax on you can say hey, you know, we don’t quite that much. We can hold back but but I thought I’d start you know, to look at what coaching is It’s almost easier to say what it’s not. because more people really are familiar, and really understand the modalities that are related. But it’s not. So number one, it’s not consulting. It’s not counseling. It’s not advising. It’s not telling what to do. That’s, that’s really consulting are those that’s really training. And they’re valuable. I can’t knock them because as I said, I’m also a consultant and trainer. But it’s really not those things. That’s where there’s a lot of confusion, and it’s also not therapy. It can be therapeutic. I had many coaching sessions as a coaching client, that felt like therapy. I think one of the key differences in therapy is that up to my I’ve never been in therapy. Some people would say that, but maybe that’s something that I should explore. But my understanding of many kinds of therapy is that we go into the past, we understand what happened. We Learn there is some people we need to forgive, perhaps and there are certain people we need we need to forgive, we need to ask them for forgiveness, we need to deal with that. So my understanding is there’s a lot of time in the past, in real coaching, the past will come up because the past has an effect on your future. You know, when I’m coaching someone, I always want to say, Can I meet your parents, but you know, we can’t do that. Um, but we tend to take them out of the past, sometimes gently, sometimes by their shoulders, if that’s how they like to be coached. And we say, Okay, I thank you for that observation. What do you want to do about that now, with the emphasis on you do active verb, and now, what action will we take from that observation? So, it’s not therapy, but it’s really not advising or counseling, telling what to do and I’m tempted to go into those those actions when I’m in a coaching session, but I know it serves my clients to fight that urge and not jump in and share what I know in that moment. Again, because that’s not serving them. I think a good way to think about it is not not sports coaching, sports coaching is important, never going to knock it. I think the great athletes have sports coaches, and the great athletes have like certified coaches, many of them. But I think of it as a stage coach. That’s where I like to believe the expression came from and for our history geeks out there, I’ve got to imagine we have some, you know, imagine being in St. Louis or somewhere in the mid you know, the 1830s 1840s. And you get in this coach and you’re heading west to create a new life, a new career, a new source of income, a new sense of fulfillment or happiness. And that stage coach is going to take you from point A to point B St. Louis, out to the Oregon Trail to the northwest to cowboy country to the prairie, whatever it may be. So it takes you from point A where you are now to point B where you want to be. And I think that’s a great visual analogy. So what searching is,

CHIP: so how would you for an agency owner, how would you help them to see where that line of delineation is between advising, consulting and coaching? So when they Yeah, and obviously you do both? Right. So you’ve got Yeah, both elements to to what you provide? I mean, in sort of, in my mind, the way I’ve always delineated is advising and consulting is more about the business, whereas coaching is more about the individual. It’s, you know, there’s no, it’s not necessarily a bright line test, but that’s sort of how I’ve thought of it. But I’m curious, you know, how, yeah, no differences.

KEN: I think that’s a very helpful way to look at it. And maybe the way I can address it is, you know, I’ll meet prospects At a conference, I’ve spoken etc, etc. Or something for prsa or counselors Academy or what have you. And they want to come up and talk about something in agency management, the business profitability, my team isn’t performing. My clients aren’t happy. And I after doing this for a while, I generally have a sense if there’s something getting in the way of that success because it’s so often about the human element leading others leading yourself. We as coaches believe a couple of things Generally, we believe our clients have the answers deep down. Our job is not to give them the answers, but to help them find those answers within quite often something’s in the way of that success. It could be of something getting in the way of achieving goals, something getting in the way of decision making something getting in the way of true effective leadership. There may be what we energy coaches call an energy block. You know, we call them gales, they’re Gremlins assumptions, interpretations or limiting beliefs. And we all carry this with us. And they all hold us back. So we use empowering questions. That’s it, you know if the listeners get pick one thing away from this, one of the best ways to remember the difference between true coaching and those other modalities is that we ask empowering questions because that allows them to get rid of those blocks, get rid of what’s in the way of success, and figure out those answers that we really do believe they have. So you know, in making the jump from consultant to coach or consultant plus coach and actually now I think more of a coach plus consultant and trainer is my mantra is don’t tell ask. Don’t tell. Because that’s what really works and it’s about believing in that true coaching process that true coaching methodology. Now, let me let me confuse things a bit. Excellent. It was, you know, Coach cannot give an answer cannot give an answer question question only very strict. There has been a change over the years, where we are allowed to dip into answers and consulting but it’s dip in. But and when we do we always alert the client and we’ll say, may I share an idea here, something else that would help you any anecdote around that is, when you’re at a cocktail party, and someone asks you, Where’s the bathroom? The answer shouldn’t be Why do you want to know that? Take them to show them where the bathroom is. So we are allowed to dip in and but I always warn my clients and I try Every coaching process first, and every question and every new way of looking at it, but then if I feel there’s something that can help them, I always ask permission first when you add, by the way, and here’s a tip anyone can use when you ask someone for permission, and they say, yes, it rewires the brain a little bit. And they will be open to whatever wisdom you want to share. Why share wisdom is someone’s not open. Right? So so we always ask, Can I can I share something from the consulting side or give you some advice or counsel? And then they say, Yes, we dip in and then we did that. Now. Many of my clients will say can I don’t care what it is like I know but as a coach, I need to know where I am.

Right? And then we add to make sure I’m going back

into coaching because I do believe that will be that better serves the client and gets them were really where they need to be.

CHIP: So now since you do both coaching consulting? Do you do both coaching consulting for the same clients? Or is it an either or because what you’re describing there is, at least in the coaching sessions, there’s a bright line, but do you do you mix with clients or how does that work?

KEN: Yeah, it’s kind of a Venn diagram to in that I have some I’m coaching some I’m consulting some I’m doing both. I have one client, I’m there. Every week. I sit in, I’m honored to have been asked to sit it on their leadership team meetings. I’ve coached and I’m coaching a number of their executives. During the leadership meetings is where it’s more consultative and I’ll weigh in on management things. The coaching is coaching. And then I’ve done some training and may do more. That’s Boy, that’s a joy when you get to know an organization that well that you can use whatever they need. It’s, it’s, it’s it’s truly wonderful. But let me address that question a bit. So there are times that I’ll why I went down this path before and we lost the path but we’re back on the I’ll meet someone and they’ll say, can you help me with this? Can you help me with that and my inner senses, there’s a struggle going on. They really need coaching. So or not that they needed. I shouldn’t say that, but they will benefit from coaching. I will gently suggest that if they resist, I don’t push because you cannot push someone into coaching, you just cannot. So why bother? Why do they push them into anything but especially coaching. And so we might start to work on biz dev or profitability or other people on their team. And almost always they make progress. But something gets in the way, the big thing is getting in the way and then I’ll gently bring up you know, what if we modify a bit, what if we do a month or two or four of solid coaching and see where we are? Because I really believe that if a leader is in there, Best leadership space for themselves or others, the other stuff is easier to implement. You know if you want to get your team behind you to go out and get more business either from existing clients or new if you want them to help participate in greater agency profitability, if you want to participate in the agency increases its client service game because we all increase our client service game. Well then if you are truly leading, if you have motivated, inspired followers, how much easier is all that gonna be right? You know, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a lot easier now. So, you know, we work with our prospects as they become clients to determine what will what will really help here and quite often, either coaching first or a bit of a blend, I find is the most

CHIP: helpful. It It seems like in in recent years, coaches almost become a substitute for the word consultant. In many cases, you know, if you look online, you’ve got, you know, sales coaches and marketing coaches and business coaches and all that. And, and it’s not coaching in the classical sense. One of the challenges and you and I have talked about this many times, is that if clients are saying it’s coaching, even though you know, it’s not how do you deal with that? And how do you obviously shows like this or one step to try to help people understand the difference? But, you know, how do you how do you deal with that? How do coaches like you who are certified as coaches deal with that?

KEN: Well, first we do some self coaching and say, why does it bother me so much? Like, you know, you know, why does it bother me? Well, because I did all this training, and I did all this testing and I did all this certification. But wait a minute, that’s about me. Get over yourself a little bit, right. If someone is helping someone, that’s a good thing. So I don’t I, I try to not get too caught up in that. And I’ll bring up our dear friend, your your co host is Ginny. And we had a dialogue. And I said today driving me crazy. The stuff you’re doing, you’re calling it coaching, stop calling it coaching, you’re not certified coach. And she was very funny. She said, I’m helping my clients and I’m like, bravo. It’s one on one, bravo. I can call it one on one training. I can call it one on one consulting, but she didn’t. But if my clients and prospects call the coaching, like Who am I to disagree? And I’m like, Yes, I get it. That makes a lot of sense. I gotta chill out a little bit. But I’m also going to ask Chip if I can address it.

CHIP: Yeah, no, it’s perfectly understandable. And when I first got started with my current business, I resisted that terminology, even though I sense that people would use it and it turned out I was correct in apart because, you know, not only do I know what I what I’m doing is not classic coaching. But it’s also from a mindset perspective. I, I sort of and I may be wrong about this, but I sort of have always seen classical coaching is a little more touchy feely than than what I do. And and a bit more than what my nature is.

KEN: Well, and I think that one of the root, you know, code is coaching, touchy feely, well, it is about partnering with people who are ready and open. It is about being their cheerleader. It’s also about telling them some truths with their permission, and you get insights from your clients. How am I gonna you know, you’re supposed to ask today, do you want me to coach you passively or aggressively that feels a bit vague. So I say do you want me to kick your butt or hold your hand and this session, and it’s another reason I try to remember to ask every session is that people can tell you at the outset, kick my butt. But that may not work every two weeks, you know, we’ve got to think of the week they’ve had. And the other reason, so that’s why we ask it every session. The other reason I asked is that sometimes my sense is any you know, I’ve seen the form, they filled out the progress they made in the week, but they didn’t didn’t do their highlights. And my instinct might be, they need a little like kicking today. And then I asked, they’re like, Can I just had such a tough week? Just hold my hand, help me, help empower me to get back on track, like, wow, I’m so glad I asked. And then I’ll get the opposite where I’ll feel something who I better hold their hand and they’ll say, you know, what, we need some butt kicking. We need to turn these goals into actions. That’s where I need your help. So So, you know, we do try to modify the approach. But you know, and I think we have to be careful and we have to be careful because we say it’s touchy feely, well, if that’s getting in touch with how you’re leading, if something’s off if the way you’re leading doesn’t match your values, who’s gonna follow you? So is this like, you know, I hate when they call it soft skills. It’s like people skills, leading human skills, getting people behind you skills, getting people to walk through their fear skills, I think by calling them soft skills. It doesn’t really serve anything. And so, you know, being a coach is not namby pamby I mean, you’re helping people, often with deep seated issues

that are getting in the way of their success.

And because the people I coach are fairly senior,

if they’ve got deep issues that are getting in the way, it’s not just their success. It’s the organization’s success and the success of a lot of people, you know, in the organization, right. So to me, it’s, it’s It’s really important. Yes, it can be life changing.

CHIP: And you’ve talked a couple of times about the Venn diagram. And of course, that’s one of the challenges. As I look at the work that I do, for example, because when you’re working with a small agency owner, it’s very difficult to divorce the business entirely from the person, even more so than a senior executive in you know, a fortune 500 company, because what they want is what the business is generally driving towards. So, you know, you those lines get even blurrier and that kind of a business.

KEN: Yeah, and we

shouldn’t divorce them. You know, one one quote, I heard actually from a client who had heard it from a different coach at a seminar, or what she went to, you know, we keep it I’ll paraphrase you know, we keep creating this myth that I have all these different lives, my business life, my career, life, my

family life, my spouse, life,

you know, relative family and friends like we have one life. It has, depending on how you count seven to 14 Really interesting facets, but they are all related. They all come together, they all affect one another. So quite often when I do coaching, and it’s sponsored coaching and sponsored by the agency, let’s say for secondary executive, I mean, still very senior executive, but maybe a senior VP or a VP. And we realize there’s something going on in their life that’s affecting what they’re bringing to the organization. And they’ll say, well,

Ken, it’s sponsored coaching, are you allowed to sort of take the agency money to coach me around this and

I say, I think your bosses would be thrilled to have me coach you around this because they know that if you’re managing all this, if you’re getting things that are out of balance into balance, you will be so much more effective as a leader there. I can’t imagine them objecting now for you know, most sponsored coaching. The leader, the supervisor, the boss approved The coaching engagement goals. So there are times we may come up on a seat with four or five of those that the boss sees and wait, I hate the term boss, their leader weighs in on and approves because their money, they’ve got the right to say, hey, you’re missing something big here, you know or not. But we might work with something on a personal basis that may not be shared or approved. I just follow my instinct that Yeah. Now if they’re coming up with six coaching engagement goals, we’re not going to have five personal and one around the business that that’s not sure. But

CHIP: right but but ultimately the you know, the agency is looking for those executives to perform at their highest ability and so if you’ve got to delve into the personal in order to get them there, you know, why wouldn’t you want that as

KEN: you do have to know?

CHIP: Well, and as I look at agencies, a lot of the agencies that I work with, the ones that have the biggest problems are where the owners personal, you know, motivation his desires are not aligned with their own business. And if they’re working at cross purposes, they’re never going to be successful, which is one of the reasons why the framework that I came up with and working from a business perspective with agencies starts, it’s called the M get framework. It starts with a ambition, because you’ve got to understand what are they trying to get out of the business, in order to figure out you know, how you structure it from there.

KEN: I love that. I love that. And it’s, you know, it kind of brings up for me when you understand the real motivation, so it’s not I want to make a lot of money. That’s just a means to an end. It could be I want to make a lot of money, to create a foundation to create a scholarship to travel and see the world and experience it and that’s where coaching comes in. We get them to say, well, that’s the means to the end, what’s the end what brings you joy, or happiness or fulfillment? Because then if we can align that with how they live their lives and how they lead, and yes, how they manage their agency. Guess what they’re going to be performing,

CHIP: right? Absolutely, it is about. And once you know that, then it becomes, you know, as I learn those things about my clients, that then makes it easier to work with them to put together business development processes and budgets, and figure out profitability and client service and how they, they structure their own role within the business. But if I don’t know what they’re trying to achieve, and in some cases, it’s not even they’re trying to make as much money, it may be that they want to be able to, you know, take four weeks off in the summer, and have three day weekends every winter to go. Fine. Let’s just let’s know that so we can build the business around it, rather than trying to build the business that you think you’re supposed to build, and have that be in conflict with what you’re trying to achieve. So,

KEN: yeah, well, I think

I think what you’re bringing up is this notion of again, bringing all those lives together, right? Because it is one life and another point you made it you know, if they’re out of balance, good luck. Good luck achieving a goal. Do we have time? Can I raise one other thing about coaching that I think I failed to mention?

CHIP: You can do it briefly? Yes. Okay.

KEN: So one of the biggest differences between what we do in coaching and consulting is the use of empowering questions. When we ask an empowering question, we literally light up the brain of that person, it creates a more emotional involvement. It creates engagement.

You know, we can see it on CAT scans.

When you ask an empowering question, everything changes. And that I surprised that I’ve waited to the end to mention this because it’s so important. And one of the biggest differences with salting and coaching is we do it and it does go back to that don’t tell Ask, ask the empowering, open ended question. Everything changes

CHIP: Well, yeah, and that I mean, I think that’s something that works and frankly most consultants or even agency should realize what their own clients if you ask the questions and you get the client to speak to you, you’re gonna end up in a much better place than if you just come in and think you know all the answers and our you know, machine gun firing your your ideas at them. You You know, open your ears.

KEN: I think agency leaders and consultants who use a coaching style who they don’t have to be certified train coaches, they can do things using a coach, technique, methodology,

modality color What You Will they will help

those others succeed and in doing so help themselves

CHIP: well hopefully the last 25 minutes or so is going to help the listeners succeed in what they’re doing. So can I really appreciate you taking the time to share your expertise with me and with the listeners? If someone’s interested in learning more about you Where can they where can they go online?

KEN: Thank you Ken. My first name at Jacobs calm but let me give you this billing j AC OBS co double n.com so ken@jccomm.com

CHIP: and your website is Jacobs comms dot com as well correct?

KEN: Yes, and it Twitter. I’m Ken sews and I’m on LinkedIn. I’m everywhere you think I would be

CHIP: For listeners, we will include all those links in the show notes. So if you were on the treadmill in the car or something like that, don’t pull over, don’t fall off the treadmill. Just go to the agency leadership website and you will have all of that information right at your fingertips. So, again, my guest today has been Ken Jacobs with Jacobs consulting and executive coaching.

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