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The Entrepreneurial Mindset

Posted by Peter A. James, ACC | October 1, 2019 | Comments (0)

We, coaches, love this special skill set that we possess. You know. The one where we actively listen, ask powerful questions, establish trust and intimacy with the client, etc. We love it so much that we will often pursue further education, training, collaboration, masterminds, and certifications all in effort to improve our craft.  But I often wonder if we are sharing this special skill with the world the best that we can. We all know that the world desperately needs what we can provide. But the question must be asked, “Are we being entrepreneurial as we look to deliver this gift into the world?”

In addition to being a credentialed business and leadership coach, I am also a business and entrepreneurship professor who has and continues to research the international business environment. I especially love to analyze startups and new businesses as they aim to navigate and succeed in their respective industries. Entrepreneurship has shifted to not just launching a new business or innovation, but it is also now a way of being, which I believe that we as coaches should embody.


An entrepreneur is defined as an individual or group of individuals who observe an opportunity in the marketplace, then seize the moment and create a new service, product, institution or market, leading to new possibilities for all stakeholders involved. This is very different from a small business owner or a freelancer who may not be “actively” seeking out new or different opportunities.

Entrepreneurial Mindset

Research has described the entrepreneurial mindset, on the other hand, as the ability to quickly sense, take action, and get organized under uncertain conditions. It also includes the ability to persevere, accept and learn from failure, and get comfortable with a certain level of discomfort (Ireland, Hitt, & Sirmon, 2003). This mindset clearly dictates that it is not just reserved for startups. The individual who adopts this mindset does not have to have a special set of personality traits. It can be taught. In fact, it’s a method that requires practice. It does not mean that you have to be an extreme risk-taker. Entrepreneurs collaborate more than they compete. We are intentional. And this ultimately becomes a life skill (Entrepreneurship).


This may sound somewhat familiar. This entrepreneurial mindset is an offshoot from Dr. Carol Dweck’s book titled, Mindset. In it, she speaks of two different people in this world. Those who possess a growth mindset and those who possess a fixed mindset. Those with a growth mindset embody an “anything is possible” perspective. They see failure as just another opportunity to start over and do better. They are energized by being uncomfortable. The fixed mindset individual is one who believe that some people are just destined for success, while others are not (Mindset).

Internal Coaching

In the organizational setting, being able to observe and seize opportunities and innovations for the benefit of organizational growth and acquiring new customers is an example of what this looks like internally, also known as intrapreneurship. More and more companies are looking to hire individuals who embody this mindset, especially in this business environment of disruption and change. They desire that their leaders grasp this entrepreneurial mindset as well.

External Coaching

Externally (with which many of us are familiar) this might look like exploring, seeking out, learning about, and being exposed to new methods and strategies that will allow you to bring coaching to your sphere of influence. It also includes broadening your sphere of influence regularly. It could also mean stepping outside of your comfort zone or prescribed path in an effort to adopt opportunities that you would not normally pursue.

Call to Action

As coaches, in addition to mastering this beautiful craft of ours, we should simultaneously and intentionally begin opening ourselves up to more and more opportunities which will ultimately benefit the world. But adopting this entrepreneurial mindset is the first step in your business journey.


Peter James, ACC, will share further steps during the breakout session “You’re a CEO, not a Coach” at ICF Converge 2019, which is taking place October 23-26 in Prague, Czech Republic. Join his session in the Build content group on Friday, October 25 at 9:00 a.m. (local time). By attending this session, you can earn 1.5 RD in Continuing Coach Education units.

peter james headshot

Peter A. James, ACC

Peter A. James, ACC, is not just a credentialed coach. He is also a tenured Professor of Business and Entrepreneurship, holds an MBA, a PhD, and is the current President of the Chicago Chapter of the International Coach Federation. His experiences have taken him from an officer in the military to sales and marketing in a global pharmaceutical firm to faculty chair of a university business department. He has started and owned over five businesses and now maintains a thriving consulting practice in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

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