Business spending on coaching will exceed $ 1 billion this year. Although once considered a perk reserved exclusively for senior executives at multinational corporations, today coaches are just as likely to be found at entrepreneurial start-ups and small businesses. Still, confusion exists about exactly what coaching is and the kinds of results it deliveries.
I'll argue that enhancing self-awareness is the most important benefit of coaching, because without it things do not change. Finding out how one is perceived by others can be eye-opening. An individual may have strengths that are not being used to his or her best best advantage or weaknesses that turn out to be strong points that are over-used or applied in the wrong situations. Sometimes people assume that others are perceiving things, processing information, and learning in the same way that they do. Or, behaviors may be driven by mistaken rationales or beliefs.
Coaches assist people in developing skills in areas like organization, time management, leadership and strategic development. They also challenge the personal assumptions and beliefs that can result in clients doing of more than what's not working, or overlooking painfully obvious solutions to problems.
Among the beliefs that I've encountered in my coaching practice are, "No one can do the job as well as I can" (therefore I must do everything myself); "I can not afford good people" (so I must settle for mediocre performance); "If I ignore the situation, it might fix itself" (so I will not confront the issue); and "I am 100% responsible for everything that people in my department do" (which means that I must review everyone's work).
Leadership is a particular concern for the small business owner or entrepreneur. It can be quite difficult to go from being the "content expert" (the one who creates the product or service) to the "person in charge of the company." Coaching can be invaluable for helping these executives develop and communicate a strategic plan, clarify their role as president or CEO, delegate authority to others, and focus attention on a long-term vision.
A company's stage in the business life cycle also informs the coaching process. Executives in early-stage companies, for instance, need help managing the myriad of details involved in selecting the appropriate business structure, locating professional service providers, deciding between firing versus outsourcing, developing marketing and sales strategies, and obtaining orders in the door.
Managing a growing enterprise can carry with it as much or even more stress than the initial start-up. Common issues involve revising a strategy or business plan, hiring the right talent, developing more sophisticated operating systems, evaluating competitive threats, growing at the right pace, and for many business owners, the need to delegate day-to-day tasks to other people .
In established companies, executives grapple with changing customer needs, encouraging innovation, and finding ways to increase productivity and efficiency. Sometimes there is expansion into new markets, or major new product offerings as a means of capturing additional share. Here the needs may be for methodologies to evaluate opportunities, the hiring of more experienced managers, a new management structure, or deciding on major investments in new technology or machinery.
Finally, the company may be in the throws of major change, such as a sale, merger or acquisition. In cases like these, where the quality of leadership, management, and especially communication plays such a huge role in the transaction's success, a coach can assist the management team in working through the business, psychological, and emotional issues inherent in these kinds of events .
Selecting the Right Coach for Your Needs
Coaching is an unlicensed profession, which means that anyone can call him or herself a coach, regardless of training, skills, or background. It is this author's observation that a fair amount of what is called coaching is really business consulting – experts evaluating a situation and offering advice and solutions. This is not to suggest that consultants do not offer a valuable service. Rather, it means that the burden is on clients to understand what exactly is being offered.
It is advisable to look for a coach who has had some kind of formal training in coaching techniques, adult learning principles, and assessment methods. The ultimate goal of coaching is to make clients more resourceful and confident, and these things happen when people learn new skills and how to think differently. The right training ensures that the coach is able to accurately gauge the client's situation and offer appropriate tools and techniques that match the individual's learning style.
Beyond academic credentials, it is helpful if the coach has very few familiarity with the nature of your situation. For instance, a coach with no experience in business or business management might have a difficult time understanding and responding to issues that typically arise in the workplace.
Finally, chemistry between you and your coach is critical. It is for this reason that almost all coaches offer an initial session to prospective clients at no charge. Without honest and direct two-way communication, the training, experience, and skill of the coach become irrelevant. When all is said and done, mutual respect and trust are the prerequisites of a successful outcome.
Excerpted from the new guide, "The Case for Business Coaching How It Can Improve Your Performance, Productivity, and Profitability," which is available at no charge through the author's Web site www.ForwardMotion.info .