What a business coach can mean for you
Choosing the right business coach who will be able to help you unlock your potential and reach new levels of success is a unique business decision. It’s personal. I will be poring over your own business abilities as much as your company's balance sheet. It’s dependent on the rhythm of our relationship. We have to be in tune.
It has to be a relationship with a heartbeat, not a cold transaction. It’s all about trust. Trusting that, as your business coach, I have the experience and knowledge to help you, and the wisdom to steer you to a better place. It’s trusting that I genuinely care about helping you to grow as a person so that you can make your business soar.
How can you tell if that’s going to happen? I am passionate about music, with a long history in the music industry. So I like to use a musical analogy.
Imagine you play the guitar and you’re stuck in a rut. Learning on your own has got you only so far. So, you search for local guitar teachers and find someone to take you on as a student. The teacher shows up, they don’t bring an instrument, they just sit in the corner and watch you play. Then, they hand you a book of scales and tell you to practice every day.
Would you feel inspired? Understood? Injected with passion? I doubt it. Now, in this analogy, if I were that teacher I’d unpack my guitar straight away and invite you to jam with me so I could hear you play. I would start out with trying to understand your skill level whilst instantly getting hands-on, intuitively working with you side by side, naturally demonstrating my own skills at the same time.
Clearly, these two very different experiences would leave you with very different impressions, not only about our teaching ability but the value for money you’re getting out of the lessons. It’s not so different with business coaching. You want to work with someone who is invested in your growth, with the proven skills and rigorous methods to get you there.
But how do you choose from the thousands of business coaches you’ll find in a Google search? Here are some important areas to consider before you choose the right business coach for you. Think of it as selection criteria. It’s your money. It’s your passion. It’s your success. Due diligence is essential.
What to look for in a business coach
Some of the best music producers can’t play a note. Some of the best musicians can’t step back and put the pieces together to create the alchemy that makes a great song. Success on stage and at the mixing desk is a rare combination. You need a business coach who has headed up their own boardroom in successful businesses as well as coaching others to run theirs. I came to business coaching through purpose, not as a business opportunity. After decades in business, much of it in high-pressure founder and senior partner roles, I followed my passion for inspiring others and sharing my knowledge and love for business. Coaching was the vehicle to do that. Before you engage a coach, ask about their business career, the lows being just as important as the highs, and check their testimonials (here are some of mine) or ask for references.
Enthusiasm and energy
Your coach should have an infectious passion for helping people, with the energy to match. They don’t have to be a shameless extrovert, but you should get a sense of their love for helping people succeed and their genuine love of driving a business forward. These traits should be evident at your first meeting. If you don’t get the feeling that they're buzzing to help you, walk away. The second part of this is the teaching. You need a coach who selflessly enjoys the teaching aspect, because this is the heart of the coaching process. The beat of the drum. I can, hand on heart, honestly say that teaching others and seeing positive results is my genuine passion. Evolving your business – with love.
You’re inviting a coach into your business, which could be privately owned or a family business. Your business performance is linked to you, your goals, values, work ethic and so on. All of which means you’re inviting your coach into a space where the professional and personal can overlap. You’re already thinking one word: trust. You need to trust that they can act with discretion. Do they talk about other clients? Do they brag about their connections? If they do, these are red flags. The power of an external coach is that they’re objective and are there to support you. You should be able to share the details of your business with them as well as your concerns and fears without worrying that you’ll be fodder for conversation with their coaching buddies or other clients.
To be truly effective, working with a business coach needs to feel natural and organic. The coaching process is going to be quite a journey, and you don’t want to wait too long when there are things on your mind you want to bounce off your coach, or problems you want them to help you tackle. Your coach should be available to you. They shouldn’t struggle to fit you into their schedule or take an eternity to respond to calls or emails. They also shouldn’t hide behind a secretary. They might use someone to help them stay organised, but you shouldn’t feel like that person’s job is a gatekeeper. With accessibility comes flexibility. Do you prefer face-to-face meetings or video conferences? Do you like to take deep dives or short sprints? Everyone has a different cadence in their lives and their learning, and a good business coach adapts to yours.
There are no participation awards in the business world. Successful people know they can achieve more, and they have a hunger for learning. They love a challenge. They realise that hard truths, even uncomfortable truths, are all part of the growing process. Radical candour can be hard truths, that should be delivered by your business coach with genuine care. It can be an iron fist in a velvet glove. But it should always be the truth that you need to hear to help you grow. The professional mask clients may have been wearing for decades can get thrown in the bin, as they enter a more vulnerable and honest space. But I really believe the process should come with genuine care and love.
Tough love is linked to radical candour, but it’s a closer look at the coach’s methods. Your coach should hold you accountable. When I work with my clients, I outline expectations for your effort and time, and tell you what you can achieve if you are willing to do the work. It’s called tough love because, if you’re not delivering or upholding your end of the bargain, you’re going to hear about it in no uncertain terms. I will push you to adopt what you learn. The work is in the doing, and its fruits are your success. There are no growth hacks or quick fixes, just like your personal trainer can’t do the push ups for you, I can’t take your place. It’s purely down to your hard work, commitment and measurable results.
Empathy is about assuming someone else’s life circumstances, walking a mile in their shoes to genuinely understand what they are going through. It starts with listening. Listening with a view to understanding sets the scene for a relationship built on trust. My approach is to form an alliance with you and stand by you in the trenches, experiencing the highs and lows and always being ready to hear what you have to say. Empathy also means that understanding flows in both directions. I know that it’s not just about hearing you out and listening well, but also about me communicating clearly too; being generous in sharing my knowledge and insights.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Ask your business coach to outline their process and methods upfront. Does it seem structured, measurable, purposeful? Or does it seem like a collection of one-on-one motivational speeches taken straight out of a ‘one size fits all’ manual? You should see a clear process; a road map with a start, then milestones along the way, and a clear endpoint. This is critical because coaching – good coaching – works.
Two well-known business leaders, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft, speak to the value of business coaching. After saying, “I don’t really need a coach, I’ve been an experienced CEO for many years,” former Google CEO, Schmidt, was persuaded to work with the late Bill Campbell, former Apple Director and Inuit CEO, and was soon convinced. “Once you met Bill, you knew you wanted him to help. What stood out is that he excelled with sky-high EQ and knowing people and culture. He understood how to solve human problems and motivate people. There is nobody who had a bigger impact across the industry.” And, as Gates famously said in his TED talk with Schmidt, “Everyone needs a coach, whether we are a CEO, leader, teacher, basketball player or bridge player, we all need people who will help us reach our goals and give us feedback.”
The value of coaching can be validated. A study conducted by MetrixGlobal LLC showed that coaching produced a 529% return on investment and significant intangible benefits to the business. That’s a £5 return for every £1 spent. There is real value in coaching, and that real value is unearthed through sound methodology.
So, will we be a match?
After giving you all that food for thought, are we a match? Would we work well together?
Over the years I’ve found there are common beliefs of clients with whom I’ve had - and continue to have - the most mutually-rewarding working relationships. Here they are, in no particular order:
Hunger to learn
Ready for change
Open to new ideas
Has a growth mindset
Serious about their work
Enjoys being challenged, isn't precious
Purpose-led, seeks influence before profit
Knows that business is a marathon not a sprint
Looks for people better than themselves to join the team
Cares about the workforce; building a great culture is crucial
Realises that their life and business are their own responsibility
Will always put long-term sustainability ahead of short-term profit
Willingness to work on assignments between sessions - do their homework
Committed to continuous learning and development, personally and professionally
If what I’ve said in this article strikes a chord and is igniting your passion and your thirst to develop, what are you waiting for?
If you’re unsure whether or not you need the support of a business coach and want to understand how your business is currently performing, try out my free, no strings attached, RealityCheck® tool. It takes just 10 minutes and will allow you to discover the strengths and weaknesses of your business and understand which areas offer the best opportunity for improvement.
It’s proven that leaders who find and use an effective coach are more successful. Get in touch today and find out how working with me could help you unlock your full potential and achieve your goals. I’d love to hear from you, Alan Wick.