Business Strategist, Tech Investor and Entrepeneur
Apart from being mentioned in the list it was also good to see that LinkedIn is recognising Coaching as a profession. But really what do coaches do? It is an issue faced by the industry which currently lacks formal regulation and a problem with a title that is widely misunderstood and overused.
It seems anyone these days can call themselves a coach. Health coaches, career coaches, executive coaches, marketing coaches, sales coaches the list is endless. So when you are looking for the right advice in your business how do you sort through the plethora of coaches and find one that suits.
In fact do you even need a coach?
The first step is to consider what help you need in your business. Behind coaching is many key concepts and misnomers so let’s look at them here:
The fundamentals behind coaching is to help develop new skills and to hone existing skills to help someone become a master at their trade. In finding a coach, it is best to look for someone who has a true understanding of what you are trying to achieve and who you respect and feel you can learn from.
Let’s take the example of James the Business owner who wants to grow his business. He needs more sales and he thinks he needs better marketing. If James chooses a Marketing Coach the assumption is that he wants to hone his skills in marketing. The reality is that James needs to know how to grow his business and needs a coach who knows how to grow businesses. Marketing will be addressed at a higher level and the business coaching process may uncover fundamental business or sales issues before marketing is even considered.
Coaching is all about developing your skills so if you are a business owner you most likely need a business coach. It makes no sense to employee a marketing coach to fix your marketing if you have no interested in doing marketing yourself.
Most of all your coach should be someone who you feel you can have a relationship with that will allow them to challenge you and help you to question beliefs that may have become the norm but may be due for revisiting.
Coaching helps to get the best from what you already have as long as you are prepared to be challenged.
In a different context to coaching, Business Consulting brings new information to the relationship. Consulting typically assumes that the consultant has knowledge, skills and know-how which the client is paying for. Like coaches, there are just as many different types of “consultants” in the marketplace.
Where this becomes confusing is that clients are not sure how to tell the difference between coaching and consulting.
This can be quite dangerous when a coach moves in to the realms of consulting and starts to give opinions and ideas when this is not their core strength.
For the client this is a key area you need to consider when selecting a coach. Are you expecting them to give you consulting advise as well as coaching and if so are they qualified to do so. Also, what tools are they bringing in to your business to improve it? Do they come with frameworks, models, systems or other specific intellectual property. If so this is likely to be consulting but this is where the lines blur. The way this is implemented in your business will define if they are pure consultants or hybrid coach/consultants. The way to tell is how this IP is implemented in to your business. A hybrid coach/consultant brings these new frameworks in to your business and coaches you on embedding them in to your business for your own use in a way that suits you.
Above all, if you are choosing consulting, have they been in business before and do they have the experience that you would like to learn from?
When it all boils down, businesses are a collection of people and interactions. As a business owner or manager it can be an isolated and lonely journey. Having a confidant to share your struggles is often very helpful. A great number of coaches come from a background of personal development and life coaching. The key to finding a personal coach is finding someone whose core values are aligned to yours. Whilst this can offer you some great personal insights, be sure that you are clear if your coach is working with you on Personal Coaching as distinct from Business Coaching or Consulting so that you expectations are clear and your have a realistic understanding of what to expect. Personal coaching works on the basis that getting you aligned will ultimately benefit your business.
Whilst all the above is fine if you have an existing business, what if you are still in the early stages of growth. Can your coach help you to create something from a very low base. Coaching, consulting and counselling alone will not help if you are in fact looking for someone to help you create a new business. This is yet another unique skill set as there could be some key gaps in your business and you may be looking for a coach to help fill these gaps. Beware that very few coaches have in fact built their own successful business from scratch, raised capital and then sold it. If this is what you are looking for then make sure your coach has experience in creating businesses that are aligned to what you are trying to create.
Coaches need to specialise. Either an industry, a niche or a style there must be something they are particularly suited to. Ask your potential coach where they specialise and ask for examples of clients they have helped. If they tell you they can offer you everything then think carefully about what they are really offering.
The best coaches know where they specialise and where they will refer. Personally I like the fact that I work with a collective of like minded coaches utilising the same frameworks for businesses which can be used at various stages of business growth from startups to $250M, however within the team we each bringing our own skill-sets and specialities to the client including personal skills, industry niches and business size focuses.
Coaches Give Clarity……. I recall after my initial work as a Business coach from 2002-2003, I decided to get back to build another IT business. Having formally trained as a Business Coach/Consultant and with a kit back full of IP I had all the tools at my fingertip. However, I still made the decision to get myself a coach from day one of going back in to business for myself. Why? This was someone I had worked alongside in the coaching business who could work with me as my outside eyes and ears as I knew that once I was consumed in my business again, it doesn’t matter how much I already know, I would be blinded to so may parts of my business as I was now consumed in it again.
You Can’t Know Everything.
Even coaches have coaches so if your coach does not have their own coach then you should look elsewhere immediately.
The most important aspect of choosing a coach is to be clear about the outcome that your are seeking. Coaching for the sake of coaching will feel great for the first 3-6 months, but before long the relationship will stall. Clear outcomes should be agreed early in the relationship and progress checked along the way. Sure the direction is likely to change as the journey unfolds but having a clear outcome goal upfront will create rigour in the relationship and keep everyone focussed on what they are in the relationship for and to be sure that you are getting your outcome.
Coaching is a relationship not just a transaction, so choose wisely and with the right coach you will also be getting a business partner with your best business and personal interests at heart.
About the Author : Ross Hanson is a Business Strategist and Tech investor who has built and sold numerous technology businesses over the past 20 years. What does this mean in the context of this article? Coaching, consulting and creating for innovative companies who are looking to Grow, Fund and Exit their business. Working with clients in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast and New York.
If you would like to find out more about how coaching can help your business, Ross can be contacted here.