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Business Coaching, Who needs it!

Why is something that is so obvious so hard to grasp sometimes? When I mentioned casually to group of friends watching a golf tournament that I do business coaching, one remark came back, “Coaching, who needs it.” What struck me was not the attitude, but the irony that all of us were watching people play a game we all could play only they were playing for a decade’s salary every 4 days. And every one of them wouldn’t be in the game without his/her coach. 

In fact, look around and notice that everyone that our culture puts on a pedestal has a coach. America may have been built by rugged individualism but today what works is rugged individualistic coaching. And the last bastion of non-coaching is in the executive suite of most small businesses. That excites me! 

Many executives confuse advice and coaching. Maybe it’s because business is comfortable with advisors, from the board of directors to your lawyer to your banker and accountant. All these experts offer advice in their area and most businesses make it a point to isolate their advice. Like a painter, advisors add value. But advice is not coaching. Coaching is a focused relationship designed to bring out the best in an individual. Think of a sculptor bringing out the beauty of what is already there at the start. 

Coaching has its roots in sports as far back as 1831. Executive coaching started in the 1930’s and grew slowly until the 1980’s, primarily in large organizations. In the 1990’s coaching exploded. Today there are 40,000 business coaches worldwide generating $2.4 billion in revenue and growing at 18% per year.

Does coaching work? A 2009 Sherpa Executive Coaching Survey found 91% of organizations using coaches rated their benefits as somewhat high to very high. And 92% of those coached would hire one again.

The primary reason for coaching has been for leadership development. In large businesses this is obvious. In small business the ego of the entrepreneur often gets in the way. Succession planning for small businesses would benefit from coaching the heir apparent, yet too many “Big Dog” owners are afraid to share their “secrets” or admit their chosen one has some rough edges. Many rocky transitions take place for lack of a little executive coaching. 

Other reasons for coaching include transitioning new personnel into a company, retention of high potential talent (better than a raise), performance issues, and team development issues. In all cases the coach and executive(s) set goals, agree on milestones, discuss strategies and review results. Some typical engagements may include:

  1.  Motivating, leading, and developing others

  2. Critical conversations and decision making

  3. Personal, professional, and organization performance

  4. Changing career limiting behavior

  5. Time control, managing stress, and avoiding burnout

  6. Maximizing opportunities in times of change or transition

 Most executives like four things in coaching: 1) confidentiality, 2) increased focus, 3) third party accountability, and 4) win/win mindset. My clients set the agenda and like most coaches, I determine the right approach for each client.

  Typical engagements run three to six months initially. Fees vary with experience and prominence. Most coaches charge between $1,000 and $10,000 per month. Sessions usually require three to six hours per month.

 Coaches usually come with a wide variety of business experience yet share common threads. They are good listeners, empathetic, and goal oriented. They understand both team chemistry and EBITDA. And they are sculptors at heart.

 Finally, good coaches are role models. As such they have a coach. As a coach, I have found I actually need even more coaching to remain effective. So I have daily sessions with my coach who is also my Lord and Creator. I look to him for counsel instead of my own narrow perspective. He gives me a daily game plan for helping others and keeps me on the right path.

 Meanwhile, we all watch a golfer make a four foot putt worth $300,000 in marginal prize money, and I wonder “who is his putting coach?” For our pro golfer, one tip can make a big difference; the same is true for most business executives.

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