Unlike traditional business consultants, business coaches don’t fix problems for their clients and then go away. Instead, a business coach helps guide business owners into determining their own solutions to their problems. The coach guides the client in putting strategic plans in place which will solve the problems or capitalize on new opportunities. The coach facilitates creative and strategic brainstorming. The coach then helps to facilitate the creation of tactical “action steps” that the client or client company will take to implement the strategy. Once the action steps are committed to, a good coach provides a structured environment where the client is accountable to him or herself for executing the plans.
A business coach is very much like a coach you may have had in sports, music, or the arts. If you’ve had a coach before, you know what a coach does. Coaches encourage, challenge and teach. They also provide structure and accountability to the people they coach. Coaches reinforce positive advancement and bring people back to the fundamentals when needed. They push the people they coach to reach their full potential. Coaches can give a hug or give a kick and they know when to do which! A good coach leads by example and is inspiring to those around him/her. Yes, a coach is a role model.
Business coaching is absolutely an art and a science. Professional business coaches have to know themselves, know other people, and they must know business! Much of what a business coach does comes naturally, but there are also many important techniques and skills they need to master in order to provide excellence to their clients.
Business coaching is a booming industry for one simple reason: Professional business coaching works.
The ultimate responsibility of a business coach is to provide a “safe place” to guide and support his or her clients in reaching the clients’ stated objectives. The term “safe place” is critically important to this definition and should be clarified in more detail since the meaning of this term is not necessarily self-evident.
The term “safe place” refers to a positive, supportive environment that is free from judgment or hidden agendas. There are also no self-imposed (or “coach imposed”) limitations on what is possible. In this safe environment, the client is free to speak openly and honestly, knowing that anything discussed will be held in complete confidence. If “providing a safe place” doesn’t seem significant, just think of this:
Business owners (and leaders) are people. They are wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. Many business owners have employees, who also have families. They have vendors. They have clients. They may have shareholders or partners. They have bankers, accountants, and lawyers. And these are the people that business owners usually talk to and get advice from (solicited and unsolicited). The problem is that, due to the nature of those relationships, there are often “hidden agendas” that are represented in the advice from these different constituencies. This is not unfair; it’s just the way it is. Everyone has needs and wants and our opinions or advice may be tainted by having our own ends in mind. To be sure, people don’t do this to be insensitive or manipulative. It’s just human nature.
However, when a person hires a business coach, the coach represents the self-interests of just one person: The client. There are absolutely no hidden agendas – ever.
Another thing our loved ones tend to do is to “protect us”. People don’t want to see their loved ones get hurt and therefore try to protect them from “failure”. They may try to minimize the risk of failing by sharing their own beliefs. This may result in the business owner adopting those beliefs of what can and cannot be done. Imagine how many people lived and died without ever going after their dreams due to a loved one projecting self-limiting beliefs.
The fact is people constantly project their own ideas, opinions, thoughts, agendas, and even fears onto other people. That is normal and precisely why it is so essential to have a place that is “safe” from all that noise. That safe place is with a business coach.
The second distinct area where a business coach can help is when the client knows what he or she should be doing, but isn’t doing it - or – when the client is knowingly doing something he or she should not be doing but continues to do it anyway. This is what we call “personal effectiveness.”
Many personal effectiveness issues stem from bad habits and addictions. Others actually stem from personal strengths that are overused to the extent that they turn into weaknesses. For example, think of how strong a bull is… That’s not an asset when you put him in a china shop!
Personal effectiveness starts with knowing yourself and knowing your own personal vision and goals. Then it moves to how you interact with other people of all personality and behavioral types. Ultimately, personal effectiveness is about behavior that is congruent with values. It is about being mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.
Considering all the pressures in our world, it is very difficult to maintain personal effectiveness without paying ongoing, deliberate attention to it. A business coach provides the structure and knowledge necessary to help people maximize their own personal effectiveness.
Check back for upcoming posts on A Safe Place and The Difference Between Coaching and Consulting.
Business coaches help business owners (or business leaders) in business effectiveness and personal effectiveness.
Business coaches work with business owners and business executives in two distinct areas. First, they help business owners who don’t know what to do in a particular area of his or her business. We call this “business effectiveness.” All areas of business effectiveness fall into the broader categories of Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Leadership Development, Human Resources, Systems Implementation, Strategic Planning, Financial Management, and Exit Planning / Succession Planning.
Business coaches work with successful people who are “stuck” in certain areas of their business. These areas can be related to low profits, sluggish sales, cash flow challenges, people problems, or working too many hours, which can result in an unhealthy work-life balance. Other common challenges include service failures, quality issues, lack of leadership depth, a poor company culture and limited company value.
Some of these problems make a business owner feel paralyzed. They are filled with concern, stress, frustration, anger, grief and doubt. These negative emotions compound the challenges business owners face and can create new problems of their own - some at work, others at home.
A professional business coach helps get the client out of the proverbial trees so the owner can work strategically on business development and systematically solve these problems. Over time, this results in better cash flow, higher profits, and a happier workplace, which in turn leads to a healthy, productive, and joyful life.
Be sure to read upcoming posts on Personal Effectiveness, A Safe Place and The Difference Between Coaching and Consulting.
Heike Heemann, business coach and advisor, brings over 20 years of business experience to her blog.