If a business coach doesn’t know your industry, let alone your business, and doesn’t bring tools, templates or solutions to help you deal with the difficulties you’re facing, then what on earth is the point? Well, in fact a great business coach can make a big difference to the performance of your organisation.
There is plenty of good data around that indicate that coaches really do assist with improved business performance (Joy McGovern et al, “Maximising the Impact of Executive Coaching: Behavioural Change, Organisational Outcomes, and Return on Investment,” Manchester Review 2001, Vol 6, No 1).
But what exactly do they do that has such value?
How A Great Business Coach Delivers Value
The value of great business coaches comes down to two essential characteristics:
They are great listeners, AND they ask great questions.
First, let’s take the listening.
Here listening means so much more than just lending someone an ear. It’s that “empathic listening” to which Stephen Covey refers:The listener is so engaged in what the speaker says that they actually feel similar emotions to the speaker’s.
Great coaches are so skilled in this that they listen not only to what is said, but also to what is not said – what is the underlying message? What may be being held back? Why?
Of course this takes us to the second element: The coach’s ability to ask “really great questions.”
This requires real courage on the part of the business coach, since in all likelihood there will be good reasons why the coaching counterpart is reluctant to share some specific information.
And a great coach will not be afraid to have those uncomfortable discussions, to ask the hard questions.
A Great Business Coach Finds The Gold Within
So great coaching is the ability to listen and to ask – but so what? Well, the essential underlying, and perhaps surprising, belief within the coaching space is this:
The client already has the answers to his/her problems.
And the coach’s role is to “find the gold within,” so it is actually the client who uncovers the solutions.
This has important beneficial outcomes:
Often the client has been failing to progress through lack of confidence. Exploring the options with the aid of a good sounding-board, and deriving solutions, builds self-confidence. And it can also lead to increased awareness of the problem domain.
Secondly, if the client comes up with the solution, imagine how much more invested he or she will be in following through and implementing that solution?
From the point of view of the business coach, one of the great things is that you never quite know where your questions may lead. Indeed this is frequently uncharted territory, so the coach needs to get comfortable with this uncertainty! And it can be quite amazing and revealing what good questions uncover.
How A Client Discovered His “Gold”
For example, one of my clients recently undertook a Facet5 Strategic Leadership Review (it combines a 360-degree profiling tool and the Facet5 personality profile itself).
From this exercise he got feedback that many of his direct reports did not believe he knew what they were doing. This both surprised and disappointed my client. Having come up through the ranks, he felt that in fact he had a very good handle on the activities of his staff. How could this situation have arisen?
Together we explored how this consistent theme had emerged. And we looked for “interferences” that might get in the way of his understanding of issues his staff members faced. It emerged that for many months he had been spending time reviewing the company’s very extensive price list. And he was also attending to other technical-related matters.
The Question That Unlocked The Opportunity
So I simply asked how frequently he met with his staff while these other priorities distracted him. You can probably guess that this was rarely – and you’d be right.
But it wasn’t because he didn’t want to do it. Simply he was already confident in their ability to do what they were supposed to do. Naturally his staff didn’t see it this way, as he had never properly communicated this confidence.
As a result of this experience, my client came to the realisation that he was actually spending time in his business on the wrong things!
Yet, interestingly, this important underlying recognition was not apparent from the feedback he received. It only surfaced after exploring what might be going on. I’m delighted to say that he is now in the process of developing strategies to address this.
What Now? Could You Too Find Gold?
Coaching is not for the fainthearted, but the benefits can be enormous. Explore the opportunity of working with a business coach first with a no-commitment discussion.
Contact Ian now.