What is business coaching?
There are many complex factors associated with coaching, ask anyone who uses the term and you will get a different definition. For me, the most straightforward explanation is that it describes;
a relationship that focusses on key activities arising from the facilitation of learning for individuals and teams at a cognitive and behavioural level.
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Why should I work with an external business coach?
There are many situations where an internal coach would be appropriate, however an external coach;
- offers a different perspective and experience base from which to coach and facilitate.
- is not affected by office politics or company culture, often enabling more candour.
- has no job specific positional authority, in this regard the coach is neutral.
- is entirely focussed on the coaching process and is not distracted or affected by internal issues.
What benefits am I likely to gain from working with a business coach?
There are many, every individual and team has a unique range of benefits however the two most quoted benefits of working with a coach are speed and confidence. Speed because the coaching process cuts through prevarication, anxiety, self doubt and error. Confidence because having fully understood and informed the analysis and planning phases the client can commit to action with more clarity and certainty.
How do I choose a good coach?
The single most important outcome for working with a coach is that you the client or customer (as an individual or as a team) should gain a deeper understanding of the role you have played in creating your current situation.
Many people, without the skilled interventions of a coach are unable to recognise the root cause, background choices or key drivers that have combined to create the current situation. A robust investigation of these areas along with several others is essential to create the understanding that will enable the client or customer to build a strategy and develop key actions that will combine to improve their chosen outcomes.
A good coach will challenge and support as necessary. Will stay with a topic or move on in support of your progress and goals. In order to achieve this both the client and the coach need to build an effective relationship.
To identify all this I believe that it is important to meet or at least speak with the coach. Most coaches offer free initial contact so it is a great opportunity to set up several phone calls with different coaches. Remember it is not about them it is about you, you must be comfortable.
A word also about testimonials, many of the bodies associated with coaching offer aspiring coaches the chance to coach each other and thus provide testimonials.
How long do I need to work with a coach for?
There is no set time for this, it is dependent on how much you as the client are gaining from the sessions with your coach. As a guide, most of our coaching interventions last for between 2-3 hours over 10-12 weeks. Although we have a number of clients who regularly contact us and others whom we have coached for just a couple of hours to get them through a specific event (usually a talk, presentation or negotiation). Several clients also contact us regularly to talk through a situation that is important to them.
Because people communicate in many highly complex and sophisticated verbal and non-verbal ways, we prefer face to face meetings where possible;
alternatives available are; telephone, instant message, e-mail and the web.
Can anyone coach?
The simple answer is yes, and many people do coach others both formally and informally. We believe that effective business coaching utilises a broad understanding of learning methodologies, team, group, system, sub-system and individual behaviour; along with enhanced communication, business tools and methodologies. A good coach will effortlessly provide the support needed.
Not everyone that uses the term coach to describe themselves is coaching. Read the articles I link to above. I agree with much of the CIPD one but not all; Ed Batista’s article describes one form of coaching, Gestalt; there are many other forms that coaching takes. Coaching differs from training in that a trainer holds the agenda and brings new skills and knowledge to you. When working with a coach, you hold the agenda around which they seek to build your understanding, interpretations, meanings and beliefs. Through this you then choose with guidance from the coach which learning and key actions you need to improve your performance.
Why are there so many different types of coach?
My personal view is that some terms are simply used descriptively in an attempt to appeal to a specific group of customers e.g. sports coach, business coach, executive coach, life coach or external coach. In my view, because a coach is focussed only on the process, a good coach will add value regardless of the environment or role in which they find themselves. Having said that a coach with direct experience of your area will be able to switch between the three roles of coach, trainer and even mentor. Though this of course would be re-contracted during the process.
With so many people adding the title Coach it will only get more confusing so as a starting point, remember to ask yourself the following questions.
Can the coach facilitate my learning whilst respecting who I am, without imposing their views and beliefs over mine (projection)?
Does the coach question deeply to understand WHY something happened the way it did?