Do You Need a Business Coach?
By Susan Pilgram, Ph.D.
Do you feel you could use some help getting the results you desire on a personal and professional basis? Could you benefit from an objective point of view when you're having difficulty seeing what's most important? Are you energized when challenged to stretch beyond your comfort zone?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could be a prime candidate for business and executive coaching - a highly individualized, one-on-one confidential process designed to help you achieve the results you desire. As a small business owner, you already know the value of coaching. You engage in coaching every day in the workplace when you give input or constructive feedback to employees.
The benefits of coaching
Coaching can be extremely beneficial for small business owners. Consider the following scenarios commonly experienced by most owners:
- On a daily basis, it's likely that you have no peers to consult with or seek advice from.
- Your employees expect that you have all the answers and need no help, and you may have the same expectations of yourself.
- You feel that you have many things to do and not enough time to do them right.
- You often engage in tunnel vision - being so focused on one aspect of the business that others are neglected.
- You may have unresolved personal and emotional issues that interfere with clear decision-making.
Being involved in coaching gives you an opportunity to achieve specific results and enables you to receive feedback on your plans and ideas. It allows you to express yourself in a neutral environment and helps you hear how your plans sound when you say them aloud.
The most-often cited benefits of coaching include achieving desired results more quickly, addressing areas needing development, capitalizing on strengths and skill-sets and building self-confidence. The agenda methods and techniques used during the process are specific to you, based on your individual needs and desires. Your coach offers an objective perspective and a different point of view. And, perhaps most importantly, the coaching process obligates you to be fully involved and responsible for the outcomes.
Group coaching and teleconferences
An increasingly popular alternative to one-on-one coaching for many professionals is group coaching, whereby a group of individuals (e.g., managers, work-at-home moms, CEOs, real estate agents) meet together with a coach, often via a teleconference. Fees for group coaching tend to be much less than for individual sessions, says Allison Gaea Jucha, founder of Yes!Coaching.
Groups usually meet once or twice a month, and sometimes as often as weekly. You may be able to "test drive" a group by sitting in on a session to see if the group dynamics will work for you. To find a group, visit the Web sites for the International Coaching Federation (www.coachfederation.org) and Coach University (www.coachu.com), both of which have referral pages which allow you to search for a coach based on such criteria as geographic area, area of expertise, etc.
Another efficient way to glean expertise and share experiences with peers is a professional teleforum conference call. One provider of such calls is PowerHour(r), a professional business coaching service. According to founder Ernest F. Oriente, The Coach, participants join in the hour-long calls free of charge (except for the cost of the long-distance phone call). Oriente lines up experts on various business topics (e.g., sales, management, marketing) who make presentations during the calls, with participants free to chime in and ask questions.
Oriente offers one-on-one business coaching with a little bit of a twist: All of his training is done over the phone. To learn more, visit his Web site at www.coachingsuccess.com.
Selecting a coach
Business and executive coaching is becoming a popular profession, with an estimated 10,000 professional coaches worldwide. Selecting the right coach for you is critical to the success of the process. To locate a coach, ask your business peers and friends for referrals. You can also contact the International Coaching Federation (ICF) at www.coachfederation.org or at 888-236-9262 to access their free referral service. Once you've identified potential coaches, use the following guidelines to make your selection:
- Feel comfortable and connected. Did you feel positive about the coach in your first contact? Was he or she listening to what you wanted to accomplish? Did he or she ask questions? Did you feel you connected? Do you feel you can trust this person? Are you willing to share your desires, dreams, thoughts and feelings with this person?
- Ask about the process and techniques that are used. Is the process standard for all clients or is it customized to your way of learning and responding to issues? What specific techniques might be used? (These will vary from coach to coach. Go with the one that seems to resonate with you.) How long does the process take? How much time is needed? (The responses will vary depending on the specificity of your desired results and how much effort, time and resources you're willing to commit.)
- Ask about their credentials. What training have they had in the coaching process? (Coach University is one of the organizations that offers training.) What is their educational background? How many people have they coached? How many years have they been coaching? What types of people have they coached? What certifications do they hold? (The ICF is in the process of accrediting coaches, so you may not find any certified coaches yet.) In other words, what gives them the right to call themselves a coach and to work with you?
- Assure confidentiality. Verify that the coach will keep your relationship and whatever you discuss confidential unless you give explicit permission for the nature of your relationship to be revealed.
- Ask for at least five references. Call each reference and ask how the process worked out for them; more specifically, how the coach helped them accomplish their results. Ask any question that will help you understand how this coach works (but refrain from asking personal questions).
- Ask about the logistics. How available is the coach to work with you? When will the sessions be scheduled and where will they take place? Will the coaching take place in person or by telephone? How much flexibility does the coach have? What's the cancellation policy? Are the time and place convenient for you? Are short telephone or e-mail contact available?
- Consider your investment. What is the cost in time and money? Are there special discount packages available? Is a retainer relationship available? What are the payment arrangements? Are you willing to make the investment and commitment?
In summary, business and executive coaching can be an important tool in your personal and professional development. It puts you in a better position to make the best decisions for your company - and yourself.
Susan Pilgrim, Ph.D., is president of InSync® Resources. She specializes in engaging the spirit of individuals, teams and organizations through her executive coaching and consulting services. She's the author of Living InSync®- Creating Your Life with Balance and Purpose.