Yes, that’s what you read! It’s out there as I write about my long suffering business partner. Why? Because Heather’s a great coach. What is a great coach, what makes business coaching so valuable and why was I in that position?
The back story
Sometimes we find ourselves asking questions, not doing all the things we said we would, and not feeling good about that. All of us, and I’m no exception. Even coaches need coaching. While walking around our offices I turned to Heather and asked her to “fix it”. It’s not a coaches role to fix things for you, they ask the great questions that allow you to see the answer. A great coach helps you reflect and learn from yourself and your actions, as well as (most importantly) help you focus on the actions you will take. So there I was, I asked, she wouldn’t let go (and the issue got solved).
What does a great business coach do?
Heather helped me structure my thinking; she gently and patiently asked questions that focused me. Great coaches are patient, their role is to help you become clear on your solution and what needs to happen next. A good business coach has the skill to diagnose the issues in your firm, be they personal or systemic. They know the best solutions your ones, so they help you create the solution, rather than jumping in and doing it for you. Like many people being asked direct questions about something that they know they’re trying to avoid, I went off piste. Then the questions I was being asked got more difficult.
What is it about difficult questions?
Difficult questions are the good ones, the ones that really need answering to help you find the answer. OK, I could kill Heather at this point, as they were hard, especially when asked again and again. That’s another skill of a great coach, knowing when to press harder for an answer.
Why my clients hate me!
It’s funny as I sit writing this; there are times when my clients tell me that I’m evil, as I ask hard questions – so my clients get great results. My years of experience have shown me that hard questions often lead to easy things, they help you structure thoughts and see for yourself. The difference between being told something and working it out is huge. One doesn’t lead very far, the other to being able to make step changes in the way you interact with clients, staff and your marketing.
What qualifies somebody to be a great coach?
I don’t really hate Heather, but wouldn’t use her as my regular coach (I have somebody else for that) as she knows me too well and we run a business together. The scope for conflict is huge, so avoid people you know really well. Lots of “business coaches” don’t have any professional accreditation, some have the right credentials – but you don’t get on with them! There are a couple of important questions.
Who is a good coach for you?
Does their knowledge and experience fit what you’re looking for? How do they work, some are a lot more directive than others. Going beyond that, consider their approach to business and in fact life more generally. Business coaching is about business, but it’s a personal engagement. The best questions Heather asked of me were not simple business questions. At one level, you need to buy into who your coach is and why they do it.
Are you ready for coaching?
Heather challenged me, she pushed me, I squirmed. That’s really important (the pushing, not the squirming). A good coach will challenge you to figure out what’s stopping you from creating the firm you want, in your way (isn’t that the only competitive difference between two firms?). So, if you’re not yet ready for challenge, to be pushed and to take on new ideas in order to achieve your goal – you’re not yet ready for coaching. Maybe you just need to be given an answer and work out the hard stuff another time.
What else does a coach do?
I’m always being told by clients that I “you hold my feet to the fire”. Accountability to actually deliver is critical, all the great ideas in the world are useless…unless actioned. They are of course honest and help you see the world in a different way. “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.” Tom Landry
What happened in the end?
Heather didn’t just ask questions, she listened. Being a good listener is rare nowadays, but coaching is more than listening. A business coach can’t help you unless they understand what makes a great professional firm. They must also inspire you to do more than just talk. We walked, talked, dealt with the awkward issue and more… Problem sorted, off I skipped. What was that problem – aha, that’s the subject of another article! In case you’re wondering, no I don’t really hate Heather and yes, all business coaches need coaching too – the best coaches use the best coaches. What are your thoughts on business coaching?