When I was a kid in Sydney the term ‘coach’ was rarely used. I only really heard about ‘coaches’ in American films. They were the ones who trained the basketball team. Now coaches are everywhere. Every Australian team has a squad of coaches. Then there are life coaches and business coaches. How does ‘coaching’ differ from more conventional forms of leadership? To answer this question I went straight to a leading authority – a book called Coaching for Dummies!!!
What is Coaching?
According to Coaching for Dummies, coaching means helping someone become more effective, but you have to support and involve that person in the whole process of improving. An old-fashioned teacher would have told you what you need to learn, but with your coach you discover what you must learn. Coaching enables you to become more adaptive, productive and better retain information. In the corporate world supervisors are being told they no longer ‘manage’ staff, they instead must ‘coach’ their team members. It’s the supervisor’s job to develop their workers’ skills and teach them to become self-sufficient. It’s the same with life coaching, you aren’t telling a client what they need to do; you go on a journey together to discover the best course of action.
One upon a time in the business world, the manager had the excessive workload, but now managers must motivate their staff to learn, grow and work hard too. Like a top athlete, the employee is expected to give it their all. The same is true if you engage a life coach. You are meant to commit to the relationship if you are going to get the most out of it.
Coaching versus M
Sometimes the words ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ are used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Coaching is usually carried out over a short-time period and does not involve a deep interpersonal relationship. Mentoring is long-term and the mentee usually admires and has a personal connection to their mentor.
The corporate world still engages external coaches, and believe me these people earn big dollars. According to a recent article on coaching in the Forbes business magazine, coaches earn about $500 per hour. The top three reasons a coach is hired is to (1) develop the skills of high performers (2) act as a sounding board and (3) address bad behaviour. More than 70 percent of coaches said they discuss personal issues with their business clients, but the Forbes survey also found that executives believe coaches cannot ‘fix’ badly behaved individuals – “Blamers, victims, and individuals with iron-clad belief systems don’t change.”
The Skills You Need
If you are considering a career as a life coach or business coach you need skills that come from both business consultancy and therapy. As a business consultant you must come up with the right answers for the company, but as a coach you need to give wise advice to the client. As a therapist your focus is often on past trauma, as a coach you have to ask the client the right questions about past mistakes. A consultant tells the client how to improve performance while a coach involves the client in goal setting. A therapist diagnoses dysfunction, a coach engages the client to tackle the difficult issues. If you have a long-term interest in self-improvement and an understanding of the business world, you probably have the skill set to become a business coach.
The US Entrepreneur website recently ran a great story on the top 10 skills business coaches need. First on the list was experience. Your resume has to include a solid track-record in business. Ideally you need to include testimonials from people you knew in the corporate world.
The second most important ingredient was attitude. A good coach has been through good times and bad times and is still smiling and has a sense of humour. A good coach remains cool under pressure.
A willingness to share is the third most sought after trait. You don’t want a secretive coach, but someone who is outgoing and generous. Expertise is also essential. Has this coach done much public speaking? Do they have a blog and a strong reputation in their field? Accessibility is also vital. The coach must respond to emails and be willing to tailor the program to the needs of the client, to fit their strengths and weaknesses.
The best coaches are also networkers. They will be able to introduce you to people who can help your career or business or at least point you in the right direction – tell you what clubs and associations you need to join. Part of the coaching arrangement is also that the client knows exactly what they are getting into. What is the time commitment?
A good coach should love their work. They need to fit with their client and also enjoy teaching. Good coaches want to help their clients. If the coach is bad tempered, constantly late and not committed they are hardly going to inspire their client. A good coach also has the ability to motivate their client and hold them to account. They aren’t easily bluffed or fooled. They won’t let their client talk their way out of putting in the hard yards. But the best coaches also allow their clients to ask questions and make decisions they’re happy with. The person being coached must take responsibility for their actions.
The role of a coach is to get their client to take stock, re-evaluate and decide what they need to focus on next. Life and business coaches should push you up and onwards to the next level of success. You know that requires thought, making choices and taking action, but it’s the coach’s role to accelerate and support you through that process. If you think you need a coach to break through to that next level of success – go for it, get online, start reading the testimonials of coaches and find the right one.
Alternatively if you are considering a career in coaching, I wish you the best of luck. You do not have to be registered or accredited in Australia. You just need a solid reputation and the right skill mix. Athletes have always relied on coaches to improve, and now the rest of us have cottoned on to the power of coaching!