How to succeed with a business coach

by MSM Coaching on 6th September 2012

Today is the age of the business coach.

According to the CIPD’s 2008 learning and development survey, as many as 71% of UK organisations see coaching as a learning and development tool with most using it for general personal development or as a remedy for poor performance.

But if this applies to the corporate world where HR rules, what of the 98% of UK businesses employing fewer than 50 people, or the 89% with fewer than 10? Who looks out for the development needs of the entrepreneurs who are innovating, succeeding and otherwise breaking the mould? And who are already managing existing customer relationships, prospecting for new business, planning ahead and dealing with key personnel issues into the bargain.

The answer is, of course, those very same directors and owner/managers whose personal performance can so directly impact that of their company.

If you are one of these, it’s likely you’re beset by issues on which you can’t get a clear view, or which pose the business ongoing problems. Despite being successful, you don’t necessarily have all the answers you need. This may be due to work overload, a skills or experience gap, or personal weakness (we all have them). Furthermore your senior colleagues are probably in the same boat, leaving you short of clear direction on the best way forward.

This is exactly the kind of situation in which a business coach can help – by providing a resource that provides not just a sounding board for your thoughts and ideas but direct challenge to help shape and formulate your decisions. Probing but always supportive, the business coach provides the space, time and insight to help you see more clearly free from the daily distractions of normal business management.

Selection is the key

Let’s assume that you have the necessary vision to recognise the value a business coach could bring to your organisation. But from the plethora of coaches out there, how do you choose the right one for you?

First, you need to be diligent in confirming the credentials of the provider.

Because business coaching remains an unregulated profession with no clear qualification or accreditation parameters, it’s important to ask for recommendations from peers you respect. Be sure to vet the coach’s own business credentials. Of course you want someone with intuitive and analytical skills (check their professional coaching training and accreditations) but you also need them to have a proven business track record of their own. What direct experience do they have in managing or running companies, or in setting them up? For how long, and at what level?

This is especially relevant as you want informed insight into the business issues facing you, not generalised conclusions that you could arrive at yourself. The coach should also be able to evidence an ongoing business involvement – not just in managing their own coaching business but also in the wider fields of high-level networking, professional organisations or non-executive directorships.

Make sure that an initial trial (preferably free) session is available to test the water. You’re going to spend considerable one-to-one time with this person so you need to feel comfortable. It’s the same for your coach, of course, who should be professional enough to walk away from the assignment if there are any misgivings on either side.

Like any business service coaching really does have to deliver against the investment being made in it, so check value measurements are in place before you start. Your coach should be as keen on this as you need to be and their relevant business experience should make this a given. The process should include establishing overall objectives for the coaching as a whole as well as for each individual session with an evaluation at the end to assess progress and value.

Buy coaching with the same care and attention you would apply to your other core business services and you should secure a measurable improvement in both your individual, and your business’s, performance that will have lasting results for the better.

I would like to hear your thoughts, please email