How important is the right business coach?


Do they need to be the same as you? Have the experience you want to gain? Or be in the same sector that you are/want to be in?

These are all questions, among many more that you may be asking yourself when either being approached by a business coach, while you're talking to one or even after you have had your session.

While broadening my network of contacts, I took the decision to seek coaching from an experienced individual who is not only influential in the circles I would love to be involved in, but more so I feel like he understands what I am trying to achieve.

We can't get on with everybody in life and there a few people with whom you have a distinct understanding and even fewer who tell you that you remind them of themselves. When I first met my coach I had genuine reservations, not because he didn't have the relevant experience or ability to adapt his style but because he told me what I didn't want to hear on the day in question.

So what should you expect from a coach? Are they there to empathise with you and give emotional support if your business is failing? Not always. Are they there to tell you what you want to hear? Definitely not. Are they there to ask you more questions than give answers? Yes

It is my view that you should be able to be as selective with your business coach as you would be your life partner. This person is there to provide you with what you need to enhance yourself as an individual and help you succeed, it is their privilege to work with you as much as it is yours to have their help.

One of the main driving factors for me was someone that had the ability to view life from perspectives that I didn't.

My tips of what to look for in a good and effective coach are as follows:

  • They should be there as an ongoing supporter fitting around the time you have
  • They should keep their end of the bargain and follow-up on deliverables; this isn't just about you doing things so they can tick a few boxes
  • Provide feedback on signs of development
  • Ask for your opinion on the relationship as and when appropriate
  • Be willing to provide you with face to face coaching rather than distance
  • They should be able to provide other contacts in their network for you to meet
  • Agree on the outcomes of coaching; there is no point in a coach telling you how you should change if it not what you want or are comfortable with

Now some less conventional ones...

  • Be capable of getting you emotive; after all what use is a coach that can't establish what makes you passionate
  • Be there to learn something from you! No coach is perfect and every person is unique, they are there to learn from you as well

Overall would I say coaching is worthwhile? Yes. But only if you can find the right individual to unlock your potential. Use them wisely, your time with them is limited; preparation, follow-up and continual self-reflection is the key to making it worthwhile. You should always end a session asking yourself more questions than when you went in. You should be considering how you can use what you have spoken about to enhance your own way of working and that of others.

As a coach to small businesses and the colleagues I work with, it is vital I try to stick to these rules as much as possible. It is difficult sometimes to jump from one side of the fence to the other but it is also rewarding, anything I learn I try to pass on. All coaches may drop their focus at one time, but a brief nudge will have the relationship working in the right direction for you both.

How do you view strategy?


Is your thinking logical, motivational, balanced or long-term?

Having witnessed a number of changes across different organisations I thought it a good time to share my view on some of these and how, in hindsight, they could have been carried out better, even if the strategic decision was the same.

Let's firstly ask why we carry out strategic decisions and make changes within the organisation? To benefit the company, make more profit, increase external perception of the business, or to enhance the morale of staff and many, many more that I'm sure you can list.
Whatever your reason behind making a decision I would like to think it is always done with the best intentions and I'm sure you would like to think you took a balance view and considered the pro's and con's.

Let me ask you a question. Would you consider that analysing the Pro's and Con's of a scenario is the same as analysing the impact of how your decision will be received by others? I'm not saying that you need to involve all employees in any decision-making process, that would be ridiculous, but considering the decision in different frames could be key to success or failure.

What do I mean by frames?

Well lets consider the introduction of a new training contract that is designed to increase staff retention and provide them with double the number of paid training days out of work. The trade-off being they have to stay with you for two years rather than one after the training is completed. Sounds like a win all round on the face of it. The company increases staff retention and is giving a huge amount of investment to the employee in return, however lets consider it from a different view.

How would you feel if you were hamstrung into a two-year tie in period with a 100% claw back on any training fees? Most of us don't know what will happen one year from now, let alone in 3 or 4. Consider framing the issue as if you were one of the employees, are you really putting yourself in their shoes when making this unbiased rational decision.

So how about another scenario....

A decision is made to either re-brand the business or alter the 'company strap-line' in order to win new business, appeal to different market segments or fit in with current fashions. All of these are great reasons to re-brand, but how was the message communicated and who communicated the message? Was it left to just filter out via a message down through middle-management, or should it be communicated by the figure-head of the business; the individual that employees look to as their leader.

Here's not to say that all messages should be communicated on a one to one basis but have you considered that a change like this may have a different impact on each person. On a cultural level, they may consider it a step away from their engagement or appreciation by the company. Frame the change from a cultural perspective and consider the best way of giving a message, if you thought of the idea as the CEO who better to tell people; you will have the passion and charisma behind the decision.

The key to successful strategic change or repositioning is truly understanding the impact on all those it may touch. If you have always looked at decisions from an efficiency perspective or cost saving perspective, its likely you may never realise the true potential you possess.

I am currently undertaking a number of projects with companies who are looking at this type of change and would be more than happy to share my experiences.

In the meantime here is a link to a HBR articles on why strategy fails,