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If you’re an entrepreneur or a leader in your company, business coaching might be the last thing on your mind. These positions can get lonely — the higher you rise in corporate executive ranks, the more limited your opportunities for mentoring and coaching are. At the same time, demands on your time and attention increase.
It can even be worse for small business owners who often operate in isolation without expert advice or feedback. So how do entrepreneurs and corporate executives continue to grow as their roles and businesses expand?
A business coach could be the answer for you. Business coaches are seasoned professionals who enable startups, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders with advice and feedback based on their real business needs.
The best business coaches combine real-world business experience with coaching skills like active listening and the ability to ask powerful questions. What’s more, a business coach can be a catalyst for creating and achieving action plans. They can also help with KPIs that drive accountability, real results, and business success.
What is business coaching?
Business coaching is a process in which a professional coach guides a businessperson in the pursuit of their work goals. A business coach might help their client build leadership skills, create business strategies, or improve their mindset. It all depends on what the person hiring the coach wants out of the relationship. Most importantly, business coaching is about growth.
What does a business coach do?
Working with a coach can be similar to taking on a business partner or building a trusting relationship. So that you can fully understand what working with a business coach might entail, let’s answer the question: “what exactly does a business coach do?”
1. Charts a path for your professional growth
A good business coach helps clients uncover the gap between where they are today and where they want to be. With the help of their coach, the entrepreneur or corporate leader can also create a solid and strategic business plan that drives company growth. Sometimes having an outsider's perspective is just what a leader needs to unlock new personal and company potential.
2. Helps you discover and clarify your core values and vision
New leaders often struggle with defining their values and mapping them against a clear corporate vision. An experienced business coach can help walk a client through the process of aligning personal and corporate values. From there, the client can develop the strong vision, executive presence, and rock-solid confidence needed to lead their team to success.
3. Provides customized coaching and expertise
No one knows the unique characteristics of their business better than an executive leader. That’s why trying to find actionable material in a book or website tailored for the general public makes no sense. Even executive workshops, while valuable, lack the one-on-one approach many leaders need.
Business coaches solve that problem in three ways. First, great leadership coaches have high levels of expertise in specific industries and disciplines. Second, they often have real-world experience as an entrepreneur and business leader themselves.
Third, coaches can combine these important elements with executive coaching certifications. As a result, they can offer tailored advice and actionable plans. All of this customization acts as an accelerant for the business owner or corporate leader. It ultimately results in exponential personal and company growth.
4. Allows a safe space for vulnerability and growth
The relationship between a corporate leader and coach is a safe and sacred space. Once trust is built, coaching clients can feel free to share their deepest doubts without fear of ridicule or humiliation.
With the support of a business coach, the now unfettered corporate leader can explore novel ideas for growth or try on ways to become a better leader. Not only does this build a leader’s confidence, but it can also directly impact rates of growth, corporate culture, and company vision.
5. Acts as an accountability partner and motivator
A business coach can give corporate executives and business owners a high level of accountability. With more accountability, clients and teams are more likely to take action on big ideas and the things that scare them. Coaches can be trusted confidantes for facilitating corporate growth and personal development.
What to expect from business coaching
If you want to become a more successful business owner or executive, coaching could be the answer. With the right coach, you can expect exponential growth both personally and professionally.
At the heart of it, the relationship between a business coach and business owner/professional is built on trust. If a new business owner has limited experience, a professional coach can actually help speed up growth through feedback. If business leaders need support increasing their executive presence while boosting revenue, a coach can help put together a plan.
But it doesn’t stop there. The best business coaches challenge their clients to greatness. In fact, some of the most powerful coach/client relationships can span years. These relationships can deliver long periods of substantial business growth.
Imagine the power that is unleashed when you partner with a personal business coach who deeply understands your company — as well as your strengths and weaknesses.
What to look for in a business coach
Before you invest time, money, and energy into a business coaching relationship, you need to do your research. Not all business coaches are created equal. Here are a few key traits to look for in a successful business coach:
- Look for success stories from individuals who have worked with this business coach before. Testimonials will tell you the truth about how beneficial this coaching relationship can be.
- Consider how many years of experience this coach has. If you’re a 50-year-old CEO, you probably don’t want to be coached by a 30-something who’s only been running a business for a couple of years.
- See if they have actual coaching certifications. Anyone can call themselves a coach — consider if you’re comfortable working with someone who’s never undergone any training. Remember, this is a formal relationship you’re starting in order to see real results from your work. It’s not like asking a coworker to be your mentor.
- See if they offer any free business coaching sessions or events. By having a consultation call with the coach or attending an event they’re leading, you can get a feel of if you’d enjoy working with them.
- Make sure the coach is aligned with what you need. Maybe you’re interested in a life-coaching approach, or you specifically want a small business coach. Either way, get specific about what type of coaching you want and then look for that.
Business coaches help develop hard and soft skills
Seasoned business coaches have the ability to teach and model the hard and soft skills leaders need to reach their full potential. Here’s a list to give you an idea of the skill set you’ll develop when working with a business coach.
- Self-awareness: Leaders can challenge their own beliefs and behaviors when working with a business coach. This Inner Work® allows leaders to better understand their triggers and motivators.
- Emotional regulation: In times of crisis, employees look to leaders for reassurance and direction. That’s why effective executives are masters of emotional regulation. When difficult emotions arise within a coaching session, a business coach teaches emotional regulation techniques.
- Confidence: Coachees often report that the coaching process leaves them more relaxed, energized, and confident. In fact, confident feelings naturally emerge when a business coach works with an executive coachee. They learn to clearly understand business goals, action steps, and emotional triggers.
- Emotional intelligence: Great leaders can read a room and tailor their message to individual audiences. They possess high levels of empathy and can quickly understand what motivates others. Emotional intelligence is an executive superpower that business coaches cultivate in their coachees.
- Optimism: Effective leaders are optimistic. They see the learning and development potential even in the hardest of situations. Optimism can come naturally, but it’s also a skill that can be learned through coaching.
- Strategic planning and review: The best coaches are experienced business strategists. As a result, they can help executives and their teams plan and execute brilliant strategies. Together, the coach and coachee can develop a roadmap using a step-by-step strategic planning process.
- Analytical skills: Data is a driving force for many successful companies. Business coaching can fill gaps in a client’s data analysis skills while challenging them to get out of their comfort zone.
- Marketing: As part of their pre-coaching discovery work, business coaches often spend time researching a client company’s brand and market dynamics. While this serves as valuable intelligence when coaching leaders, it can also support a safe conversational framework for exploring new data-driven market opportunities and target audiences. Before making major product and marketing investments, executive coachees have a second set of expert eyes to review and critique profitability and developing plans.
- Speaking and presentation skills: Not all executive leaders are natural presenters or speakers. Some may suffer from stage fright or feelings of inadequacy that thwart their ability to connect with an audience. To solve these challenges, coaches once again create a safe zone to investigate topics like impostor syndrome and persuasive speaking. Experienced business coaches can also review critical presentations and rehearse essential speaking skills with the coachee.
The benefits of business coaching
While hard and soft skill development is essential, it’s the overall results of business coaching services that deliver the biggest return on investment (ROI). Here are some statistics to show you how big the ROI can be for companies who invest in business coaching:
- According to The Institute of Coaching, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, over 70% of coaching recipients experience a marked improvement in relationships, communication, and work performance.
- One study found that executive coaching could have as much as a 788% return on investment for the companies surveyed.
- A study of Fortune 1000 showed that the average ROI on executive coaching was almost six times what they originally paid for the coaching services.
- The Harvard Business Review found that companies who heavily invested in employee development (including coaching services) performed better in the S&P 500 during 2003.
The coachee becomes the coach — and helps their company grow
As a coachee works with their coach, they will learn valuable coaching skills for themselves. They can then apply these skills to coaching their own team. As a result, the impact of just one executive coach can trickle down to the entire organization. That’s an incredible way to help a company and its employees realize their full potential.
But how do corporate leaders and business owners acquire and hone their coaching skills? Business coaches can teach coaching by simply exposing leaders to masterful coaching.
What’s more, within a coaching session, a leader can role-play and practice coaching with a business coach. This leads to higher and higher levels of coaching competency and confidence. In time, a leader’s ability to coach well can directly impact the bottom line and overall company health.
Results from business coaching
Here are some other benefits that result from effective business coaching:
- Revenue growth: Boosting revenue and increasing market share are the main reasons leaders seek out business coaches. Not only can business coaches navigate the complexities of a financial spreadsheet, but they can also work with leaders to explore and remove limiting beliefs. The combination can result in exponential growth and a direct impact on the bottom line.
- Resilience: One of the greatest traits of a strong executive or business owner is the ability to bounce back from even the biggest of setbacks. That’s why business coaches teach an array of resilience-building strategies, like positive psychology and challenging negative assumptions.
- Leadership: Many business coaches are not only trained coaching experts, they’ve also served on the front as company leaders. Consequently, they are a unique leadership partner who can serve as a mirror to executives expanding their skills.
Team-building: Building an executive leadership team is more art than science. First, there’s identifying the holes in an organization that need to be filled to drive expansion. Second, and more importantly, there’s pulling together the right chemistry of people who will respect, challenge, and complement each other. Business coaches can provide counsel on both issues, and even meet with prospective executive hires to determine fit and skill.
Is business coaching a “must have?”
It may sound like hyperbole, but business coaching has been shown to mean the difference between success and failure for budding entrepreneurs, business owners, and corporate leaders. Even seasoned veterans appreciate the unbiased and apolitical input business coaches provide.
In truth, regardless of experience, no leader comes naturally endowed with the ability to handle the business demands of a multidisciplinary world. All leaders need support to grow to the next level, and one of the best ways to get that support is with a business coach.
BetterUp Fellow Coach