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While running a business can be one of the most rewarding jobs in a life-long career, it can also be a lonely endeavor. The higher you rise in the 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 or corporate executives continue to grow and thrive as their roles and businesses expand?
That’s where a solid business coach comes in. 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 expertise 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 and KPIs that drive accountability, real results, and business success.
Enabling a trusted partnership
At the heart of it, the relationship between business coach and business owner/professional is built on trust and growth. If an entrepreneur has limited experience, a business coach can actually help speed up growth through feedback. If business executives 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 for entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. 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 is business coaching?
On the face of it, a business coaching program sounds like a great idea. But it requires a high level of commitment from coachees in terms of time, money and ultimately trust. Working with a coach can be similar to taking on a business partner or investing in the building of a trusting relationship. So getting more specific, what exactly does a business coach do?
Defining the growth gap
Working with a business coach provides a methodology for clients to determine where their company is now and where they want to grow it. In tandem with a business coach, the company leader can articulate the corporate growth gap that needs to be closed and create an action plan. What’s more, this same partnership can unearth areas for hard and soft skill development. Lastly, a successful business coaching engagement requires regular check-ins to review progress.
Discovering and aligning core values, clarifying vision
New leaders often struggle with defining their values and mapping them against a clear corporate vision. It is this vision that drives a company and shapes the corporate culture for years to come. An experienced business coach helps walk a client through the process of aligning personal and corporate values. This process allows coachees to gain insight into personal motivators and how to build and align a team around clear values. When unearthing values with a business coach, leaders gain a rock solid confidence in what they stand for. This leads to increased executive presence and personal charisma.
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 customized experience to meet a leader’s needs.
Business coaches solve that problem in three ways. First, great coaches walk the walk with 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 skills along with executive coaching to offer tailored advice and actionable plans. All of this customization acts as an accelerant for the business owner or corporate leader. It results in exponential personal and company growth.
It may sound trite, but the relationship that develops 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. Gone are the influences of company politics, unsupported opinions, and corporate gossip. 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, it can directly impact rates of growth, corporate culture, and company vision.
Accountability partner and motivator
While business owners and corporate leaders each have unique motivators that drive them, partnering with a business coach creates a higher level of action and accountability. What’s more, business owners often lack a board of directors who gauge their progress and growth. Without oversight and prioritization support from a business coach, business owners can find themselves diluting their resources. This often happens by working with the wrong timetable on the wrong objectives.
Even corporate leaders who are answerable to a board need support when it comes to motivation and accountability. While boards can offer powerful insight from years of experience, corporate leaders may not feel safe sharing their innermost fears with the ones in charge. In those situations, a business coach can serve as a bridge between a coachee’s inner and outer worlds. Coaches can provide a trusted confidante for facilitating corporate growth and personal development.
Coachee becomes coach
It’s no surprise that coaching is one of the most valued skills in a corporate environment. It’s what earmarks an employee for ever expanding leadership roles. Done well, coaching can even elevate an entire organization, fostering shared values and an aligned corporate culture.
But how do corporate leaders or business owners acquire and hone their coaching skills when they lack their own coach or mentor? Since coaching is a learned skill, business coaches fill that gap 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.
Soft and hard skills development
Seasoned business coaches have the ability to teach and model the soft and hard skills leaders need to reach their full potential. In fact, some business coaches will get very granular in their expertise. They straddle the line between coach and consultant/contractor. Here’s a short list of some of the skills you can expect to develop when working with a business coach.
- Self awareness
To get the most out of business coaching, leaders need to explore areas of psychological discomfort and challenge their own beliefs and behaviors. Over time, coaching sessions become a place of self-revelation. 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. They can remain calm even when feeling fearful, angry, or any other type of strong emotion. When difficult emotions arise within a coaching session, a business coach teaches emotional regulation techniques. Participants may practice naming their feelings or pausing between feeling an emotion and taking action. They can then apply the knowledge gained to real world situations.
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 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 super power that business coaches cultivate in their coachees. The coaching process offers a safe place to probe unexamined biases that hinder leadership and growth.
Effective leaders are optimistic and see the learning and development potential in even the hardest of situations. Optimism can come naturally, but it’s also a skill that can be learned through coaching and the practice of cognitive behavioral techniques. While business coaches may emphasize the hard skills required to solve more technical company problems, they can also show clients soft skills for positively reframing challenges and setbacks. As a result of this coaching collaboration, coachees often feel more empowered and optimistic, benefitting both themselves and their organizations.
- Strategic planning and review
As stated earlier, many business coaches have either served in the executive ranks themselves or coached multiple senior executives through corporate planning and development. As a result, these experienced business strategists can help guide executives and their teams, developing a roadmap with a step-by-step strategic planning process. In addition, they provide valuable external perspective on plans that can often be colored by internal prejudices.
- Analytical skills
Data is a driving force for many successful companies and requires unique skills for its collection and interpretation. Yet some business owners and executives have had little exposure to the skills required for deep data analysis. Often they have risen through the ranks by starting their own business or relying on softer skills like communication and team building.
Skilled business coaches can fill in the gaps of their clients’ analytical learning while challenging them to push out of their comfort zone and acquire new skills. In addition, executive coaches with analytical skills can serve as a safety net to ensure data is not misinterpreted by an executive leader, resulting in faulty decision making or missteps.
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. Others may be so introspective that they lack gravitas. 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.
Business coaching results
While hard and soft skill development is essential, it’s the overall results of business coaching services that deliver the biggest return on investment. In fact, 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.
Here are some other benefits that result from effective business coaching:
- Revenue growth
Boosting revenues 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, they can also work with leaders to explore and remove limiting beliefs. The combination can result in exponential growth and direct impact to the bottom line.
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. In addition, business coaches are available real time for client support and guidance during corporate emergencies.
Many business coaches are not only trained coaching experts, they’ve also served on the frontlines as company leaders. Consequently, they are a unique leadership partner who can serve as a mirror to executives expanding their skills. Also, once gaps and weaknesses are identified, a business coach can help foster the development of personal leadership brands, executive presence, and authenticity.
Building an executive leadership team is more art than science. First, there’s identifying the holes in an organization that need to be filled in order 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. Additionally, a business coach’s scope can be expanded to include succession planning, and attracting and retaining top talent.
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. But 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