Business Coaching: Choosing and Getting the Most Out of Your Consultant

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What can a business coach do for you and your business? The frequently made claim that a business coach can make you a superstar may be more than a little overstated. But as Steve McKinney, a certified master coach, points out, “When struggling to reach higher, we can all use some extra help.” 

He goes on to note that a coach—as opposed to a consultant, teacher or mentor—offers a combination of two key perspectives:

  • Thorough knowledge of the game (that is, your business)
  • Thorough knowledge of the player’s (that would be you) strengths and weaknesses

A coach isn’t just someone who can offer you advice. It’s someone who can offer you advice and keep you focused on your goals, based on an understanding of your personality, your motivations, your strengths as well as weaknesses. 

It could very well be that a good business coach helps you make the decisions you might have made anyway, but alleviates the stress and distractions that might otherwise have accompanied them. In that sense, a business coach helps make you more efficient.

The whole notion of a business coach is a relatively recent phenomenon. While at one time it might have been dismissed as human resources development fad, it has become an established professional approach for the simple reason that it works.

Related Article: Hiring a Financial Consultant Might Be the Best Thing You Ever Do

Why Steve Jobs Didn’t Need a Business Coach

You might be saying to yourself, “Hey, Henry Ford never needed a business coach. Neither did Steve Jobs.” True enough. And if you have the vision and self-confidence of a Jobs or a Ford, maybe you don’t need one either. But as Ray Williams points out in Psychology Today:

“Previous generations managed without (business coaches). Today’s president or CEO faces more pressure than ever. Business leaders are dealing with rapidly changing markets, technologies and workforces, increased financial and legal scrutiny…and more. Top executive who feel they can handle it all by themselves are more likely to burn out, make poor decisions or make no decisions—potentially resulting in significant loss of opportunities, human resources and financial resources.”

Here’s another way to look at it. Your father used to go to the gym a couple times a week, lift a few weights and manage to stay in reasonably good shape, even if he wasn’t exactly a stellar athlete. You hired a personal trainer so you could run a marathon in under three hours. Now that you’ve accomplished that goal, you’ve got your eyes set on a triathlon.

So you’re working with your personal trainer on a plan to improve your biking and swimming skills so they’ll be on par with your already competitive running stride

Choosing a Business Coach

What should you look for? There isn’t a standard certification process, though there are a variety of groups such as The Professional Business Coaches Alliance and the Center for Coaching Certification that issue certification. There are also industry associations such as the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches that set professional standards and accredit training programs. 

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These might be good resources for finding a business coach. But many successful business coaches aren’t certified, nor must they be. But they should have a professional degree, usually graduate level, in business, human resources, psychology or a related discipline. They could even be a former sports coach, as the skill sets are transferable.

More importantly, your prospective business coach should have a track record in your industry as a coach, a consultant, senior executive or entrepreneur. Better yet, they should have experience as all of the above.

Questions to Consider When Hiring a Business Coach

Keep in mind that this isn’t someone you’re hiring, as you would an employee. This is someone you’re about to embark on a relationship with. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Do your personalities mesh? Does it seem as if you’ll get along? Above all, do you feel you can trust this person?
  • Is the coach a “yes-man” or will he push back? Hint: you want someone who can push back, challenge your assumptions, provide perspectives you haven’t considered, especially when your inclination is to ignore them.
  • Does the coach ask questions that make you think about your business in ways you never have before?
  • Does the coach offer other products you can share with your senior staff and employees, such as motivational videos, audiobooks and developmental seminars?
  • Is the coach knowledgeable, not only about your business in particular, but also aboutgeneral economic, social and market trends?
  • Is the coach proficient in social media marketing and other latest technologies essential to running a successful business?
  • Does the business coach herself have a business coach? It’s always a good idea to get someone who practices what he preaches.
  • Does the coach seem objective, or does it seem the coach is pushing an agenda? Hint: you don’t want anyone pushing their own agenda. The only agenda the coach should have is yours.
  • Can the coach inspire you?

Here’s what business coach Yoon Cannon advises:

Finding the right one involves asking the right questions and doing thorough research. The importance of your company makes it imperative that you take your time and make a careful selection. The reward for your patience will be a business that is ready to take on all comers and win in the end.

Next Steps

Once you’ve selected your coach, it’s time to get down to business. You’ll want to discuss your objectives for your business and your personal needs. Then work to develop an action plan, one with meaningful, measureable and accountable milestones.

The result should prove a winning combination for you and your business to achieve big league results.


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