By Sharon Pearson, CEO, The Coaching Institute
We think nothing of having a fitness trainer assist us with those extra push ups. And more and more people are starting to think the same way about their business - who's pushing you with the extra mile?
As business around the world becomes increasingly competitive, the demand for business coaching to provide that market and performance edge has increased. A few years ago only a handful of businesses used coaches to increase overall performance. In the U.S. today almost 58% of SME's use business coaching.
A business coach is someone who has the agenda of assisting the business to achieve its objectives. I've worked with clients who have wanted me to brainstorm, provide a sounding board, get an independent viewpoint, design systems, develop marketing strategies and the test and measure of marketing strategies, improve productivity and effectiveness, develop their business plan, improve sales, strengthen leadership skills, build teamwork, increase customer service, increase retention of key staff, increase bottom-line profitability, build relationships with direct reports, reduce conflict and build business relationships with clients.
"A business or life coach is like a fitness trainer," says Melissa Byers, Business and Performance Consultant from The Coaching Institute. "They will set you up with a range of activities, and they're also there to push you along when you don't feel like putting in the hard yards."
Sometimes it's the little things a client wants help with. I worked with a client who owns three pizza shops, and profits are based on volume of product sold compared to food wastage. Food wastage was too high, reducing profits by a significant amount. He provided incentives to managers to decrease wastage, which helped for a while. Through coaching he realised that he was providing money rewards for his team to simply do their jobs, and changed his strategy. Now the operations manual takes all team members through each step of food handling, including how to reduce food wastage. Profit increased by 15% in five weeks.
And sometimes it's the bigger things. Another client's business was turning over $40k every quarter. After one year of coaching, her business now turns over in excess of $1.5million. Every aspect of this young business was examined, improved, systemised and delegated. From an initial team of one part-time Personal Assistant and herself, she now operates with a team ten people, all responsible for their function within the organisation. There are clear communication channels and responsibilities for each member of the team. There are KPI's in place which are assessed and discussed weekly. Within two years they expect to turnover $3.5million.
And coaching can be most effective when teamed with training programs. The International Personal Management Association's investigation into coaching effectiveness showed that training improved performance of their teams by 22%. The real benefits were seen when the training programs were supported by ongoing coaching, when the improvement in day to day work performance increased by 88%. In other words, with every training dollar spent, one fifth of that investment was returned without coaching, compared to a four fifth's return on the investment with coaching.
Coaching's success is because every business owner knows they could improve aspects of their business. Coaching sessions create the space for the business owner or manager to brainstorm what needs to change, how it needs to change, the timeframe for the change, who will be responsible for the change, and how its implementation will be measured for success or for further improvements.
Life and business coaching is not a chat between two friends, but a focused conversation about what is and isn't working and what's going to be done about it. It's not the space for egos or defensiveness. "Coaching works if you want to improve your business. If you just want to hear you're doing great then don't waste your money," says business coach Sally Higgins, from Accelerate Now, a TCI trained coach. "Coaching is about getting results. My clients are committed to improving their businesses and they are willing to change what needs to be changed to achieve the improvements they want. If they justified how things are, we wouldn't get far with improving their business."
Joe Pane, Business Coach and trainer with The Coaching Institute believes the ideal client is committed to constant improvement, rather than a ‘fix it quick' mentality. "Sometimes it takes time to rollout the improvements we want in the business. The business owner needs to be committed to long term improvements rather than a short term bandaid to problems in the business. I work with a range of clients but they all have one thing in common, they want to grow their business and achieve more success."
The culture of the organisation needs to be supportive to what the coaching initiative wants to achieve. A saboteur in the ranks who likes things the way they are can pose problems when new business improvement initiatives are rolled out. Dealing with people who are challenged by the coaching initiative can be as important as the coaching initiative itself. "If someone is threatened by the coaching and what it is producing, it's best to deal with them directly and privately. Listen to their concerns and ask for their suggestions for how to best overcome what they see as the obstacles to the program. Buy in isn't always easy but it makes the job do-able," says Pane.
Individuals can feel threatened by change, especially if they are in a job that is fairly constant in its demands. Someone who does a similar thing over and over is less likely to embrace new thinking and new systems than someone who is used to being flexible to be effective in their role. They will need time to assimilate the new direction the organisation seems to be taking. This can be especially so if the coaching has developed a new vision statement and values. A new culture means new ways of thinking and behaving, and that's hard for some people.
"People have different learning styles," says Pane. "They may need extra support as the organisation takes on the improvements. All of sudden what they have done for a long time isn't enough, and that can be challenging for some people. They may need a little leeway with how they integrate the new processes, especially if they are directly impacted by the changes."
Coaching is so focused and effective that the client must be committed to pushing through the obstacles that are inevitable. "If it was easy everyone would do it," say Ashley Thompson of Action International. "If you're not prepared to put in the yards you'll get mediocrity, which is all too common in business today."
"The best thing I ever did was get a business coach," says Greg Donoghue of Eco-Organics. "It was challenging, confronting and gave me exactly what I needed in terms of growing my business."
Sharon Pearson is a professional, accredited life, executive and business coach. She is the founder and CEO of The Coaching Institute, Australia's leading accredited life coach training school, is a published author and an in-demand public speaker and trainer. Click for more information on Sharon Pearson.