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Hiring a Business Coach – Does your Business Need Direction?

Rah-rah-rah, siz-boom-bah! Those were the days…and nostalgia tugs at your heart. You’re kind of wishing your business would perk up with some of that rah-rah-rah.

Perhaps hiring a business coach is what you need. Sales are sagging because business is slow and your employees are in a blah mood. You dream of duplicating those days in university when practice sessions were so feverish and everybody was so pumped up, thanks to the athletic coach that held the secret of how to motivate even the most lethargic player on the team.

These days, coaching is not just about sports and winning a touchdown or achieving a home run. Coaching has penetrated the business milieu. It has entered stuffy boardrooms, lingers along the office corridors and is very much a permanent component of the human resources agenda. Managers need to be re-tooled, re-schooled and rehabilitated. Employees need to be given a good shot of adrenalin so that they can renew their faith in the company.

Business coaching is alive and well. More so these days because people – executives, managers and even the rank and file – are realizing that vital lessons about team spirit, entrepreneurship and ethics have to be learned from a more relevant perspective. Yes, a coach and his “coachee” can’t underestimate the importance of a strong sense of ethics in a business setting. When a company practices good ethics, it lends credibility to its mission statement. At least you get the impression that the company you’ve chosen to work for does not engage in semantics or rhetoric alone, that it means every word it says about vision and globalization and empowerment – fancy words that are so popular these days. The role of a business coach is to ensure that ethics tempers the profitability element.

What to Watch Out For

Talk is that hiring a business coach is an expensive proposition. It is, especially if you seek the services of a top-notch, high caliber business guru. But consider the dividends that a business coach can earn for your company. A business coach, most will agree, will spell the difference between anemic sales and “rocketing” sales. Productivity is every business owner’s dream because it is that productivity that will put the company back into the black.

Hiring a business coach does not require sophisticated methods. If your company has never hired one before, you can always rely on word of mouth, speak to your local chamber of commerce or make contact with the ICF – the International Coach Federation. Our educated guess is that the ICF caters more to personal coaching, but they may be able to refer you to the right channels.

Management consultants, accountants, lawyers, business professors, writers and anybody else who has nuggets of wisdom to share have branched out into business coaching. They feel it is one area where they can contribute their expertise because of the many years they have spent with corporate moguls and people in charge of employee relations. Since they don’t work directly for the companies they serve, they can form an independent opinion, their gut instincts telling them what segments of company activity have to be overhauled to bring back that spark.

Consultants, lawyers and others who have taken up coaching also feel pride in being able to help the company realize its objectives. Through their inputs, they open the eyes of the bosses who are too busy looking after sales and marketing. Coaches see the human resources core languishing in the gutter, feeling ignored, abandoned and neglected. The big cheese, too preocuppied with the bottom line, doesn’t necessarily see that.

What parameters should guide us when hiring a business coach?

First, it is important that the business coach has knowledge of the industry or business we’re engaged in. He or she does not have to score 100% on that knowledge, but the coach should at least possess a good working concept of our type of business activity. For instance, if we’re a small publishing outfit, the coach must know the fundamentals of the publishing field by having worked as a writer or editor or marketer for books and journals in the past. He must know about the problems that beset this particular industry and must have recommendations on how best to align our business with the demands of the industry. It would be great if he could have an idea of how our competitors operate and do business. The coach should be able to spot areas in which we can set ourselves apart from the rest.

The coach must be able to address such things as:

  • What advantages does our company have that others don’t?
  • Does our company use human and technical resources effectively so that they are up to par with existing trends in the industry?
  • Are we equipped, in terms of our human resources contingent, to deal with the demands of the business?
  • Are our company objectives realistic? How do we stand vis-à-vis the competition?
  • What are our weaknesses, and how can be rectify those weaknesses?
  • What are our core competencies and how can we capitalize on them?

Second, a business coach must be “other-oriented”, not an “I, me and myself” type. A good business coach is tuned in, looking outwards. This means that the needs of the company must come first. He can’t walk into the corporate boardroom and dole out advice that rests heavily on an academic or scholarly perspective. Sometimes, individuals are mighty proud of the fact that they graduated from an Ivy League university and that their alma mater is the be-all and the end-all of truth and knowledge.

“Well, based on what Harvard University has revealed…”

“We at McGill tend to focus on performance valuations that…”

Forget about what the schools think. Their theories may work in certain business settings, but you’re a small publishing house trying to stay afloat and finding the magic formula for producing an author that will write a best-seller. Even Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard so he could get on with the business of building an empire that would rule the realm of communications. If he had 100% faith in the ramblings of Harvard’s founding fathers, he would have stayed on, right? The way it looks now, he certainly has a lot to teach Harvard. And they better listen to this droput…

In the name of service, a business coach must leave all his preconceived notions at home, get into the company and sink his teeth into its operations, chat with the people and observe, observe, observe. Leave the talking for later. He should take the company’s goals and objectives and compare them to actual output. Is there a large gap between those objectives and accomplishments?

A business coach must also have a back-up plan. He must not cling tenaciously to one strategy if that strategy turns out to be the wrong one.

Third, a business coach must be a good listener with his antenna raised at all times. How much body language is he watching? What is the meaning behind those words? When a middle manager says he feels stifled and can’t undertake a new task, what kind of clues can a coach pick up from that?

Many Companies Now Believe in Hiring a Business Coach

Victoria Zunitch, who wrote an article in 2001 in the Journal of Accountancy, said that clients “hire CPAs and others as consultants, expecting them to study a problem and provide advice, usually in a written report…The theory behind coaching is that the clients themselves have the answers and need to take the time to stop and focus, says one. A CPA who coaches, however, will help the client to figure out

  • How to set business goals.
  • How to achieve them.
  • How to evaluate and adjust his or her progress in relation to them.”

Ms. Zunitch also said that coaches…keep records on the goals and timetables the clients have set and raise a red flag when they see clients veering off their chosen path. Through this process, clients learn to monitor themselves and correct unproductive behavior.”

When companies are stumped about the lack of progress in their organizations or about high staff turnover, they believe that an independent third party should be called in to assess the situation.

This is why hiring a business coach has become “à la mode.” Coaches see things that executives and employees don’t see. And thanks to their sensitivity and experience, they can come up with solutions – many of which are creative – to right a wrong.

It’s been proven – hiring a business coach may be a business owner’s quest for hitting a home run instead of just making it to first base.

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