With no national licensing or ISO standard, any man and his dog can currently put up their hand (or paw) and say they are a Business Coach. Many businesses pour much of their hard earned profits into coaching to support their staff but, what are these coaches really meant to be doing and how do you know you’re getting what you pay for?
There are a myriad of entities, from sole traders to large franchised multi-nationals offering “Business Coaching” but there are in fact many different types of service which fit under the same heading. So one Business Coach or Company is unlikely to be able to give you expertise in every area.
To find the true definition of a Business Coach, I looked to the world’s largest association which is the International Coach Federation. http://www.coachfederation.org Formed in 1995 it now has more than 22,000 members around the world.
The Federation has accredited training programs it endorses so if your Coach has been trained through one of them and is a member of the ICF then you’re off to a good start. (Go to http://www.coachfederation.org/icfcredentials/program-search-tool/ and Search for your country under “In-person training location”.)
There is no one regulating the coach’s behaviour once they become a member but at least the coach has set the initial intention to follow the ICF’s strict code of ethics and competencies. If the ICF receives a complaint about the Coach they may choose to terminate their membership but cannot prevent them from continuing to practice.
The Federation also has a number of accreditation levels for individual coaches based on how many paid hours coaching they’ve done plus what coach specific training they’ve completed. This can be less of a guideline as to how “good” a coach is going to be. The coach may have long experience in an area, for example graduated an MBA, but will not be able to get the basic accreditation because the training does not teach them to be a better coach. You will also find, as I have, coaches who have notched up very senior accreditation levels who still don’t communicate that well.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the Competencies and Ethics from ICF and see if your Business Coach measures up.
- The coach is responsible for discovering, clarifying and aligning with what you want to achieve; encouraging you to self-discover and generate your own solutions. The indemnity insurance of a professional coach is relatively small because coaches basically give no advice. No advice means there is very little litigation that requires the insurance. If your Business Coach gives you a lot of advice, they are a Mentor, not a Coach.
- You choose the topic to discuss. The coach concentrates on where you are now and where you want to be (no spending hours delving into the past). The coach recognises the results are from your own choices and actions supported by their efforts. This means their ego is kept in check. Like an athlete going for an Olympic Medal, a coach who supports you well is necessary but, your own work is imperative and deserves credit.
- The coach must strive to recognise their personal issues which may impair coaching performance. We all have baggage but if it’s getting in the way in terms of them judging you or limiting what they believe you can achieve, you may want to seek a second opinion.
- There are the usual general ethics about keeping confidentiality, treating you with dignity, avoiding conflict of interest, not lying, cheating or having sex with clients (sorry guys). They must respect your right to be able to cancel the coaching at any point and recognise when the coaching process is no longer benefitting you.
- They listen to what you need and can refer you to the service most appropriate if what they offer does not fit the bill.
- A coach can give you their complete attention during the session, are fully prepared, listen carefully and ask questions intuitively – not by a script – to help you find insight.
- Is willing to take risks, offer alternative perspectives, explore the unknown and be “wrong”.
- Is able to put their own emotions or agenda aside and remain neutral when dealing with your strong emotions.
- Doesn’t judge you on your past or what you come up with during the session.
- Can succinctly sum up what you’re saying and keep silent while you’re processing a thought.
- Can hold you accountable to your actions, support you to overcome procrastination and fully commit to your progress.
- Has the Emotional Intelligence to uncover limiting beliefs, make you aware of your habits and always be able to move the conversation forward.
- Teaches you skills and tools to work and think independently from them. They are not there to chain you to their ankle for years and years but to extend you and your own capabilities within the agreed time frame.
So how was that? Did it bring up any red lights in your mind as to the performance of your coach?
There’s a few more things I would point out.
Firstly, keeping an arsenal of coaches with different skill sets in your contacts list is invaluable. Rather than rely on one coach or company to do an average job of all areas, you can take the most appropriate coach for a shorter period and get great results faster, saving you money.
Secondly, you know all about the value of good copywriting and some coaching websites are more convincing in their sales copy than others. Even what appears to be the best coach in the world is not going to do a great job for you if they don’t listen, don’t allow you time to think before answering, dictate the answers, judge you or clash with your personality.
And finally, a coach who does pure coaching based on the competencies from the ICF will often work especially well in industries they haven’t worked before because they are less inclined to offer their own limited suggestions.
A coach needs to be an equal partner with you in the conversation, someone you mutually respect, who inspires you and one you actually look forward to spending time with. Before you sign up a company to provide whoever they wish, take the time to do personal interviews with sole trader and company coaches alike. That way you can see for yourself their personal strengths and be confident you are spending your precious time and money with the right Business Coach for what you need right now.