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Who’s your coach?

01 April 2010 Jackie Houston, Celestis

Business Health Australia conducted a survey last year, which revealed five factors common to the top performing practices. One of these factors was the fact that each top performing practice made makes use of a business coach or mentor.

Peter Pham, writing in businessweek.com, recently warned against the dangers of becoming isolated as we immerse ourselves in our work. His argument is that no matter how much you’ve learned, you can’t know it all. This was confirmed by a recent survey conducted by Business Health Australia, which showed that one of the five common factors among top performing practices was the use of a business coach or mentor.

As you may know, there are regular debates as to the difference between and roles of coaches, mentors and business consultants. For the purposes of this article, we will refer to a business coach as someone that you meet with on a regular basis for the purposes of sound boarding, getting advice or discussing aspects of your business.

Choosing the right coach

Most of us can probably relate an experience involving a business coach, some good and others less favourable. The issue is how to choose a business coach in the first place? Here are some questions that you may want to ask before making your selection.

Is there a fit? There needs to be common ground for a relationship with a business coach to become beneficial. Mutual respect, shared values and common principles make working together much easier and more fruitful. You need to be able to work together and remember that you may not always be told what you want to hear.

Experience. How long has the coach been in business and what are his/her credentials? Is the coach familiar with your environment and does he/she understand your business?

Monitoring. Will the service include a monitoring process that measures progress and performance? As the recipient of the coaching service, make sure that you will be “kept in line” and held responsible for deadlines.

Measurement. How will you be able to measure the return on your investment? Coaching costs, whether payment is in terms of time or money or both and there must be a measureable return. This could be in termson the basis of revenue, profitability or other measures of performance.

Existing clients. How many clients has the coach worked with and are their businesses similar to yours? Ask for testimonials or references to verify credibility.

Processes. Does the coaching service follow clear processes that will facilitate consistency across your team and a structured roll out programme that ensures a systematic implementation?

Key benefits. What are the three most appealing features of the service offering from your point of view, and how achievable are they in your circumstances? How soon can you expect to receive benefits and how material are these likely to be?

Regular meetings with a business coach should offer material benefits to you and your business. They should provide opportunities to deal with real concerns and also to strategise in a supportive environment where your best interests are paramount.

However, remember that a business coach is neither the legendary silver bullet nor the substitute for the sweat on your brow. As sports coach Paul Bryant said, “No coach has ever won a game by what he knows; it's what his players know that counts.” If anything, you can expect the coach to provide the cloth to wipe the sweat.

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