Business Team Coaching. Life Coaching. Sales Coaching. Executive Coaching. Small Business Coaching. Growth Coaching. And then there’s coaching for performance, development, skills, career, wellness, confidence, personal empowerment, relationships, leadership, high-potential, behavioral, succession … and virtually any other specialty you can imagine.
It can certainly be confusing. What kind of coaching is needed? Who’s the right person to do this type of coaching? Should we invest in individual or business team coaching? And just what is coaching anyways?
Fair questions! Let’s take them one-by-one to make your choices easier and your investment in coaching more productive.
Individual & Business Team Coaching (What It Is & What It Isn’t)
Coaching is frequently misunderstood. The broad definition of coaching is that it’s a process used to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. Coaches help people to get clarity on their vision and to set goals, remove obstacles, consider options, and take the steps needed to achieve that vision.
Coaches don’t do any of the work in goal-setting, removing obstacles, offering options, or taking steps forward. They facilitate conversations that promote self-discovery and commitment so YOU can do that work for yourself.
Coaches also don’t tell you what to do or how to do it. That’s what managers, mentors, consultants and trainers do. Coaching is different. It’s all about drawing out your own plans and challenging you to create and execute on your own. The root word of coaching means “to extract” and that is the primary difference between coaching and all those other disciplines.
Managers tell you what to do. Mentors show you how they’ve done it in the past. Consultants evaluate and create plans for you to execute. Trainers teach skills for how to do things differently. Coaches don’t do any of this.
Coaches aren’t doers. They may know the “right” answers but they won’t give them to you. They may have great ideas, but they won’t share them. They will not jump in to show you how to do the work. They won’t tell you stories about what they have done or what others would do in this situation.
The reason coaches hold back is because coaching is about YOU. The point of coaching is for you to create your own plans, think through your own strategies, build your own confidence and competence, and apply what you already know in new ways. Coaching is effective because you will own your own ideas and buy into your own plans. It works in tandem with ways you learn from managers, mentors, trainers and others
Another important distinction. It’s coach, not couch. Unless your coach is also an appropriately-licensed therapist, good coaches avoid talking about why things are they way they are. Coaches focus on the future and how to get where you want to be. They don’t spend a lot of time looking backwards. They don’t get into your personal business.
How Can You Find the 'Right' Person to Provide Coaching?
There are so many coaches to choose from! Some do full-time coaching. Others offer coaching as a sideline to consulting, training, speaking, counseling or other business offerings.
Unfortunately, not everyone who calls themselves a Coach is qualified to do the work of coaching. In fact, some who bear this title don’t even know the difference between coaching, mentoring, consulting, and training. They use the word “coach” because it is fashionable.
Professional, qualified coaches have been trained and certified. They’ve put in the hours and passed the screening tests to demonstrate mastery of coaching techniques. Most also become members of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The ICF is the leading global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals.
By regulating standards, skills and core competencies for coach training, the ICF ensures that life coaches, business coaches, and executive coaches are experienced, reliable professionals who abide by a strict code of ethics.
Alan Cohen, M.A., founder and director of the Foundation for Holistic Life Coaching, advises “Since anyone can claim to be a life coach, a client should inquire as to the nature and extent of a coach’s training. A credible life coach has undergone a significant body of coursework, has received guidance and feedback from a qualified supervisor, and has experience in the field (of coaching).”
The same applies to business team coaching. A professional sports team wouldn’t pick a head coach based solely on that individual’s athletic ability or accomplishments on the field. Instead, they’d look for candidates who also had coaching experience. In fact, they’d favor a strong coach over a strong former player. Since coaches don’t get in the game, it’s extremely important to find the coach who is best able to prepare and strengthen the people who do hold key positions on the roster.
There are many good resources for finding the right coach. Start with the ICF Directory. You can search here for corporate or individual coaches. You can filter for keywords like “sales” or “executive” coaching plus narrow your search down by coaching themes (ex: “communication skills) and coaching methods like “in person” or “via video conference.” You can also select by standard rates charged, types of organizations coached, positions formerly held, demographics of the coach, languages spoken, location, and more.
When you are considering a coach from another source, use these screening criteria to determine if the fit will be good:
1. Does this person have experience as a certified coach?
Remember -- their coaching experience matters much more than their functional expertise! If you’re looking for someone to teach you how to do your job, you need a mentor, trainer or consultant. A coach will help you apply what you already know and build supplementary skills that will get you to your goal.
2. Is this someone who will challenge you in a way that you’ll respond?
Coaches ask tough questions. They hold up a mirror for self-reflection. They will make you think in new ways. They won’t make you feel bad… But they won’t become your cheerleader, advocate or fan either.
3. Is this someone you feel “safe” with?
Coaching conversations should always be completely confidential. Your coach is someone you should be able to trust and open up to.
4. Does this person ask thought-provoking questions?
Does this coach draw new ideas out of you instead of providing ideas of their own? Telling interesting stories or giving advice is not coaching.
5. Is this person an exceptional listener who will keep up with you and understand what you’re saying?
Will they be able to “connect the dots” and make inferences so that your conversations are productive?
Would Individual or Business Team Coaching Be Better for Your Needs?
Typically, individual coaching is preferred when the change you’re looking for is specific to you.
In business, perhaps you’ve encountered a roadblock in your career. Maybe your performance appraisal suggests there is a need to work on soft skills. Or, maybe, the employee engagement survey revealed some troubling information about how you are perceived.
In your personal life, perhaps you’re struggling with a career transition, wellness, relationships, budgeting, or other issues. Maybe you’re feeling a bit aimless and want some help getting clarity on how to set your course.
All of these changes are individual in nature. One-to-one coaching is appropriate in these situations because the goals you set and the actions you take will be completely directed by you and completed by you.
To determine whether individual coaching is right for you at this time, complete this handy self-assessment.
Small-group or team coaching is appropriate when several people have similar needs and are comfortable sharing their goals, obstacles and plans with each other. Some examples:
Sales coaching is often conducted in small groups. Role plays give a coach an opportunity to observe and then ask questions to promote self-discovery. Oftentimes, the goals for skills development are the same for a group of sellers. The real and perceived obstacles are very similar. And the action plans they create for acquiring skills, practicing, working through obstacles, and reaching sales goals will also be similar and/or collaborative.
Wellness coaching can also be conducted effectively in small groups. This works best when the wellness goals are already shared by each member of the group – smoking cessation or weight loss, for example. Members of the group respond to the coach who asks thought-provoking questions and facilitates conversations where members of the group share ideas with each other. Individuals make their own commitments and determine their own course of action, all during group coaching sessions.
A blended approach can be highly effective for cohort groups. For example, an Emerging Leaders program consists of people who share some goals (learning about leadership, testing their own boundaries as influencers and leaders, positioning themselves for future growth). Within that group, however, there are also individual needs and goals to consider.
To meet all the needs of a cohort group, there can be some small group coaching and training. There can also be some 1:1 coaching. This efficiently covers a wider range of needs
What Kind of Coaching Should You Consider?
That depends entirely on what you hope to accomplish!
First, be sure that coaching is the right solution. Mentoring, training, and consulting solutions should be considered first. That’s because there are more straightforward processes in those disciplines. They transfer knowledge from someone with demonstrated expertise to people who need that same expertise.
After you’ve exhausted those options, coaching can build on that established platform. Coaching can extract what’s already known and get people mobilized to use what they know.
The type of coaching you select will depend on your responses to these questions:
1. What is the outcome you’re looking for?
Be specific! Instead of “being more effective as a manager,” think about what it would take to improve. You may need a coach who specializes in communication vs. one who specializes in peak performance. Or you may need one who coaches broadly and has strong experience as a coach who has worked with a range of management challenges.
2. Are you aiming to meet the needs of a group or an individual?
Some coaches work primarily with individuals while others offer only small-group coaching. Some do both. Be sure the type of coaching (and coach) you select will be comfortable for the people receiving coaching. Setting boundaries about confidentiality, topics, etc. may be important for a group, and you’ll need to plan for this ahead of time.
3. Is it truly essential for the coach to have experience working with similar situations?
There are some types of coaching where functional knowledge matters more than in other areas. A sales coach, for example, typically has both selling and coaching experience. That’s because knowledge of selling tools, quota pressures, customer expectations, and stereotypes about sellers enable a coach to empathize and understand the context of sellers’ challenges.
On the other hand, there’s often an advantage when a coach does not have functional expertise (but does have coaching experience). Coaches who don’t know the answers won’t be tempted to provide answers. They may actually do a better job of remaining in a true coaching mode, facilitating goal-setting without influencing it and asking questions that promote self-discovery.
4. How complex are the issues that will be addressed in coaching?
Coaching is usually not a one-time event. Most coaching engagements last a minimum of six weeks. This provides time for goal-setting, brainstorming options, developing an action plan and taking steps toward implementation.
The more complex the issues needing attention, the longer the coaching engagement will need to be. A 13-week, 26-week, or year-long engagement provides the person being coached with accountabilities and ongoing support for working through obstacles and building new habits.
5. Do you have internal resources who have been trained to do coaching?
Managers and trainers can be coaches. But there are specific skills and methods that must be learned and practiced. Labeling it “coaching” is a disservice if it’s not true coaching because team members may be deprived of actual coaching (which is highly effective in helping people set and reach goals).
If you haven’t trained internal coaches, consider enlisting a certified external coach. You may also wish to look into a coach training program for your management team.
Need Additional Support?
If you’d like additional support in evaluating your coaching options and developing coaching plans, contact us. We’ve been creating coaching programs for 15+ years, and we can help you get started.