The work of a business coach isn’t all that different from what an athletic coach does, the way David Drewelow sees it.
“We ask what their dream and vision are, look at the big picture. Then we help develop a plan and hold them accountable to doing it,” said Drewelow, head coach and franchise owner of the USA Heartland Team of ActionCOACH in Cedar Rapids.
By using business and executive coaches, company leaders can hone their skills for running and growing a business as well as enhance their leadership skills.
“But just as a basketball coach never goes on the court, we won’t do the work for you. We’ll help identify the goals,” Drewelow said.
“A lot of people do a great job of planning but not in carrying out the plan. We’ll make you take action and get it done.”
Ginny Wilson-Peters, president of Integrity Integrated Inc., said her favorite quote about coaching comes from former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry: “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear so you can see what you don’t want to see, so you can be the best you can be.”
“That means coaching provides clients with a combination of support as well as direct conversation and challenges,” Wilson-Peters said.
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Kim Wilkerson, president of Wilkerson Consulting Group, the company she started in 1990, agrees: “There’s a diagnostic element and a prescriptive element in coaching. We create a road map and a game plan.
“My role is to observe, to provide candid feedback and guidance, and to help the client calibrate based on expected outcomes, results and objectives. I can create a developmental plan to address areas for improvement while at the same time, validating the client’s strengths.”
That being said, Wilkerson added you shouldn’t expect the same approach from each coach or for each client.
And because coaching is about process, not about industry-related content, she said, a coach doesn’t need to be an industry expert — one way a business coach is set apart from a consultant.
She spelled out some of the competencies she addresses:
- Communications and interpersonal skills
- Strategic effort
- Managing change
“These process-driven competencies are universal for any executive, manager and leader regardless of industry or vertical market,” said Wilkerson, who has worked with for-profits and not-for-profits as well as for family-owned and start-up businesses.
Another notion coaches would like to change is that they’re of value to only struggling executives.
“Coaching is often thought to be primarily a remedial function — helping someone who is struggling or ineffective in a specific area,” Wilkerson said. “Coaching is also a great resource for the successful person who is growing, adapting and/or fine tuning.
“The most successful executives use coaches, even at the pinnacle of their success.”
A pure coaching engagement can be anywhere from three to 12 months.
“But upon successful completion of the client’s objectives, frequently the coaching client will renew the engagement with new objectives,” Wilkerson said. “Sometimes the engagement is longer term and evolves into more of a retainer and/or mentor relationship.”
The actual means of measuring success in business coaching, however, are client-driven.
“Before we decide to work together, I ask the client three questions: what are your objectives for the coaching engagement, how will we know we’ve succeeded and what is the value in meeting or exceeding those objectives?” Wilkerson explained. “These parameters, definitions and criteria are what paint the ultimate picture of success for that client."
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“Success is measured by their ability to achieve the goals that they set for themselves,” said Wilson-Peters, who started her coaching company 13 years ago and has clients she’s worked with for five years. “For me, coaching and leadership development is successful when people experience sustainable positive change in their work and lives.”
In the long term, business coaches can provide a sounding board for business leaders.
“A coach can become a trusted adviser and be someone to look at your business from an outside perspective,” said Drewelow, whose longest client has been working with him for six years.“Most people think that coaches have all the answers, when in fact effective coaching is not about having the answers” Wilson-Peters said. “Most clients want that sounding board that helps them determine their own decisions and course of action.”