AS BUSINESS buzzwords go, coaching tops the list.
Simply put, the idea behind a coach -- whether
for the CEO, middle management or line employees --
is to increase profitability by better understanding
the company, its problems as well as its strengths,
and to capitalize on those strengths and minimize
the problems. Coaching is not a new concept in sports, but it is
relatively new in business. Golfing great Tiger
Woods has three coaches and they don't all work on
his swing. CEOs of much of corporate America can
pick up the telephone and be in instant contact with
a coach, who knows both the CEO and the operation
well enough to give immediate feedback on the
handling of a business problems or a career
But coaching does not have to be reserved for the
head of a conglomerate. In fact, coaching may be
even more important to the president of a small
business, whose days may be non-ending and who must
deal with both major issues and an inordinate amount
Coaching vs. training
Coaching is not training. In fact, if done well,
it's intended to take a person beyond training.
For those who do it, coaching is seen as a way of
closing the gap from where a person or company is
now, to where the company or person wants to be. But
first, the individual being coached must be able to
articulate the gap.
Coaching is not therapy, even though it may, at
times, seem like that's exactly what's going on.
Coaching is typically done one on one, although it
can be done in a group. Why hire a coach?
During a Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce seminar held
in June, Paul McAskill, the owner of Compass Point
Training in Elliot, Maine, offered several reasons
why a coach might be retained:
* Management sees value in engaging a sounding
board, not only for itself, but for other employees.
* Management is looking for a forum where employees
can be "totally honest."
* A person needs a partner to help one's business
* A company or CEO wants to improve its image and is
ready to make the needed investment in time and
* The business owner wants to take the company to
"the next level."
McAskill contends a businesspeople should retain a
coach, not when they're filled with doubts and
insecurities, but when they're at a point where they
truly believe in themselves and understand there's a
gap between where they are now and where they want
A great coach
The characteristics that make for a great coach was
the topic of a roundtable discussion last week at
the Portsmouth Coaching Collaborative, an
association of coaches, would-be coaches and the
These are characteristics to be considered by a
business owner, perhaps you, who is contemplating
the possibility of retaining a coach.
* A coach must be focused and have the ability to
hone in on what is really important.
* A coach must have "the guts to be direct," even
when to do so is certain to anger the client.
* The coach must be unattached to the outcome of his
* A coach must not be an "enabler," which would only
make it possible for the business owner to continue
to do what, in his head and heart, he already knows
is not working.
* And the coach must be able to "let go" when
letting go is needed. A great coach understands that
the client is under no obligation to implement
anything the coach suggests.
* The coach must be able to keep his ego in check.
* A coach must be a "committed listener" who can ask
"the right questions."
* The coach must also be committed to respecting an
employee's need for confidentiality, otherwise, it's
unlikely employees will speak honestly.
* Finally, a coach can't afford to "get sucked in to
one point of view," and, in dealing with a client
and the workforce, the coach must not take sides.
A journey together
"You must also be able to say, 'I don't have the
answer,'" said Ruth Mott of Mott Coaching in
Portsmouth. "A really good coach is someone who is
on a journey with the client. A really good coach
doesn't go in with answers. We go into a business
with a way of thinking about issues."
Ron Donovan of Impact Consulting in Durham, echoed
Mott, adding, "A coach is someone from the outside
can look at what is happening in a business and
speak the truth, in ways employees likely fear
Who needs one?
So, who should hire a coach? The answer, according
to Donovan and others, is simple: Anyone who
believes a benefit will result and is ready and
willing to make changes.
"Is there a professional anywhere, who is successful
and doesn't have a coach," Donovan asked
rhetorically. "In a small company, employees often
coach each other."
John Bayliss, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist from
Hampton Falls, said a coach can be, and often is, a
"catalyst" in helping a company address issues.
Perhaps more important, Bayliss said, "The coach
gets to leave," a reality that makes a coach even
Bayliss said a truly good coach is often able to get
employees to coalesce, even if they coalesce against
And, if management decides to retain a coach, it's
important to prepare the workforce, letting them
know the coach is "not a spy" but is there to "help
you discover things together," he added.
A sense of trust
A coach also gives the business owner and the
employees a "sanctuary of safety," according to
Rob Kanzer of Rob Kanzer Seminars in
Kittery Point, Maine, who also serves as president
of the Portsmouth Coaching Collaborative. "People
can let their guard down in what is a confidential
Kanzer contends a good coach can provide "a
sense of freedom, trust and safety," affording
employees the opportunity to "get to the issues
facing the company."
Debra LeClair is a small-business owner who both is
a coach and employs a coach to work with her
business. She said small-business owners should
consider hiring coaching assistance.
"Coaching is an invaluable resource for small
business. Many small-business owners are forced to
do everything in their company. They often need help
organizing and clarifying their vision. They need
resource contacts that a coach can provide, in order
to keep their confidence and gain and maintain
LeClair said a good coach can be especially helpful
in working with a small-business owner who
understands the importance of adapting to change and
is interested in knowing "what is getting in the way
of me not being able to change."
Assessing the problems
LeClair contends a coach can impact profitability by
helping a CEO look at problem areas.
"You are the expert when it comes to your business.
The coach needs to ask you the right questions."
Are there those who should not use a coach?
LeClair said retaining a coach is a waste of money
if the business owner "is not looking to change" and
if management "can't stand the thought of being
People who don't have the motivation to follow
through also should not use a coach because, LeClair
added, "They're not ready to take the leap."
Bayliss said don't bother, "If you are not
interested in making changes or if you're looking
for some one to blame" or if management has "a
"Some people fear change and some people are
comfortable with the way things and people around
them are. In some cases, people don't want to be
exposed," he added, so in all of those situations, a
coach would have a tough time being heard, let alone
-- Coaching resources:
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