The Uncomfortable Truth About Business Coaching. The coaching industry is massive – and it’s getting bigger every year. The International Coaching Federation has projected growth from $15 billion in 2019 to $20 billion in 2022. But while the right coach or mentor can work wonders for a business, many such relationships are doomed to failure from the outset.
Why? Well, several reasons, as I’ll explain below. Hopefully, armed with knowledge of the pitfalls to avoid, this will leave you in a stronger position to find the ideal business coach and ensure that you get the best out of working with them.
Why doesn’t the typical business coaching model work?
To be a good mentor, you need to inspire those you are working with. You also need to share uncomfortable truths with them from time to time. And here’s the first one: most small and medium enterprises fail to grow because of the owner. It’s usually the owner who has to change, otherwise none of the other changes that coaching introduces are likely to stick.
And this is where the problem lies. It’s the owner who is paying the coach and who will continue to sign off on their invoices. The coach is therefore incentivised to stay on the right side of the owner to keep their retainer going. This is hardly an arrangement that inspires the coach to share the (often uncomfortable) truths about where the owner is going wrong. While many coaching relationships start off with the coach intending to be searingly honest (in a constructive manner, of course), over time this wanes. The coach ends up becoming a yes person – precisely what the business owner doesn’t need.
Why do business owners hire the wrong coach?
The other element to this is that business owners often hire the wrong coach. Many set out to find a mentor with a track record in their own market – someone who is familiar with their sector and has made a success of their own business within it. While I can see the logic, this can be flawed.
Not every successful musician can manage or produce other musicians; not every successful sportsperson is a successful coach – in fact, very few are. The skillset needed to manage a business isn’t the same as to coach someone successfully. Yes, there is some overlap, but simply having a track record of growing a business doesn’t mean someone has the skills needed to be a coach.
Finding the right coach
It might sound counter-intuitive but finding the right business coach usually begins by looking outside of your own industry. Someone with broad, cross-sector skills rather than a narrow focus on just your kind of business. They don’t need to have scaled their own business successfully (although they may have in the past). What they need is a track record of having successfully supported other business leaders to do so: the sports coach who has never played professionally but who stands just behind a string of medal/cup winners.
The other key thing to remember when seeking out the right business coach is that the coaching process shouldn’t always be comfortable. There are plenty of people in your business who will happily polish your ego; your coach shouldn’t be one of them! Guidance can always be given in a constructive manner – and will be, when you find the right coach – but that doesn’t mean that what’s being said will necessarily sit comfortably with you. If you’re using a business coach to grow your business, remember that that growth will need to start with you.