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    February-2013
 
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Why, How To Choose A Business Coach

Hiring a business coach can be the best investment people can ever make in themselves and their business.  Or it can be a colossal waste of time and money.

To make it the former rather than the latter, Nora Simpson, a business coach who has helped thousands of business owners and executives across the U.S. and Europe (www.simpsonstrategic.com) says the following are the important elements in choosing a great business coach.

Interviewing Coaches: When interviewing coaches, Simpson says people should look for a clear commitment to achieving goals.  She gives the example of Phil Jackson. who didn’t coach the Chicago Bulls by randomly encouraging them to play well.  Everything he said and did was designed to get them to achieve the smaller goals that would lead to the bigger goal of winning the NBA championship six times in nine years.
“A business coach is not a therapist, a doctor or a teacher,” Simpson says, though he or she may have many of the skills required for those jobs.  “They’re called coaches for a reason.  Just like in sports, their job is to get you to achieve your personal equivalent of ‘winning the playoffs.'"

People should ask the coach questions and listen to the answer.  Simpson says that every good business coach should start out by asking questions about what it is that the potential client wants to achieve and then listening for the answers. If they’re not asking questions about the person’s goals for the business and life during the evaluation session, then they probably won’t ask many questions once they are hired, either.
“Remember: how a person does one thing is how they do everything,” Simpson says.  “If you don’t feel that they listen to you and your issues before you’re paying them, then they probably won’t listen to you or your employees once you start paying them.”

The potential coach should also demonstrate a track record.  Simpson says one of her current clients has tripled his revenues since they started working together four months ago.  Impressive, right?  Why? Because past results are the best predictor of future performance.
“If your business coach can’t point you to specific numbers-based results their clients have achieved that are similar to the goals you want to achieve, then they’re probably not the coach for you.”

Working with a Coach: Once a person has hired a coach, he or she should engage in a process of discovery on both the tactical and emotional levels.  The best coaches will ask questions about the current tactical state of the business as well as the issues that the person finds most personally frustrating.

For the tactical part, people want a coach who can synthesize information from them into a full financial and strategic picture of the business.  Do they need to know everything about the business or the industry? No.  But they need to be able to assess how current tactical structures are helping and hurting the results people say that they want.

For the emotional and mental blocks, people want a coach who creates a compassionate, safe context for them to express fears and concerns without feeling shamed or judged.  But showing compassion and non-judgmental support is not the same as agreeing with the fears and concerns.  Simpson says these next three points are a package deal that should be present with a coach:
Face emotional and mental blocks with compassion. No shame or judgment allowed.

  • Push people beyond their limits.  Tough love for getting people out of their comfort zone.
  • Hold people accountable for what they say they want and help them get through this discomfort to the rewarding results on the other side of the blocks. 

The best coaches listen to the fears and frustrations people articulate as the blocks to their goals and then challenge them to get outside their comfort zone (defined by “what’s familiar” and “what’s happened so far”) to hold people accountable for engaging in the difficult process of confronting fears as they take the new, often uncomfortable actions that will get them the results they want.

Simpson offers this real-world example:
“One of my clients had a huge mental block around bookkeeping and accounting for her business.  In our third week working together, she shared with me about her mother who was a millionaire several times over.  However, when my client was a child, both her father and her stepfather nearly killed her mother when her mother was at the height of her earning.  After each violent experience, she and her mother had fled to safety with no money at all.
Suddenly, it made sense to me why she was overwhelmed with dread every time we reviewed her business financial records.  She unconsciously associated money with life-threatening danger, while being broke represented safety and love.
From then on, each time we worked on accounting issues together, I would remind her that she was safe and no harm was coming to her.  Within a few weeks she turned to me and said, “Now that I know where they come from, the mysterious feelings of dread are gone, Nora.  If I seem annoyed, it’s just that these numbers are tedious.  I get that they’re important, though.”  With that, we forged ahead on her financial systems. Three months later, she had implemented a new accounting system that doubled her efficiency and helped double her revenues.”

Simpson says the lessons to learn from this example are that it was her job to listen with compassion to her client, to use the new information about the client’s emotional block to support her, and also to hold her accountable for the results she wanted.  If Simpson had decided that dealing with accounting issues would be too traumatizing for the client, given her history, she never would have had the opportunity to face her fear and discomfort and achieve the financial and emotional growth waiting for her on the other side of the block.

The best coaches will help people move through both their tactical and emotional blocks in order to achieve goals. “Once you feel comfortable that you’re working with someone who will both listen to you and push you to succeed,” Simpson says, “open your mind, open your heart, and go for it.”


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