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Business Coaching FAQ

1. What is business coaching?
Business coaching is a professional relationship between a coach and a client (usually called a coachee). The objective of this professional relationship is to help the client achieve his or her professional or personal goals with less effort and in less time. The credit for the achievement remains the client’s. The coach is just another resource available to the client (just like a PC or a book or the internet that are available to the client). But since the coach is a living, breathing, interactive person with an enquiring mind, he or she will be the most useful of all the resources available to the client.

Coaching is done during a “coaching conversation” which is just like a normal conversation between old friends but with a purpose or direction.

2. What then is the difference between a coach, a consultant, and a counselor?
The difference is mainly a matter of methodology and intent and can be summarized as follows:

A consultant: Using vastly superior knowledge and experience, the consultant assumes the role of the subject expert (e.g. in marketing or training needs analysis or marine engineering, etc.). The expert recommends or tells the client what and how to deal with a certain issue or problem or to achieve a certain goal. It is a superior – inferior relationship i.e. the consultant is superior and the client being inferior.

A counselor: Again using superior knowledge and experience, the counselor tells or advises clients (usually employees or students) who have failed to reach certain required life or work norms or expectations (e.g. persistent late coming, consistent low productivity, prolonged absenteeism, etc) to mend his or her ways. The clients have deficits that need the counselor’s intervention to help overcome the deficits. Again it is a superior- inferior relationship.

A coach: Using questioning as the main methodology as well as an understanding of the client’s resources, the coach helps the client to achieve his or her goals by:

a. helping the client gain a fresh insight or perspective and
b. prompting the client to take responsibility to take action to achieve the client’s goal or discontinue a habitual action that sabotages the client from achieving the goals.

It is a relationship of equals.

3. Why should I want to engage a coach?
You may want to engage a coach when you want to achieve certain major things you have in mind. Most people, when undertaking such a venture, normally have a lot of doubts and questions in their minds and want to talk them over with a good and trusting friend. At the end of the conversation what you hope for is:

a. greater clarity of the issues you will be grappling with; and
b. a renewed enthusiasm about proceeding with the venture.

In this regard, a coach can be more useful than a good and trusting friend because a coach is more likely to be honest in providing feedback with a fresh perspective while still giving you the support that you look for.

So the bottom-line is that if you want to be more competent and fulfilled in whatever you do, engaging a coach is likely to be a good investment in time and money.

4. My boss has asked me to work with a coach. Does it mean that he is not satisfied with my performance? Is there something wrong with me?
If your boss thinks there is something wrong with you, he’s more likely to send you to see a counselor or a therapist or the termination officer!

Obviously, he sees something in you that tell him you have potential. He may want to groom you for bigger things. Of course, it’s his duty to coach you and I’m sure he is already doing that whenever he interacts with you. But there are many advantages for asking you to see an external coach. One of them is bringing a fresh perspective to your growth and development. Another is, just as in the case of the good and trusting friend we spoke about earlier, an external coach will be able to give you a more honest feedback.

5. Where do I look for a good coach?
Ask some of your senior colleagues for a recommendation. They are likely to have engaged a coach because they see the logic of it.

If you can’t get a recommendation, look up in the internet and google “executive coaching ________ (name of the country)” and you are likely to get some hits.

Or you can look for the phone no of the local coaching chapter.

6. How would I know whether a coach is right for me?
Coaching is a relationship business which means that you have to want to be in that relationship. This is especially true as trust (both ways) is essential. With trust your chances of success in the coaching process is very much enhanced. Of course, the coach must be generally well- educated and knowledgeable (though not necessarily in your area of expertise).

A good test of whether the coach is right for you is to ask yourself at the end of each coaching conversation, the following questions:

• Have I been given space to speak just enough about my real issues?
• Do I feel that I have been heard?
• Have I gained some clarity or a fresh insight on the real issues?
• Do I feel enthusiastic about the venture I have in mind;
• Do I feel that the session bring me nearer to my dream?; and
• Do I generally feel good and energized about the session

The more yeses you answer to the above questions, the greater is the indication that the coach is right for you.

7. Help! I can’t find a coach who has working experience in my industry?
Are you sure you are looking for a coach? Or maybe you just need a consultant to tell you what to do?

A coach with extensive work experience in your industry brings both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages relate to his familiarity with the issues confronting you. So you don’t have to start from basics. But that familiarity with the industry could turn out to be a major disadvantage. The coach may tend to go for the shortcut – putting up his or her own recommendations rather than pulling out the solutions from you. That doesn’t work in a coaching relationship. Most consultant recommendations, if you make a quick study, don’t get implemented – mainly because there is no buy-in by the client. For your information, that’s the major criticisms of consultants – their expensive recommendations usually end up on the bookshelves.

In coaching, our emphasis is implementation or follow- through.

The main benefits of working with a coach who is intelligent, knowledgeable and yet not from your own technical background are two-fold:

a. By explaining the fundamental issues you will have gained a fresh perspective of the issue itself.
b. The coach will be asking very basic questions which may reveal a long held prejudice or blind spot. That may help you come up with a novel approach to the venture you have in mind.

8. I checked with a coach who I find acceptable. But he’s very expensive. Come to think of it, the other coaches are expensive too. What makes coaches so expensive considering that he or she is just going to talk with me?
Yes, considering that the coach’s job is just to talk with you his or her fee can be regarded as expensive. But have you heard of the story of the plumber who was called to a factory to repair a piece of machinery? He came and asked the foreman several questions. He listened to the hum of the machine, asked more questions. Then he asked the foreman to hold on to a piece of cylinder and asked more questions. He asked the foreman to trace a thread on the cylinder and on cue, using a small hammer, the foreman knocked on a specified part of the cylinder. And hey presto the machine started to move. It was all over in 10 minutes.

On the way out, he handed the foreman a bill for $1000 itemized as follows:

Knocking work $ 10
Knowing what to ask and where to knock $990

In coaching, the difference is that the client gets to do the knocking himself.

The skills of the coach during the “talk” include creating a climate where the client becomes ready to make changes through asking appropriate questions (including a consideration of the timing of asking which questions) and a basic understanding what makes the client ticks.

9. Ok I am convinced about the need for engaging a coach. How do I get the best out of my coach?
That’s a good question!

Most people who go into coaching have an unrealistic idea about coaching and therefore may not gain as much as they would otherwise. These are some of the tips to maximize your gain from the coaching relationship:

Be prepared for the coaching conversation by listing and ranking the issues you want to discuss before hand. Be clear about why these issues are important to you and what you hope to achieve during the talk.
Be punctual to meet or call at the appointed time and place. Your punctuality is a good indication of the importance you give to the coaching and your readiness to change.
Give serious thoughts to each of the coach’s questions by going deep inside and coming up with answers that are true to you.
Ask questions that you think are germane to the issue.
Be present and engaged in the conversation.
Be as honest as the coach is to you.
At the end of the session, ask yourself the questions at item 6 above and discuss them with the coach. This will help improve the overall quality of future sessions.
Commit to do what you have agreed to do at the end of the session.
Be open to the changes arising from the conversation and follow up action and report to the coach at the next conversation.

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