Evolution through Coaching
Strategy. Adapting. Change. Performance.
by Dr Sue Mitchell, Director and Coach, Aeona.
Congratulations! You took the plunge and started to work for yourself. Maybe it was only recently, or maybe you've successfully run your company or business for many years now. How does it feel? "Great to be my own boss, to be in total control, to choose what work I will do and what I will turn down, the business is sound and running well, I have a great life outside of my work and I feel secure and happy that life can be no better than this?" Well done! You are one of a remarkable few. Most of us at some time or another find that while it is great to be our own boss, it can be lonely at the top and responsibility for all decisions weighs heavily on our shoulders. We spend time worrying about cash flow, sustainability, where the next customer or client is coming from, how we should develop our products and services, and what we need to do for our staff to be more committed. We worry about what direction we want to take the business in, whether the business is stagnating, how to take control of our business instead of letting it control us and how we can fit in time for family, friends and fun things in life as well as work. (To name but a few of the myriad of worries that plague us from time to time). This is where working with a business or executive coach comes into its own.
So, what is coaching? Essentially, it is a partnership where you set the agenda regarding what you want to achieve and your coach will help you understand what this means in detail, identify suitable ways forward, maintain focus and remove distractions. Your coach will encourage and motivate you to keep on track so you actually do what you plan to do and will be successful. One of the most important things a coach will do is help you maintain a positive attitude and help you turn negative viewpoints (such as "I don't want this new project to fail") into positive ones (such as "I am going to do everything I can to make this new project a success").
An independent coach is a sounding board, with whom you can develop clearer ideas, plans or difficult decisions before implementing them, without affecting relationships with colleagues. It is often not appropriate to discuss the development of company strategy with your employees, particularly if this might instill doubts in their mind over your leadership or the company's future. When you are working on your own, your ideas for developing the business often simply reverberate around your mind. Actually speaking out loud to someone, who can relate to what you are saying and reflect your ideas back to you, will help you break out of the cycle and come up with more creative ideas and a clearer focus.
Some of the most common benefits business owners say they gain from coaching include:
- A sense of purpose for their company
- Clarity - knowing what to do and how to do it
- Improved focus
- Increased business growth
- Increased self-confidence
- Better work/life balance
- Improved motivation
- Improved performance
- Better able to cope with change.
Recent research in the executive and corporate environment has shown a 5.7 times return on the initial investment 1 in coaching due to the widely varied tangible and intangible benefits:
Tangible benefits include:
- Improved organisational strength, productivity, quality, staff retention and profitability.
- Improved individual performance, efficiency, time management and effectiveness.
Intangible benefits include:
- Increased confidence - particularly for managers and executives who have recently taken on a new role.
- Better relationships with colleagues, leading to better performance in your team and the company overall.
- Improved leadership capabilities.
How do you define success? As a coach, I know that success is very personal and depends on what we as individuals value in our life and work and the relative priorities we give those values. However, we often don't make the time to think about what success is for us personally and view success through other people's expectations. For example, society tends to regard people with high incomes as being successful, yet you may choose to have a lower income in order to combine it with a higher quality of life. Have you already considered what success means for you and where you want to be in a year's time, or three, five, or ten year's time? Do you have a vision (or goal or target) for yourself and your company? Do you have a plan for how you will achieve this vision in line with your personal and your company values? Can you see, hear, and feel what this success will be like? Do you want to? A good coach will help you really identify with your goals in this specific way so you can hugely increase the probability that you will successfully achieve what you want. This is because once we know where we are going, our "destination" becomes more real and more achievable. We have thought in depth about how we can get there, what pitfalls might arise and how we can avoid them, yet still be sufficiently flexible to explore unexpected or serendipitous open doors along our journey. Just consider - you would never start a journey from London to Edinburgh without knowing where you were going to and identifying how you will get there (road, rail, air, for example, and if by road - which routes are best and what alternatives there could be if there are traffic delays, and so on). What would be your chances of completing your journey if you didn't start with the end in mind?
How much are you held back by your limiting beliefs? Are you even aware of your limiting beliefs? Some are so subtle we don't become aware of them until we delve deeper into why we are not doing something or achieving the success we would like. Others are the more obvious "head-tracks" we replay to ourselves over and over - "it's not possible…, I can't do that, I'm no good at this…, I don't deserve to be successful…" and so on. A classic example of how we can be held back by limiting beliefs comes from athletics. For many years, no one could break the four-minute-mile barrier but since Roger Bannister succeeded in May 1954, other top athletes have followed in his wake. They are no longer held back by believing, consciously or subconsciously, that it is simply not possible. Working with a coach will help you become more aware of any limiting beliefs that are potentially holding you back from achieving greater success.
Are you setting yourself sufficiently challenging goals? Do you carry on doing what you've always done, setting yourself targets you can comfortably achieve? Many people do this and then feel they are not really getting on and their business is not developing quite how they would like. Conversely, do you set yourself tasks that are too challenging, feel overwhelmed by the task and then feel unsuccessful for having failed to achieve it? Working with a coach will help to stretch you out of your comfort zone so you can achieve things that perhaps you had previously thought were not possible, which brings added satisfaction and pleasure. A coach will also help you recognise the limit between being stretched (a stimulating, exciting and useful state) and being panicked (a considerably less useful state!).
Does coaching always work? If you are fully committed to working with your coach, you are willing to try new things and you actually do what you plan to do, then yes, coaching will be successful. You are the only person who can make the changes. Your coach is there to support, encourage, motivate and inspire you, but at the end of the day, your coach can't do the work for you and you need to put in the effort to make things happen. As with many things in life, you only get out what you put in.
I hope you find this introduction to some of the benefits of coaching useful and thought provoking. If you think you and your business could be doing better, then maybe coaching is one way forward for you.
1. J. McGovern et al (2001) Maximizing the Impact of Executive Coaching. The Manchester Review v6 p1-10.
This article was written to be published on www.evancarmichael.com.
"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." Henry Ford
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Evolution: (noun) A gradual development. An exercise carried out in accordance with a procedure or plan.
Evolution through Coaching: Improved performance and desired changes achieved using a strategy to adapt people's attitudes, behaviours and actions.