When struggling to reach higher, we can all use some extra help.
There are really three roles, three types of helping hands we come across in our lives as we endeavor to learn and grow - the teacher, the mentor, and the coach. At schools we’re given teachers. At companies we’re often offered mentors. Those in sports seek the guidance of coaches. What is the difference between these three people, and which one do we need? The truth is, every person needs all three.
We need all three, because each one plays a different part in helping us grow and excel as individuals. Their roles overlap, sure, but each one has a specific focus that is invaluable and unique.
If we were talking about a game, say, we could characterize them like this.
Teachers know how to play the game.
Mentors know how they, personally, succeeded at the game.
Coaches know the player they are coaching.
Differences between each role may not seem large at first glance, but they are large and important. It is pretty easy to see why teachers are needed. We need to know how to play the game well. Mentors obviously offer us one potential path through the complexities of success. Our path may be different, but we can look at their qualities and attributes and hold them up as role models. We can study their thought processes.
Coaches, however, are special. Coaches may not know the game as well as the teacher knows it. They may not know it even as well as the player. They may not have succeeded themselves at the same game, or the same level, as the mentor has. They bring something different to the mix, however, they bring a very special skill.
Coaches know just what words need to be heard by the player, when and in what situations, in order to get maximum performance.
This skill obviously doesn’t arise overnight. It comes from a deep relationship with the person being coached. It comes from earned trust between both parties. It comes from a deep understanding of both the situation the player finds themselves in and how that player is likely to respond psychologically to that situation. A good coach knows when to be tough and when to be gentle, because he knows how the player being coached will respond to each in a given situation.
Business coaches are no different.
The business coach is someone to be there to help the practitioner through a variety of business situations, decisions, and challenges. The coach is that trusted advisor. As business is executed, the problems change, the goals change, but the coach is always relevant because the practitioner doesn’t change. A sports team doesn’t change its coach every time it faces a new opponent. The coach’s role remains the same.
What Should I Expect From a Business Coach?
A Business Coach should magnify your strong points and maximize your effectiveness, while minimizing the affects of weak areas. Business coaches are there to help you maximize performance.
Business coaches can
Be a trusted advisor
Help you hone your skills
Help you see situations and problems objectively and fairly
Help you remove fear and unnecessary emotion from decision making
Help ensure your thought process remains flexible and fluid
Help you keep in mind the things that are important to you, so that you don’t betray your true self
Help you keep your eye on the prize
Help you push yourself across the finish line
Characteristics to look for in a Business Coach
Since a business coach is ultimately a guide through the vagaries of achievement, he or she should be part business school teacher, part psychologist, part parent, and part conscience. He or she should listen to what you are saying and to what you are not saying. He should be able to discern what motivates you as a person and what you are thinking and worrying about in a given situation.
Ultimately, the real value of a business coach is when the relationship becomes so strong and deep that he may guide you back to the path you ultimately would choose for yourself if you were not under so much pressure, distracted, worried, scared, or suffering from temporary blindness.
Obviously the coach needs to be strong as well. He is going to take the brunt of more than a few tirades. He needs morals, standards, beliefs, and his own personal gravitas in order to remain upright and earn the respect of the practitioner.
What Should I Expect to Gain?
You should expect to gain access to your best, most capable business self. Who can ask for more than that? Keep in mind that it doesn’t happen after one meeting. It might not happen after ten. But you should know right away if it is going to happen.
Working with a business coach is a process. Trust the process. Trust your instincts. Not all coaches are right for all practitioners. If one is not working out for you, find another one.