Many business owners don’t need a coach. There, I’ve said it. Coaching is not for everyone. It requires a particular kind of commitment to change that many people aren’t ready to make yet. It also requires an investment (in time, effort or money) that many business owners find challenging to make.
The business owners that coaching really works for have similar traits – a willingness to think and act differently, a thirst for knowledge and an open-minded approach to every problem. If you’re that sort of person, you’ll recognise this definition of a coach:
‘A coach is someone who helps people reach their full potential by providing guidance, a sounding board and accountability. A coach empowers the individual to find a solution for themselves.’
What’s clear in this definition is that the coach is not required to have experience in the clients’ specific field or specialisation. In fact, as Sir John Whitmore says, just passing down knowledge actually undermines the building of self-belief which creates sustained performance. Nor should the coach be doing the work for you (for example, writing a marketing plan) – if you need that, you should turn to a consultant.
What if you do want someone to pass down to you their knowledge and experience in your particular industry? For that, you’ll need to find a mentor.
When Odysseus was setting out for Troy, he left is son Telemachus with his friend Mentor and simply said ‘Teach him all you know’. That was the origin of ‘mentoring’.
I like to give my coaching clients this definition: ‘A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor; someone who is where you want to be, in your industry, in 5 to 10 years’ time’
A mentor will give you industry-specific advice and give you real-life examples of success and failure in companies just like yours. They’ll point out the traps you should avoid or the opportunities you should seize. They could introduce you to senior members of your industry body, or open their contacts list so you can build your network. A mentor is a good person to have on your side.
So, coaching might be for you, or it might not. Everyone should have a mentor or two. But if your challenge is overcoming procrastination, or building self-belief, or coping with the isolation that comes with sitting alone at the top of a growing company, a coach is exactly what you need.
The answer to the question in the title is therefore ‘it depends’ – everyone should have a mentor and every champion has a coach. Ronnie O’Sullivan was coached by Steve Peters (who wrote ‘The Chimp Paradox’ and probably doesn’t play snooker as well as Ronnie). If you really want to push yourself forward, in life, in business, or both – find people to support you, challenge you and keep you accountable.
You really don’t have to do it all on your own.