Executive coaching is one of the fastest growing professions worldwide and yet many people still don’t understand what coaching is.
I’ve been a professional coach for many years and the question I most frequently get asked is ‘ what is coaching?
So, I thought I’d start my column here at Elite Business with a little introduction to the world of coaching ‘ What is it? Should you have a coach? Do you need a coach and a mentor?
So many questions, but before we start, let me tell you I’m also the Co-Founder of a venture-backed, fast-growing fintech company, so I understand first-hand the challenges of leading a team, growing a business, fundraising, not having enough time, speaking to the press, keeping the investors happy and, and and…! So this won’t be a lecture from the sidelines – I’m also on the pitch playing!
What is coaching?
The essential belief underlying the art and science of coaching is that people have the capability to develop, change, and solve their own challenges. A coach is there to facilitate the brain’s exploration of possibilities and unlock these internal resources. Unlike a consultant who you might hire to give you answers, or a mentor who you might seek out to give you advice or industry/job specific wisdom, coaching will help you think for yourself, reflect and develop your emotional intelligence.
Should you have a coach?
Of course with my coaching hat on I’d say yes. Why wouldn’t you want somebody on your side, somebody to cheerlead you, to challenge you and to confide in? But with my founders hat I look at the £200 – £800+ a session price tag and think I’ll manage without thanks!.
As with all investment decisions it’s a trade-off – you won’t know the return until you’ve taken the risk, but with this investment there is huge potential upside if you’re willing to be challenged, and you can limit the risk by just investing in one session (don’t believe the coaches who say you need 6 sessions to get any benefit!).
You need to consider what your biggest current challenges are as a leader, a business, and an individual. Maybe you don’t know this yet and just one session thinking aloud with a coach who will listen without agenda, interruption or giving advice can help you work this out, and from there you can decide if working with a coach will be beneficial.
Do you need a coach and a mentor?
This question is like saying do you need water and wine?! Yes both are drinks and will quench your thirst, but they are clearly different drinks with different results for different needs. You can think about coaches and mentors in a similar way. Both will help you, generally by working 1:1 with you but they offer different things.
A mentor will provide advice and expertise, they might connect you to people in their network, guide you on professional practice or industry standards and usually share their own experience. A coach will ask you questions, drawing out the wisdom you already have and help you see things from a different perspective. It can be extremely helpful to have a coach from a completely different industry and background as they will challenge your thinking, be more curious and help you uncover new insights. So do you need both? It depends. What’s your biggest challenge right now and does it require specific knowledge and expertise, or does it require confidence, courage and personal reflection? Only you know.
Remember, when you’re thirsty you sometimes need water, sometimes need wine and sometimes you need both!