Every entrepreneur and business person I know wishes he had more time for coaching all the members of his team. I often hear the excuse that coaching takes more time than simply diving in and doing the job for the other person, but is that really true? In fact, studies have shown that the long-term value of coaching has a return of at least 2x to more than 100x times the cost.
Of course, that assumes that you or someone you trust knows how to do it right, has the right attitude, and has the trust of the person who needs the coaching. These things don’t happen automatically and require you as a business leader to build a company culture of coaching at all levels from the very beginning. The key elements of this culture should include the following:
- Be the role model for providing coaching and assistance. If you don’t take the time to provide coaching to people, versus issuing orders, you will never establish a coaching culture, no mature what your policies state. Every successful entrepreneur needs to spend more time developing people, as the business grows. Expect it and plan for it.
- Exceptional communication is a prerequisite to coaching. A business with a coaching culture needs to start with a well-defined and documented roadmap and leaders who are able to communicate these goals clearly and often. Coaches must also be able to give direct feedback regularly, reinforce key messages, and acknowledge success.
- Reward team members who take the time and effort to share. These are your natural coaches, as well as your best performers. They need to know that helping is appreciated and beneficial to their career and performance feedback. Effective rewards include public recognition for their efforts, special development assignments, as well as compensation.
- Seek out people who are not afraid to confront issues. People who seek to avoid all conflict or never disagree, do not make good coaches. You need healthy conflict to get people to face their limitations, and to fully understand customer and operational issues. That’s why I recommend that you as a leader always seek opposing views of reality.
- Look for evidence of a willingness to learn and change. Great coaches typically have a continuing need to learn, from self-development courses, reading, and getting coaching themselves from people in areas unfamiliar to them. They will inspire team members to look outside the box and try new things for the development of their own potential.
- Focus on team members that are emotionally mature. There is no place in coaching for emotional outbursts and petty biases. Good coaches are able to easily build sustainable relationships with others, both at work and outside. They need to possess uncommon empathy and compassion for others, in order to really help them.
- A coaching culture thrives on agility and resilience. Both good coaches and good businesses are strong enough to change course quickly as the needs change and the market changes. People need coaching to weather setbacks and surprises which can dilute their confidence, and take away their ability to experience their full potential.
- Good coaches prepare for each session and follow up. Coaching is not a casual conversation, or for off-the-cuff comments. Coaching sessions should be scheduled in advance, and the coach should be organized for each session to address specific topics. Be prepared with information, examples, feedback, and ready for discussion.
- Find people who actively listen before responding to input. You can’t coach someone if you don’t understand their point of view, and you can’t get that point of view without listening first. People who pre-plan their response are prone to miscommunication or misunderstanding. A coaching culture requires real dialogue rather than pontification.
- Only hire and partner with people who have a positive outlook. Experience levels for a role in a resume don’t tell you everything. Use your interviews to find people who are perpetually optimistic, thereby coachable, as you can be certain that roles will change over time. Negativity is really coaching in the wrong direction, and you don’t need that.
People often ask me about the difference between coaching and mentoring. I see these as two different disciplines – a business mentor helps to fill an experience gap, while a business coach helps fill a skill gap. Both may be required, but a coaching culture is required for either to work.
A mentor’s aim is to teach you by using specific examples of what to do and how unlike a coach who helps you develop your generic skills for deciding what to do and when. Neither is about job titles, or what your expertise is, but is more about who you are.
Thus a coaching culture is well worth the investment in time and effort. In fact, in today’s digital age, with a rapid movement to new generations of workers, and equally rapid changes in technology and market demands, your business may not survive without it.