As many Aussies and Kiwis stay glued to their TVs and other devices watching the Olympic Games, it is not just the athletes we are hearing about. We also regularly hear who the coach is for each athlete or team. And in Australia we are mourning the death of famous swimming coach Forbes Carlile, who guided Shane Gould, amongst others, to greatness.

So what exactly does a coach do and why is coaching so powerful in a business context? The power of coaching is well understood in sport. Every elite team and individual sports person has a coach. In most cases the successful coaches have participated in the sport previously or been a student of the sport over many years. Either way they have great familiarity with it.

Here is what I think each coach does at the core with his or her elite athlete:

  • They observe the athlete in action and provide feedback.
  • They see what the athlete cannot see.
  • They help the athlete make changes for often very small incremental improvement.
  • They help the athlete plan how he or her is to train and improve and be ready for the big day of competition.
  • They are the chief supporter, motivator and chief critic.
  • They are there for the athlete but they don’t run the race for them – only the athlete can do that.

When I completed my Master of Business Coaching degree (two year post grad course at the Sydney Business School of the University of Wollongong) we spent a lot of time looking at the value of coaching in business and found clear evidence that it can have a profound effect when delivered effectively. In practice I have also found this to be true. I personally received coaching when in one of my senior roles and found that I felt more in control and was working more effectively with the support of my coach. And I have been in two businesses where we used a coach broadly across the whole business with positive effect.

So if you are in a professional firm such as accounting, legal, architectural or engineering, (or indeed pretty much any business) here are some ways that coaching in your business can really help:

  • Working with the leaders of the business as a group looking at the business as a whole
  • Working individually with leaders to strengthen the positive impact they have on the business
  • Working individually with emerging leaders (rising stars) to help them fulfil their potential
  • Helping those who are struggling to “find their place” in the business (or somewhere else)

In all cases a good coach helps you see what you cannot see (or perhaps choose not to see) provide feedback and help you perform at your best. In its purest form coaching helps the person being coached find the answers for themselves – it is not about telling. In business telling = consulting and at times will be appropriate, but coaching is so powerful because the person being coached shapes the answers for themselves and feels so much more empowered. (See my summary of the difference between coaching, consulting, training and mentoring here)

I think coaching in business provides:

  • Space – for reflection – to slow down to speed up (an apparent contradiction but in my experience nearly always true)
  • Clarity – about what you want to achieve and how you will go about it
  • Focus – to stick with the priorities, and focus on what is important – the things that get you closer to your goals
  • Accountability – for action to actually get stuff done and not just talk about it

The end game is of course RESULTS. The Australian women’s’ Sevens Rugby team is comprised of outstanding athletes and with the help of their coach they got their result today – an Olympic gold medal.

Want to have your own gold medal winning performance?

Get a coach.

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