Six ways to be a successful business coach

By Jeremy Campbell, below, business coach and CEO of performance improvement business, Black Isle Group

Coaching can be of huge value for those trying to grow successful SMEs. Often in small businesses we can’t afford the services of expensive consultants. We just have to do things ourselves. So, what are the key tips to be being a successful coach to our colleagues and potential successors?

  1. Coaching is not telling. Coaching is about helping people to discover the answers for themselves. If we just tell people what to do, chances are they won’t do it. It’s about showing them the path and encouraging them to walk down it. The key to coaching is the questions you ask and the moments of self-realisation which you create with the person you are coaching. What you are trying to do is hold a mirror up so that people can see for themselves. The truth is that most people don’t know what they are doing never mind why they are doing it.
  2. Delve beneath the surface. True meaning for everyone normally lies just beneath the surface. As they say, there is a rationale behind every human act but it’s not normally the one which is first presented by the coachee. As coach, you need to ask searching questions which dig a little deeper. We are all products of our past. What went before has shaped us as who we are today. Coaches help people realise that and hopefully encourage them to do something about it. A great coaching question is “What’s stopping you from doing that?” Part of the coaching journey is to help people identify their blockers and then address them.
  3. Coaching without action is delusion. Coaching sessions need to conclude with the coachee agreeing and documenting concrete actions which they will take ahead of the next session. That next session needs to start with a review of progress. But they need to come up with the actions; the changed behaviours; and the new things which they will try.
  4. Be a ‘deep listener’. So, much of coaching is about listening deeply not just to what is being said but also to what is not being said. Watch for the body language of the person you are coaching and what that might tell you.
  5. Focus on everyday actions. When people want to make a big change in their own behaviour it can be quite daunting. The secret is to focus on what are the small, achievable steps they can take everyday to start out on the path to their new big goal. For example, if you really wanted to read a lot more books you might struggle to get started. But if you broke this down to reading 10 pages a day. That doesn’t seem too hard. After 20 days you’ll probably have read your first book. Keep it up and you’ll get through 20 books before you know it. It’s the same with creating big shifts at work. Distraction is the enemy of progress. Coaching helps maintain focus.
  6. Coach the whole person. We are but one person. There is not really a different you at work from the you at home. The pressures in our personal lives impact hugely on our professional lives and vice versa. If you are coaching a colleague, you need to take the whole person into account. That also brings out one of the most important facets of a coach – be kind. Kindness is at the heart of coaching. The objective is to help people understand themselves better; to maximise their potential; and to make fundamental shifts in how they live and work.

You should also be aware when you begin your coaching that there is very little new that hasn’t been seen and coached before. The most common conditions have all been coached before.  Most of us have several of these conditions in different measures. Some people have one which is so prominent it is blocking their progress. The most common include – imposter syndrome; fierce independence; people pleasing; ostrich syndrome; performance anxiety; perfectionism; procrastination; cynicism; and going to excess.

Harvard Business Review recently published research which suggested that good coaching can increase the productivity of individuals and teams by 44%. There is huge value in helping to coach people to be more successful.

The times that we are in call for more understanding and kindness in the workplace. Especially, at a time where all SMEs face so many pressures and challenges – from rising costs, inflation, supply issues to being able to recruit the right people to keep the business going.

Coaching is no longer a nice to have. It’s a key component of any SME which wants to survive and thrive.