A business coach gives you advice, but you must set the agenda

I ended the Skype call with my business coach with mixed feelings. I was both slightly disappointed that I hadn’t realised earlier what I had just learnt and excited that if it was implemented, it would be incredible for my business.

I gave myself a few minutes’ reflection to absorb it all and then got to work.

Business coaches can sometimes offer great advice, but they can also send you off in the totally wrong direction. Working with a coach usually means you get regular advice from someone who has at some point been down the same road you are on right now. That doesn’t mean that the counsel they provide is always right. For example, they may know your industry well but not your market, or vice versa.

Another thing is that the very nature of a coach is to simply provide advice, as in access to smarts. That does not mean that you will have someone implementing that advice for you – that’s not what a coach does (if you need someone like that, get a consultant). Good advice is great, but it won’t change anything if no one implements it.

However, when you do get the most out of a coach, you can enjoy dramatic change in your business. A simple five-minute conversation or email in the height of the hour can reframe your way of thinking, sharpen your strategy and get you focused again on what is most important for your business.

The way you choose to work with a coach can affect how much you get out of it. So, here are some factors to consider.

1. Choose carefully

Has the coach achieved what you want to achieve? If they haven’t, then you probably shouldn’t be working with them. It is also important to know whether you share the same values and style of working. You can do this by reviewing the books, websites, videos or any other material they have created.

2. Budget

I have never met a good coach who was cheap. Just as you wouldn’t look for the cheapest heart surgeon when you need heart surgery, you wouldn’t look for the cheapest coach to help you solve your most intricate business problems. Quality requires money – it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, but you do need to be prepared for this. Most business coaches share the cost of their programmes on their website or over a conversation or in an email.

3. Ask for a chat before deciding

Have a conversation with the coach before agreeing to work with them. This should work two ways – a good coach should assess if they can work with and help you, as much as you are assessing whether the coach is the right fit for you.

4. The world is your oyster

Do not think you have to choose a coach in your country or even in your time zone. I have worked with people as far as 12 time zones away. Skype is a powerful tool and you should not have to travel to see your coach just to have a quick chat about a problem. Use modern technology to save you time and money.

5. Have a plan

Setting development objectives at the start is key. Answering questions like how you want to develop and what behaviours or results you want to change is very important. Similarly, when you are working with the coach, ensure that your sessions are planned – have an agenda of what you want to achieve during the call, otherwise you may be left with a whole lot of advice, but no focus or direction. If needed, ask your coach before the start of each session to help with setting an agenda.

6. Provide feedback

Take ownership of getting the most out of the coach. Do not think that your coach should control the relationship and results you get – that is your job. If you are not receiving what you want, then ask your coach how you can get the most out of working together.

7. Stay committed

If you do not implement what you agree with your coach, then you will not see results. Coaches provide the bullets but it’s up to you as the recipient of the coaching to pull the trigger. A whole lot of good advice is one thing, but putting it to use is a completely different one. Use your coach to advise you on implementation as you go.

Ahmed Al Akber is a director at Hello Chef (www.hellochef.me), a business coach and the author of the Smart Marketing


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