Life coaches can bring improved professional performance and management capacity. Ask yourself these five questions to see if a coach could help you.
Although the short-and-sweet answer to whether you or your business could benefit from a life coach is yes, the question of how you can benefit is less succinct.
The actual benefits can be numerous, according to a business coaching study. Business people who have used a life coach report an overall boost in self-confidence and self-esteem as a result (80 percent, according to the 2009 International Coach Federation Global Coaching Client Study). Life coach enthusiasts also report improved interpersonal relationships (73 percent), communication skills (72 percent), work-life balance (67 percent) and personal organization (61 percent). The study also found that 70 percent experienced overall improvements in their professional performance as a result of coaching, while 61 percent reported improvements in business-management capacity and 57 percent saw gains in time-management skills.
The right coach can remind small business owners "of their personal strengths and hold their vision for them and belief in them when they are challenged," explains Carolyn Fung, a Seattle-area personal coach, speaker and writer who helps service-based small business owners achieve their professional and life goals. "This is not always a role that family and friends can provide. Business owners may also worry that family members will feel stressed if they hear about the business owner’s problems."
"As a small business owner, you've already proven yourself as a creative, resourceful individual with significant expertise in your industry," says Damian Goldvarg Ph.D., a Master Certified Coach and the 2013 International Coach Federation Global Chair. "Coaches honor this fact as they support your process of self-discovery, provide structure for you to meet your goals, and serve as an 'accountability partner' as you work to achieve desired outcomes."
"Having a coach means that a business owner has a safe, confidential place to privately talk about challenges with someone who is trained to listen and ask effective questions to help them refocus and keep them on track," adds Fung.
Before you jump into a coaching relationship, ask yourself the following questions, suggest Fung, and Goldvarg.
1. Do you care about or see the value of a well-rounded life beyond business?
If not, says Paula Gregorowicz, ACC, owner of The Paula G Co., you may not benefit from such coaching because you might be resistant to making necessary changes. "I think those who yearn for a great life while also having a successful business can benefit most" from a coach-client relationship, "because they have the most joy to gain from taking an integrative approach," she explains. "That said, sometimes just the act of working with a life coach expands possibilities for someone who previously didn't see any beyond the business."
2. What would you like to accomplish while working with a coach?
Once you answer that question, and you "have a fairly clear idea of your desired outcome, a coach can be a valuable partner in developing a strategy for achieving that outcome," says Goldvarg. Determining what you want to accomplish will help you narrow down exactly what kind of coach might be the best fit for you, he adds. "If your desired outcomes orient around your personal or home life, you might be best served by a life coach. If, on the other hand, the goals you want to work on center around your business, [such as] becoming a better people manager, communicating more effectively with your colleagues, or using your time in the office more effectively, you might want to seek the services of a business-oriented coach familiar with the needs of small business owners."
3. Will you devote time and energy to the coaching process?
A certain amount of effort also is required if you’d like to get the most out of such an experience, Goldvarg says, and if you’d like to "make real changes in your personal and professional life."
4. Do you take responsibility for all the results that occur in your business?
Or do you tend to blame other people and circumstances? Also, do you chronically complain and make excuses for staying stuck in your current situation? Depending on your replies, Fung suggests that a coach may not be for you.
5. Are you open to being self-reflective and honest with yourself regarding areas of improvement?
"Business owners who value their personal development and understand that they can only grow their business as far as they are willing to grow themselves are more likely to succeed with coaching," according to Fung.
A pair of related questions to ask yourself, she adds: Are you willing to examine and challenge some of your central beliefs that have contributed to your current circumstances? Also, are you willing to be open to suggestions from your coach?
How to Pick the Right Life Coach
Once you’ve completed the steps detailed above, Goldvarg suggests small business owners who’d still like to explore working with a coach identify at least three prospective coaches before deciding on one. "Interview each candidate and ask about his or her experience, qualifications, skills and philosophy on coaching," he stresses.
Fung goes a step further and advises asking for a complimentary consultation or discovery session with potential coaches. "A good coach will take the time to do this," she assures. A good coach also will "be honest and tell [you] if they feel they aren't able to work effectively together and may even provide a referral to another coach."
On a related note, Goldvarg recommends that you "attune yourself to the chemistry between you and each candidate. Coaching is such an important relationship, and a strong coach-client connection is a must."