Anyone who is skeptical about the potential benefits of having a business coach should look at athletics.
The greatest athletes in the world all have coaches. They know that no matter their level of talent, there are always areas for improvement.
A coach might not be as good at the game overall, but they’re an expert in the exact area where their athlete needs help. The same goes for entrepreneurs.
We can thank managing director of SUCCESS Coaching Ben Fairfield for that analogy. Ben almost didn’t become a business coach at all: he got certified as an air traffic controller before deciding that his true path was in coaching. But that original training provided valuable lessons.
“No matter what happens every day, there’s always a solution,” Ben says. “You’ve just got to think a couple steps ahead. There’s always a way to make things work, and get to the destination you’re shooting for.”
In this episode of SUCCESS Stories, Ben tells Chief Storytelling Officer Kindra Hall about the true benefits of a coach, how you know when the coaching is paying off, and the importance of getting to the root of an issue.
Coaches help you see the big picture.
When Ben was training to be an air traffic controller, he was coordinating planes that were landing with planes taking off, while accounting for both vertical and horizontal distances between them.
He constantly had to think three steps ahead of what was happening at the moment. This is a valuable skill in business, and one that coaches can help cultivate.
To continue with the sports metaphor, when you’re the one running up and down the field (or running a business) it’s hard to get a sense of the overall game.
You might miss an opportunity or an obvious problem because your focus was only on what was right in front of you.
That’s where coaches come in. From the sidelines, it’s easier to see the weak points and opportunities. It’s their job to direct you (and to redirect you when you get it wrong).
Your coach should help with all aspects of your life.
Although coaches often market themselves as focusing on your business or the rest of your life, you need someone who will address every aspect of who you are.
You don’t stop being a partner, a parent, a friend and someone’s child when you go to work. And you don’t leave your work behind when you’re at home.
Even if you hired a coach for help with your business, they should understand—and help you understand—that strengthening every element of your identity will benefit your work.
That said, brace yourself for a frustrating truth: You will never be completely balanced in all areas of your life.
That’s fine, as long as you’re able to see which part needs most attention at any given time, and then manage how much time and effort you put into each in the long run.
Look for the root cause.
Faced with a sudden change or disaster—like the COVID-19 pandemic, for example—many people try to address their feelings of instability and anxiety by fixing their immediate environment.
This is what Ben calls the fruit: the clearly visible things that are easy to change.
If you’ve ever scheduled a breakup haircut, reorganized a room in the middle of a work project or moved to a new city because you felt restless, you know what he’s talking about.
That short, sharp change won’t solve the deeper reasons for your feelings. For that, you need to find the root. Coaches can help you identify and address the real reason you feel so shaken up.
How do you know if coaching is working?
As with any relationship, it takes a while to develop mutual trust and respect with a coach, and for your sessions to bear tangible fruit. Here’s how to tell it’s paying off, and some red flags to look out for.
Coaching is working if:
- You feel confused. A good coach introduces you to new concepts and approaches you haven’t considered. If it all feels a bit strange—in an inspiring way—you’re on the right track.
- You feel stretched. You don’t pay a coach to let you sit in your comfort zone: You pay them to move you to the next level, and that takes effort. If you feel challenged and pushed, your coach is doing their job.
- You can look back and see progress. When you’re a few months into your coaching—at least six—you should be able to look back and point to examples of progress, even if you missed them at the time.
Consider finding a new coach if:
- Your coach makes your sessions all about them. Your coach is there to support you, not to self-promote. If you feel more like a spectator than a player in your own sessions, find a coach who prioritizes your needs over their own.
- Your coach wants to be your friend. Coaches are not there to tell you how amazing you are; they’re there to highlight the ways you can improve. Otherwise, they’re not helping you move past the level of success you’ve achieved on your own.
- Your coach doesn’t hold you accountable. A good coach gives you tasks that will help you progress towards your goals—and calls you out when you don’t meet them.
- Your coach shows up unprepared. If you feel like your coach isn’t properly engaged during sessions, and they don’t seem to have done their own homework, find someone who will fully invest in you.