Why don’t we see more coaches in business?

A coach in sport helps players find ways to improve. In cricket that leads to runs and wickets. 

In business, that leads to profit.

Although the goal is different, the methods are the same. Coaches are in the people business. We are effective when we understand how people and teams tick, what motivates them and how to draw out the best in them. 

Coaching develops people

Managers in business, like captains in sport, are so constrained by the pressures of time they don’t get the chance to coach. Even though everyone from the MD to the team leader is effective and efficient with well drilled processes and policies, they know how much greater a well-coached team can be.

Like good cricket teams, coached and coachable businesses are not just skilled and efficient. 

They know attitude and mindset, although invisible, are crucial elements in success. They focus on personal growth, pride in a job well done, and constant effort even under heavy workloads.

They are aware of their thoughts and behaviours and work towards helpful actions. They understand when they are having unhelpful thoughts and quickly act to stop them from becoming unhelpful actions and behaviours.

They have a powerful team culture built on a spirit of togetherness that extends far beyond shared goals. It helps them feel part of something important and motivates on a deep level.

A coached and coachable business roots out mistrust and toxic behaviour itself - even if it is within the “rules” - because this team has their way of working: A culture that is clear and honest.

So why don’t we see more coaches?

Coaching isn't instructing

I think it’s an image problem.

Most people in business see a sports coach as a PE teacher from the 70s. The coach blows a whistle, makes people do laps and punishment and forces endless, repetitive drills on the cold winter pitch or sports hall.

I have coached for over 20 years. I don’t own a whistle. The only time the players I coach do laps is if they choose to do them to get fit. I don’t even really like drills as a way of coaching. At least, not the brainless repetition of most of them.

Coaches are not instructors any more.

The old-school coach image is wrong.

When you get coaching these days, it’s all about coaching. Coaching by centring on the coachee. Understanding and empathising with the goal of development:

  • How you think.
  • What you believe.
  • What you feel.
  • How you act.
  • What you think, feel and do when you are at your best.
  • What you want to change.
  • How you are going to change.

Real-life coaching

Let me give you a couple of practical examples.

First, George. George is new to a business but has been around long enough to understand the company policies. He works hard and tows the line. He is not a star performer but he never does anything wrong. He wants to learn some new skills but is having trouble finding the time because real work and business pressures come first.

George gets the chance to work with the company coach once a week for half an hour. In that time the coach and George chat about his aims and goals. He clarifies his ambitions and plans how he might get there.

To his surprise, the coach also shadows George at work for a few days too. 

In the next meeting, the coach starts asking George about why he did things at certain times. George feels his brain hurting a little as he digs deeper into how he feels, what his underlying assumptions are about things, and where points of frustration creep in.

He kept an open mind. He wanted to improve.

Over a few sessions and a few shadow days, George starts to get a clearer picture of how he works and why he works that way. He is able to organise his time better as a result and finds time to upskill without significant impact on the business. His new found skills pay off with better, more consistent performance.

George’s example shows, with an open mind, coaching helps you give yourself the chance to be the best you can be, whatever your job.

The second example is Sara. Sara also works hard and toes the line. She has been around a bit longer than George and understands the company a little better. 

She is also seen a problem by her manager. She never “breaks the rules” but she often bends them as far as possible. She doesn’t fit the culture of the company. She arrives just before start time and leaves exactly on time every day. She takes every excuse to get away from work for a moment. She sometimes lets a good chat get in the way of real work. 

Because Sara never breaks any rules, she sees nothing wrong with what she is doing. She doesn’t agree with her manager and doesn’t want to change anything.

Sara notices when the coach is around but, at first, does not see any one to one time. The coach is often around the team; chatting, joining in team meetings, taking notes and having sessions with others on the team.

Eventually the coach gets to Sara for a meeting. There are a lot of questions about how and why Sara does things. She can’t always answer them. She feels defensive. Yet, over time, the coach helps her recognise her feelings and match them to what she wants. Together they find areas they can work on, points of conflict with the manager and rest of the team, and a deeper understanding of how to make positive changes without comprising the core of who Sara feels she is.

Sometimes the meetings are one to one, sometimes they have a team mate or two. Occasionally the manager joins in. The discussion and action plan is always guided by the coach. Even when feelings run high.

Sara starts to understand her role in the team, the culture of the company and her influence on others through her actions. She finds ways to fit in and become valuable while meeting her own needs.

These are the types of issues sports coaches deal with every day.

George and Sara are made up names, but their stories are the stories of players I have coached in a sporting context. I wasn’t in a suit in a company, I was in a tracksuit in a cricket net. 

Yet, people are still people whatever the context.

Beyond practical, into inspired

We tend to get drawn into the practical and immediate in both sport and business. The next sale, the next match.

Sometimes you need someone to get deeper, delve into the invisible soft side and help inspire people the be the best they can be. It leads to a better bottom line, just like it leads to more wins on the field.

Good coaching taps into this on a team and individual level.

To try coaching in your business, set up a meeting with me to find out how I can help.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe