A blank page approach to coaching

There are many misconceptions about what a business coach is and can do for your business: I am convinced that this is mainly because coaching is still an unregulated profession and literally any cowboy can call himself coach and start trading.

Business owners that have been exposed to these lesser professional coaches often report very different experiences to the basic underlying concept that coaching (business or otherwise) should be about.  Coaching is a self reflecting learning experience where the coach brings a structure and helps you to think better and facilitate your decision process while, at the same time, keeping you accountable for the actions you are committing to.

I was recently having a conversation with a business owner in the Cambridge area: in the past he worked with a business coach that belongs to an international franchise and he was trying to understand how I work, compared to them.  The best analogy I could use in explaining my totally different coaching technique was to define it as a blank page approach to coaching.

So I first listed what I don’t do:

  • Supply reading material;
  • Use predefined strategies for sales, marketing, customer services and other business management activities;
  • Suggest what to do;
  • Consult in any way;

Then I listed what I can do for you as a business owner:

  • Ask questions like: “how can I help you” and “what would you like to achieve”;
  • Helping you to define and refine important goals for your business;
  • Bring a well proven structure to help your thinking and decision process;
  • Being an objective sounding board that while understands how to run a business helps you with questions that are allowing you to get to your own solutions;
  • Keep you accountable toward your goals and the actions that you define from time to time.

The blank page approach to coaching is about arriving in front of you with nothing more than a notepad and a pen, asking questions, taking notes and helping you to move from a current situation of uncertainty, dilemma, lack or clarity or direction into a constructive process that culminates with a concise, specific and clear list of actions that tackle essential activities for you to move toward your business goals and achieving them.

Posted under Articles, Coaching in Action

This post was written by massimo on 30 January 2010

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Everybody needs a coach

In this short video Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, states how and why everybody needs a coach and, quite coincidentally, I agree with him:

Posted under Video

This post was written by massimo on 3 September 2009

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Coaching at the top

Man On Mountain TopI was recently at a talk organized by Cambridge Network where Louise Makin was presenting her 4 years at BTG and the great transformation she managed to undertake in this company.  The first part of the presentation was factual: the company was financially in a very bad shape when she was first offered the position of CEO and she managed to lead a deep transformation in the culture and running of the company itself. A heterogeneous group of different business models and modus operandi that was carrying over £30M of losses in 2004 became a successful money making organization in 2008 when the company managed to acquire Protherics and it is now in a very strong position with £60M in the bank.  While the presentation continued into the more human aspects of running the company Ms Makin explained the continuous difficulty of running a public company where every decision has to be communicated to the market that ultimately will take decisions about buying or selling shares in the company.  She also made a great analogy in choosing the right team between the day to day running of a company with the aim to succeed and being part of an endurance sailing and running race.

She described how at the beginning decisions were tough:  redundancies were unavoidable and causing low morale. As the strategic plan proceeded it was obvious that the strong management team she put together had the right attitude and determination to succeed.  I found interesting her definition for these people is of being great givers: people that were and are truly interested in giving to the company energy, skills and full dedication without necessarily measuring their personal return.

Several times she mentioned her loneliness in running a large organization and the difficulty of sharing her doubts and insights in an environment where uncertainty can surely cause panic and instability to the market.

In my experience, once you make it to the top of an organization, you tend to share similar feelings and experiences, a great analogy to when you climb a mountain on your own.  You get to the top and, as you look around, you realise you are alone.  Many people, particularly those that report directly to you tend to assume you have something extra and they expect that extra from you, all the time.  You do not or cannot share with them your doubts and uncertainties and the pressure on you keeps growing.

In a situation like the one described above an Executive Coach can help a CEO or a top executive in their decision process, acting as a sounding board, a trusted person that can truly facilitate the decision process of the executive being coached while maintaining total confidentiality.  The main task for the coach is to ask questions, powerful open ended questions, without offering any input, suggestion or advice.  Coaching can make a big difference in the way you as the executive are running your business: best results are achieved when the coach manages to stay out of the content, that is the day to day drama, the decisions, the workload and source of stress and concentrates on the process, the coaching process of getting you toward your business goals.

Does it sound too abstract? Try it to believe it.

Posted under Articles

This post was written by massimo on 10 March 2009

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I Shall Be a Coach

Coach is the buzzword of the last few years. All of a sudden we are literally surrounded by coaches. A term that was once used just by sport trainers and team managers is now synonymous of many more professions. A non exhaustive list includes Life Coaches, Personal Coaches, Career Coaches, Speech Coaches, Voice Coaches, Performance Coaches, Crisis Coaches, Team Coaches, Business Coaches and Executive Coaches just to mention the best known ones.

For many people the transition between Instructor, Trainer or Consultant to Coach was just matter of changing their business cards. For others, arrived at an age when they feel they have enough experience to be Mentors in some discipline, they also call themselves Coach. So what happens to us coaches when we get mixed and confused with people that, with all due respect for their professionalism and experience, are not coaches as such but they manage to confuse our prospects? We are going to meet a misunderstood and uninformed audience.

When attending networking events I find interesting that some people are surprised of finding out how I work and the kind of outcomes that they should expect from my services. I explain that “I help managers and business owners to improve their business, develop their staff and increase their sales”: the fact is that some people simply cannot do all by themselves.

Coaching, at least the coaching methodology that I practice is about asking questions, listening to the answers and asking more questions until a solution emerges. Solutions always involve actions: that’s the most effective part of coaching.  Finally coaching is about getting you into action: rather than leaving a should do but…” attitude that simply helps procrastination and stress derived from lack of results, coaching instills a “do by such and such date” mind frame that gets you moving and achieving results.

Posted under Articles

This post was written by massimo on 30 October 2008

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