The decision to start your own business is one of the biggest you will ever make in your professional life. Staff issues and a mountain of paperwork can quickly subsume your initial enthusiasm and you may find that the passion that drove you to go it alone in the first place is quickly replaced by the difficult task of juggling a hundred balls at one time. Your personal and social lives fast disappear as you struggle to stay focused and set priorities, and frustration can soon turn to failure. Sound all too familiar? If so, it may be time to consider hiring a business coach.
“Like therapy, coaching is a helping relationship and ‘borrows’ similar skills such as listening, offering a safe space, asking insightful questions, offering feedback and challenging the client where appropriate,” says Karolyne Williams, who established SACAP’s Graduate School of Coaching & Leadership and is Head of Coaching at the college.
However, Williams points out that, while coaching shares similarities with certain solution-focused styles of counselling, it focuses mainly on enhancing performance and development (not healing) and is both results and future focused. “The coach may be the expert in the coaching process, but the client is the expert in his or her own life. The client’s agenda drives the conversation,” she emphasises. In the case of business coaching in particular, the coach is working with the client to achieve business aims. Both always hold not only the individual’s needs and aims in mind, but also those of the business, ensuring alignment between the two. It’s not business coaching if your business is not growing as a result of it.
Oftentimes, as an entrepreneur, you have the wherewithal to achieve your work objectives but find the new role of staff management – an integral though frequently not entirely welcome aspect of running your own business – overwhelming and inordinately time-consuming. Not only is it your job to effectively shepherd your staff but you also need to ensure that their professional objectives are addressed. In fact, far from being an unnecessary drain on your time, doing so will assist with crucial staff retention and also provide you with the future leaders of your business – the people, in other words, to whom you can delegate some of your responsibilities as your own increase with the growth of your business.
“A successful coach is someone who has a high level of emotional intelligence, is self-aware but others-focused, and is able to build authentic and trusting relationships with others,” she says. They have the qualities, in other words, to develop and empower – not train – leaders.
And therein lies the rub. Coaching – be it for business or for personal reasons – is considered part of a life journey and you, as the business owner, in turn are able to apply the learnings you gain through the coaching process to your own employees. As such, you become an asset in the job of helping others to achieve their very best.
Coaching is not for everyone, and it is not cheap (Williams cites average price estimates in the region of R800 to R3 000 an hour), but with the right coach, it could be the best money you ever spend on your business.