What is Coaching?
Things to Know and What to Expect with Coaching
Learn about the frequent questions we are asked as to how coaching works with the partners of our firm. It's important to know what coaching is and isn't. Please read this document before we embark on a coaching journey. 12 min read.
Since business coaching is an often misunderstood service, we have put together a list of things you might expect from our coaching services.
Coaching is not consulting. A consultant often seeks to become an expert and tell you how to do things. To be sure, this is often helpful, and something we do at times. But coaching is a skilled means to help the client think better. We unravel complexities in your business, help you prioritize them, think through them effectively, challenge your beliefs about these issues and then chart a path forward. Clarity and confidence are common results of our great work. And we do all of this with you at the center of our work. That is, we help you come to the proper conclusions that you must take to be successful.
It even sounds like counseling, and so be it. Coaching is more like business counseling than it is consulting. To that end, trust, and the freedom to ask you difficult pointed questions is very important for us to do our best work. We hope the following thoughts can give you some ideas as to how to approach our coaching services.
A) Key Elements of Coaching
1) You typically have the answers, not us
Coaching isn’t mentoring, therapy, or consulting, although it’s related to all of those disciplines. The key difference is that in those relationships you’re typically seeking answers from an expert.
Our expertise is in building meaningful coaching relationships, but we’re not experts on you or your goals, and we typically don’t have answers for you. We have questions, and you will ultimately have to discover the answers that are right for you.
You may feel as though you don’t have those answers, but our work together will be designed to help you find them. Our emphasis on identifying the answers that are uniquely right for you not only ensures that our work will yield sustainable results, but also helps to ensure that you’re accountable to yourself in this process, not to us or anyone else.
2) You set the agenda, mostly
We won’t often determine what issues are to be addressed, and we won’t often determine the solutions that will be right for you. We say ‘often’ because there are times when we will direct you with expert advice. Our main role is to help you articulate your aspirations and clarify your goals, to develop a process to meet your needs, and guide you through that process. To that end, we will help you set the direction for achieving your own goals, while also adding appropriate counsel when we find it necessary.
3) A coaching relationship is an equal partnership
We are not an authority figure, nor are we simply a service provider. We will work together as equal partners in this process and will share responsibility for its success.
4) Choice, fulfillment, and effectiveness
Within the guidelines above, our approach to coaching typically focuses on helping people feel more fulfilled and effective in their professional lives, manage the complexities of growth and add greater value to their customers.
Choice makes us more or less fulfilled and more or less effective, and in part, coaching is intended to help you understand how each choice you make affects these aspects of your life.
Fulfillment is uniquely defined by each of us for ourselves, but a useful starting point may be “Achieving your fullest potential in the areas that are most important to you.”
Effectiveness is also individually defined, but a useful starting point may be “Achieving your goals consistently with a sustainable level of effort.”
B) Key Characteristics of the Coaching Relationship
We have bound ourselves to be confidential in all things shared in a coaching session. That burden does not apply to the client – the client may share anything discussed in a coaching session, but we will not.
2) Trust and accountability
We need to do what we say we’ll do. Within our coaching engagement, you’re accountable to yourself, not to us or to anyone else, and our success will depend on building trust over time by fulfilling our commitments to each other.
While our coaching relationship must be one in which both of us feel a sense of caring and appreciation, it must also be one in which both of us feel free–and even obligated–to be honest with each other. We will always speak professionally and with respect, but we will also strive to be as candid and direct as possible in order to be as helpful as possible.
C) Things to Expect in a Coaching Session
1) Interruptions and pointed questions
We may interrupt you, and ask direct, pointed questions. It’s important that we find the communication style that’s most effective for us as a team; it’s essential that you feel heard in our discussion, and we don’t want excessive politeness to get in the way of real communication.
2) Requests and responses
We may make suggestions, and you always have at least four responses to choose from: You can say “Yes,” say “No,” suggest an alternative, or ask for time to think about it further. In a sense, any feedback or data that we provide can be thought of as a suggestion, and you should always feel that you have the ability to accept it, reject it, modify it, or defer it.
3) Getting stuck
Prepare to get stuck from time to time, particularly one or two months after we begin. Coaching clients sometimes become excited by the potential for change that appears in the first few sessions but is then disappointed when actual change doesn’t follow immediately. Bear in mind that it will take time to identify desired changes, put them into effect, and experience sustainable results.
Effective coaching will at some point run into your fears or concerns and generate resistance to change. This is expected and actually desirable because it’s an important indicator of progress. Both of us will need to learn to identify and recognize signs of resistance and discuss them explicitly.
D) Getting Started
Consider the questions below. We’re not obligated to pursue any of them, but they may serve as a useful starting point in our work together.
1) Questions to understand you and your current situation
- What activities have the most meaning for you?
- What works for you when you make changes successfully?
- Where do you get stuck?
- How do you deal with disappointment or failure? How do you deal with success?
- What helps you fulfill your commitments? What gets in your way when you don’t?
- What’s satisfying about your work today? What’s unsatisfying about it?
- What one thing could you do immediately that would make the greatest difference in your current situation?
2) Questions that will allow you to help define my role
- What does “coaching” mean to you? What does it not mean?
- How would you advise me to coach you most effectively?
- If you seem stuck, how would you like me to help?
3) Questions to understand where you want to be in the future
- Where do you want to make a difference?
- What would make your work so compelling that you would do it without compensation?
- If a goal is an external, visible outcome, what are your most important goals?
- If a commitment is an internal force that drives you to set and achieve goals, what are you committed to?
- If a habit is a small sign of a larger process, what helpful habits do you want to encourage? What counter-productive habits do you want to break?
- To build on your success or achieve lasting change, you will have to explore and better understand your assumptions, mental models, and beliefs. Which assumptions, models, and beliefs support your success? Which ones are getting in your way?
- Who do you want to continue being? Who do you want to become?
E) Measuring Success with a Coach
What outcomes could you expect from a coach?
We dive deeply into what you think you are building, and how fast you are trying to do it. Through our work together, clarity is typically a result. Everything becomes clearer so that we can make paths forward that are more informed, accurate, and more likely to be successful.
We’ll not only work out our plans together, we will follow up and make sure everyone is moving forward on what they said they were going to do. Most of the time, our original plans were not informed by the future, so we’ll tweak our execution as we go. We will keep following up, and make it a point to make sure you are doing what you said you would do.
3) Skill in creative agency building
This our claim to expertise. We only help people build creative companies. And we’ve been coaching agency entrepreneurs since 2008. Obviously, we don’t know everything, but it helps to talk to someone who has seen many different agency business models, can speak to how all of these models fit together, and how they keep working or tend to break.
F) A Few Last Words about Business Coaching
1) We are not mentors
We are not some wise people checking up on you and making sure you’re doing okay. Questions like “how are you doing?” or “are you spending enough time with your family?” are not the things we bring. We are fellow entrepreneurs building businesses too, and we have practiced the skill of coaching others to grow our businesses. We are not mentoring you.
2) When coaching, we are not consultants
We are not going to tell you how to run your business (unless you hire us to do that). We are skilled at vetting out what is going to make you great. We’ll do that work together, but we won’t tell you what to do.
3) We are not a friend
We will get close, and you will rely on our coaching. But some cross lines into thinking, “we are tight!” We may be tight, but that won’t stop us from pushing you, challenging you, or even jeopardizing our relationship so that you take the right paths. We are not looking for another friend. We are trying to help you see value for what you will pay us. Some mistakenly pay for friends, and that is dangerous at many levels.
4) We are not lead gen experts
Don’t hire us to get more leads. We don’t do that. Growth may not come in the form of more leads. It may come in more important areas like seeing you mature as a business owner, becoming bolder, or wisely abandoning things you should stop doing. Don’t hire us for more leads.
5) We are coaches
We will push you, but you have to let us into the most intimate parts of your business. We are skilled at hearing what you are saying and matching it to what you are doing. We know how to lead you to turn what you want into plans that you can then go execute. Coaching could touch on hiring, firing, pricing, positioning, marketing, culture, partnership issues, leadership, processes, or ANYTHING. You can bring any issue to your coach (the more you bring the better). Since we don’t have to be experts, we can work on ALL areas of your business to bring clarity, make plans, and push you to execute them.
Thanks again for the opportunity to embark on this journey together! We hope our attempt to coach you to greater success will serve you for many years to come, whether we continue to coach you or not!