by Tony Vidler
Great practitioners who are running good businesses can use a coach.
Pretty bold assertion, right? I mean, after all, we are talking about people who are actually pretty damned good at what they do AND they are good at running the business as well. At first glance that doesn’t seem to be the sort of folk who could use a bit of professional help really, yet those are the practitioners who usually benefit the most.
There is no doubt that good coaching can help most professionals at some point in their careers, and there is a tendency to think that coaching is most valuable when the professional is in the formative stages of their career, or when they are struggling.
To be blunt, coaching often struggles to make a masive difference the apprentices or the strugglers. Either they are still learning their craft and there is a need for personal skills or knowledge development, or there are fundamental problems with how they are doing their business that require behavioural or activity shifts. They are difficult things for an outsider to deliver quickly and cost effectively.
However, the great practitiioners are the ones who plateau and get mired in the myriad of details that go with managing a firm, and they are the ones who benefit most from a skilled outsider who can help them to break out of the status quo and accelerate to the next level. Many great practitioners are highly skilled as advisers personally, and can largely get the results they need as a practitioner by following their own version of “the tried and true” – or the pattern of success that they have developed over the years for acquiring new clients and doing new business.
The problem that they frequently have is that because they have a pattern of success that is reasonably reliable for them, they have sought to introduce leverage or increased capital value for their business by growing a practice around their own skillset and success system. As a consequence they have to learn how to become good managers. They have to learn how to manage other people and resources, become multi-disciplined in the sense of becoming competent decision makers in sales, marketing, technology, human resources, financial management and a host of other areas. Because great practitioners are usually highly intelligent and highly adaptable people they tend to be able to master these extra requirements….and therein lies the the thing that holds them back.
Management is fundamentally about the efficient allocation of resources. Best use of time, people, technology, capital, and so on. It is a role which by definition is inward looking. The essential focus is continually “how can we use what we have best?”
Coaching on the other hand introduces an entirely different perspective. The essential role of coaching is to look outwards and consider how to grow capacity, and usually it is done by introducing challenging thinking. It focusses upon “what is possible?”
Great coaches look in at the business of course, but the greater emphasis is upon looking outwards and questioning and challenging the existing thinking in order to open up new possibilities. It moves the focus from best use of current resources to risk-assessed best-use of resources to create greater opportunities.
The shift in mindset from “efficiency” to “strategic opportunity” is usually a game-changer for great practitiioners.
Before anyone considers this to be merely an advertisement for myself as a coach, I would like to suggest that there are many many great coaches. Each experienced and well-practiced coach brings an array of past experiences that are invaluable for new clients, and each coach can usually offer something for part of the journey that is “practice development”.
Therein is the limitation of great coaches: they tend to be useful for only part of the journey. Coaches are not spouses. It is not a lifetime deal where you promise to be with each other forever, no matter what. There is a natural and finite life to most coaching engagements, and great coaches recognise it from the outset. They should be able to figure out reasonably quickly how and where they can help a practitioner, and then work with them to move from point A to point B.
There endeth the journey!
For that coach.
But…..then it is probably time for the next coach, who brings different skills and epxeriences and can help move you from your new plateau……
No matter where practitioners are on their business development path, they can almost invariably benefit from using a good coach.