You only need to look back in history, or at some of today’s most successful business people, to see that coaching and mentoring has been around for quite some time. Plato was mentored by Socrates, Harper Lee was rumoured to be mentored by Truman Capote, Audrey Hepburn was mentor to Elizabeth Taylor, Marissa Myers is mentored by Larry Page and Marc Benioff was mentored by Steve Jobs. These people sought inspiration and the greater wisdom of others, and it paid off!
To steal a quote from Albert Einstein, “problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”. Sometimes, we hit a roadblock, are facing a significant life change, or are simply craving more purpose, yet we lack the strategy, mindset and tools to make headway ourselves. This is where a life or business coach could come in.
Business and leadership coach, Morgan Holt, who runs thecoach.co, explains: “A coach is someone who encourages you to be more yourself. They’re basically very good at seeing past the story, asking questions that force you to learn more about yourself in the process. Maybe you find yourself unable to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do, or you’re scratching your head asking “is this it?”, or you lack the presence or magic touch to step up a rung in your career.”
We interviewed Holt, to gain more insight into why it’s worth considering hiring a business coach, and how to go about it…
You often hear the terms business coach and mentor…can you explain the difference between the two?
A coach asks questions, a mentor gives advice and invites the client to personalise it.
Also, a coach is focused on the person, while a mentor is a little more focused on the business; although this definition gets quite grey in places.
Can you describe some of the scenarios where people hire you?
I have a client who married into a very rich family and is uncertain how to navigate the politics (life coaching).
I have a client who is unhappy with his job and wants to find something bigger and better fitting (career coaching).
I have a client who was recently promoted to a senior exec position and is unsure how to bring their best selves to the task (leadership coaching).
I have a client who is a founder of a business and wants to provide his teams with support and guidance,to allow himself to step back and be more strategic (exec coaching).
I have a client who runs a business and wants advice on how other companies have succeeded and find ways of making that work for his business (business coaching).
I have a client who asks my advice about how to address problems that come up from time to time (mentoring).
And for comparison, I also have a client who has strategic problems that they’d like me to solve (business consulting)
In your experience, what do you see as being the key benefits of hiring a business mentor or coach?
The benefits of coaching (whether it’s for your life, your business, your career) are:
- You get a non-judgmental space to explore your options
- You get someone who has skills, tools, techniques to help you understand yourself, reframe problems, expand options and get past negative thinking
- You get someone who will hold you accountable to your goals
The ultimate benefit, when it’s done well, is that you achieve your goal, whatever that might be. It could be a new job, more time in the day, more confidence in presentations, greater impact at work or better processes at work.
For a business that goal should tie directly into growth and sustainability.
What are the most common things individuals seek your help with?
People often come to me with similar problems, such as…
- The skills I’ve been working on don’t work so well any more
- I’ve been promoted out of my comfort zone
- I don’t enjoy my job
- I need more from my teams
- I need to manage my time better
- I have specific habits that are holding me back
Underneath these is often one of the following ‘core needs’:
- I need my life to be more fulfilling
- I need to expand my options
- I need to expand the range of what I can cope with
Are you able to share some real world examples of individuals who you’ve helped over the past couple of years?
Here’s one that took an unexpected turn…
Martin (not his real name) hired me to help him get the confidence to leave his job and go somewhere that he cared more for. As we worked on his confidence he became bolder in his current position. His peers and boss developed a new respect for him, and within a few months he was getting projects that were more interesting and a platform at work that he was proud of. Needless to say, he didn’t leave in the end!
And here’s a story for you that shows the breadth of coaching…
I started working with Annie (not her real name) who wanted to get her new business off the ground. She had the ideas, the backing, the time and the contacts. It was just hard staying focused. So my initial role was to help her get clear on her goals, break it into manageable chunks, and hold her accountable. But during our sessions it became clear to me, and later to her, that she wasn’t very passionate about the business she was building. So the coaching took on a different flavour: what’s my next business? We explored her values and strengths and six months later she founded the business that made her smile every time she thought about it. And then her father died. And all the work we’d done exploring the things that mattered most to her became even more essential. The values that she wanted to carry into the world now formed the foundation of her role as a daughter and sister.
How can the coach relationship sometimes evolve?
Quite often my clients begin as 12-week engagements and then this pivots into a trusted advisor role. For them, I am someone who knows them intimately, cares passionately about their success, and comes with none of the office baggage. I have been working with a few clients for more than a year.
It’s also quite common for my business coaching clients to bring me into their business to work with one or two of their top performers.
If we’ve piqued the reader’s interest, where should they begin their search for a business coach?
There are also some associations to help. Nesta is one, and many of the accelerators have people allied with them.
Always check the feedback and testimonials of coaches you research.
What would be your one piece of advice to leave readers with?
Coaching is a process where change happens so it must be experienced to be fully understood. I would encourage individuals to have a sample session and don’t feel obliged to say “yes”. You’re choosing someone you’re going to work with for several months (possibly longer). And you’re going to share some very confidential information with them.