What is the process of business coaching? - Phil Drinkwater Coach

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What is the process of business coaching?

Business coaching has done a very poor job of explaining itself. One element that people don't understand is the process of business coaching; where do we start, what steps do we take and how do we end?
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Is there a specific process for business coaching? Is this like a programme, or is it more a loose collection of ideas that we follow?

Well, both are correct, because the real answer is that business coaching is a process of following the right path for the client.

So now we have that out of the way, let’s look at where we start, how we proceed, and when to end the coaching relationship.

What is business coaching?

I think we need to at least start here with a basic definition of business coaching, so we understand what it aims to achieve.

My preferred definition of business coaching is a series of steps designed to assist a business owner, employee, or executive in overcoming obstacles that are causing the business or individual to achieve less success than desired.

Business coaches tend to work within different niches in order to help the right customers. Some will work on the financial or process side.

While I’m certainly keen on processes, my preferred area is to help business owners who are unhappy and stressed

I use what would generally be called “performance coaching” because it would help them with challenges like procrastination, overwhelm, lack of motivation and imposter syndrome.

This process of business coaching

All coaches will have a slightly different approach to coaching, but I’ll explain my preferred process and why it gets results for you. It’s key to recognise that some steps are repeated and may take several sessions to complete, whereas some may be quick.

A key goal within coaching is to understand, if your self-imposed boundaries are taken down, how would you work best.

How long does the coaching process take?

It’s typical for us to meet every week if you’re in crisis and need significant support, but every 2 to 3 weeks is more normal if you’re looking to make consistent change.

Typically, most customers book 3, 6 or 12 sessions with me, in order to allow for a slow deployment of the changes they want to make. It’s common for coaching to last for 3, 6 or even 12 months.

Do we follow this process rigidly in coaching?

No, we don’t, although it’s a framework. In fact, you’ll probably not even be aware that this process is happening. You don’t need to worry too much about the process – that’s my area to worry about.

You should focus your attention purely on answering the questions as fully and honestly as you can.

But as we’re here and you’re aiming to understand more about business coaching, let’s go through them in more detail.

The business coaching steps in detail

Discover an undesirable business challenge

The client comes into their first session with a challenge that’s related to their business, or a way their business is affecting their personal life.

It’s common for the business challenge to shift and move during the coaching process.

Examine the challenge from a variety of perspectives

We will then discuss this challenge in order to understand it as completely as possible using questions such as:

  • How does it impact you?
  • How does it impact others?
  • How are your decisions and behaviours impacting it?
  • How are the decisions and behaviours of others impacting it?
  • How does it impact the business financially?
  • How does it impact the functioning of the business?
  • How long has it been happening?
  • Is this a repeating pattern, or a one off?

Determine paths which are available to move forward

People work within their patterns, even if that means working outside of their strengths.

Let me give you an example. People pleasers will typically put themselves and their needs second. This might cause them to start to hate their work. Rather than handle the conflict that comes from building some boundaries or expressing their real desires, they will work within their weaknesses.

So, this goes on and one, with the people pleaser never accepting that one of the options is to say what they really feel.

I have an exercise I do in business coaching that I call the “8 creative ways”.

I ask the coachee to find 8 ways to solve the challenge they have. Why 8? Well, the first one or two will be using their usual patterns. The others will require them to start to think of new solutions to that challenge. If they struggle, we can inject new personas into the equation, such as “How would Einstein fix this”, “How would Russel Brand fix this”, “How would Joe Biden fix this”. This can allow them to think more creatively.

Once we’ve a good list of potential paths forward, we can move onto the next step.

Understand which paths are uncomfortable but effective

People don’t like change; it’s uncomfortable. At the very least, it requires new learning, which means forming new neural connections and your brain would rather not do that since it takes energy. In that sense, we’re a “minimal energy system”. However, it goes beyond this.

If the change we’re examining involves moving into areas of uncomfortable emotions, there is an extra reason to dislike the move – having to handle these emotions.

So, there are clear reasons that people prefer not to take these paths. However, in business coaching we must be aware of them because they might be the perfect path forward, even though they might require a little uncomfortable change to get there.

Put simply, they must at least be on the list, even if they aren’t preferred.

Examine all paths, dispassionately, to determine the preferred path

If we take emotion out of the decision, which are the best decisions from the perspective of the business and the success you desire. There may be more than one which are worth examining in detail.

We’ll look at how the business, yourself and your employees will change with each of these steps, and see whether these are likely to achieve your overall goal – the real reason you came into coaching.

Where will each path lead to?

Reverse engineering success

Sometimes we’ll move forward in time to a point where you’ve achieved your success and look back from that point, to see what happened. This can help us to see some of the steps which were important, and allow us to see how these steps relate to the paths which are available.

Which paths are less preferred due to emotion or limiting beliefs

It’s essential for this step to recognise that we are not choosing to take these steps – we’re just looking at each of them. If we allow emotion to get in the way, it will colour the final decision.

I use my skill as a coach to help you understand if emotion is coming into this step.

Choose a path and develop a plan for any necessary personal growth

Then we get to select from the available options. What do we want to try and experiment with?

I’ve use the word experiment very purposefully because, in business coaching, it’s important to adopt a growth mindset approach. This is where failure doesn’t exist, but we can either win or learn. What we learn from experimentation can lead to incredibly important new information about how you work and perform most effectively.

We can also look at your personal past performance and the skills available to you within your business to help with this, too.

Why weren’t you choosing these paths?

During the process of choosing, you may discover you needed permission to take certain paths, or you felt support was essential as you move into areas that are uncomfortable for you. Business owners often feel that they must know everything and be strong and perfect, and moving past that can take some work together.

Execute the plan and continually examine the situation

Once you’ve decided on something to try, you can begin and together we’ll keep an eye on what you need at each step of the plan.

Use the plan to develop any personal learning

The important element of this part of the process is to examine how you feel minute to minute, day to day.

If everything goes perfectly, that’s great! If there are challenges which were unforeseen, we may slow down the pace of change and movement.

Examine the success of the plan and redirect if necessary

Another key step is to allow for further change. Part way down the path it may be clear that this isn’t the right direction any more, for a variety of reasons.

What about accountability?

I’m glad we get to talk about accountability.

Some people come to coaching for an accountability partner – which they may define as someone to push them to do something that they don’t want to do.

I consider this to be a toxic coaching relationship.

While there may be some times that we all have to work on things we don’t want to do, or within our weaknesses, it should be temporary and with a very specific goal in sight. So, in business coaching, I never push you to do something you don’t want to do. My goal for you is to find the paths that you’re not discovering and to reduce the resistance toward them, so you can move forward and find how you can work happily and within your strengths.

When does the coaching process end?

A goal of coaching should be for the coach to make themselves redundant. The relationship shouldn’t become one of constant need.

So, when the client has discovered the path they were looking for all along, the coaching relationship should end. That doesn’t mean that the coachee won’t return at some point, but the business must be allowed to move in the new direction for a time at least.

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