Business Coaching Definition: Comparing Coaching With Other Business Services

The simplest coaching definition is to say that business coaches work with a business owner over a specified time period to bring about a change in behavior or performance.

"Coaches are not for the meek. They're for people who value unambiguous feedback. All coaches have one thing in common, it's that they are ruthlessly results-oriented." Fast Company Magazine

Business coaching involves coaching people who can influence the performance of the business.

The business is the ultimate beneficiary of the coaching process although the client may also experience some form of personal development as a result of the coaching.

The business owners vision for the business drives the coaching and it works best when a high level of trust has been developed between the coach and client.

To be perfectly honest though there's really no guarantee what you'll be getting when you hire a business coach unless they are ICF certified. That is the only way to know for sure that you are working with someone who is trained in coaching and not just in 'how to do business'.

At this point in time anyone can call themselves a coach which can make it difficult to know what you'll be getting.

It may help to make the distinction between coaching and other professional services:

Business Consultant

Business consultants are often mixed up with coaches purely because they work one on one. One coaching definition is this: a coach asks you questions and a consultant gives you answers. Coaches look for ways to grow and develop the individual client.

Consultants are generally experts in a particular area eg. finance, marketing etc and they give you answers to problems based on their experience.

A business consultant comes in to your business on a short term basis, gives you a diagnosis of what needs fixing, advises how to do it and then leaves you to get on with it.

Business Trainer

Business trainers are educators who give you specific knowledge about a topic. In contrast, coaching is more akin to facilitating than educating. Trainers generally deliver one-off seminars or workshops.

Coaching by definition requires a longer term relationship. Given that its estimated that less than 10% of what people learn on training courses is actually applied afterwards (it increases to 80-90% if combined with coaching) many trainers now back up their training courses with coaching.

Business Mentor

A business mentor is someone who has ‘been there and done that’ who can share their own experiences with you. So, a business or entrepreneur mentor could be someone like Richard Branson.

A coach is an expert in the development of people, whatever their chosen path. Business coaches don't necessarily need to have done what you're trying achieve themselves (similarly Roger Federer is not coached by former Wimbledon champions).

Counsellors and Therapists

A business coach does not delve in to your emotional issues like a counsellor or therapist. If, for example, you have an anger management issue that is affecting your business, a coach will want to raise it but it is not their job to cure you of it. They should refer you to another trained professional who can work through it with you.

On a side note: we have known business owners who have hired a business coach purely to help them with their marriage because it's tax deductible! Not recommended - find a relationship counsellor.

This coaching definition sums up this distinction: therapy involves looking back to fix things; coaching looks forward to create things.

Business Coaching Definition

In the purest sense of the term, coaches are experts in people. Their goal is to get the best out of the person they're working with whether they're a business owner, sportsperson or parent.

Our coaching definition is that coaches work with an individual to bring about a change in behavior or performance.

A business coach's ultimate goal is to change the behavior and performance of the business owner in order to improve the business.

In order to do this business coaches may also choose to educate and train their clients in order to plug knowledge gaps. Yes, they have a lot of business knowledge to share but their ultimate aim is to strengthen the business by strengthening the individual too.

Business Coaching Questions:

  • Are you ready to hear honest personal feedback?
  • Are you prepared to stretch yourself and be held accountable?
  • Are you ready to take responsibility for making changes?

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