How big is your small business? Is it just you? Do you work with a co-founder? Do you manage a team? No matter the size of your company, coaching is a crucial facet of your business success.
What is coaching?
Coaching, in its simplest form, is a practice of unlocking individuals’ potential. A successful coach focuses on helping individuals understand their current state, their goals, and the path in between. Coaches facilitate goal-setting, reflection, and learning in a way that helps identify strategies to achieve better results.
The primary tool of a coach is questioning. Unlike outdated management practices where “do as I say because I say so” rules, coaches help their coachees come to realizations on their own. However, asking irrelevant or overly-obvious questions can undermine the process, so active listening and powerful questioning are key skills of every coach.
How does coaching impact small business success?
In small business, coaching plays the crucial role of identifying key goals and strategies to get there. While most small businesses fall into the trap of “let’s get through this year” or “let’s increase our sales,” small businesses that implement coaching models successfully identify every individual’s responsibility in helping achieve a larger, more motivating vision.
As team members become inspired by goals they can relate to and understand, their performance and productivity improve. Ongoing support from their manager or mentor helps them reflect on their performance and identify areas for improvements that would otherwise be overlooked. Over time, the team becomes more confident and focused, yielding better results often for the same salary.
Moreover, coaching creates positively-framed accountability. With goals and strategies that are identified based on each team member’s contribution to the company, coaching clarifies the work each individual commits to take on. This clarity comes with potential consequences of not performing, driving employees to take action.
Not convinced yet? Consider how many mistakes you’ve made so far, how many you’ve made that you wish you’d realized earlier. With a consistent coaching program in place, your mentor or coach might have walked you through our month, asking thoughtful questions about the impact of your choices and areas for improvement. Suddenly, you might have ended up uncovering new key strategies for your small business months earlier, saving you money and time.
How can business owners seek coaching?
Small business coaches are everywhere. In most communities, you can seek out local BBB organizations, chambers of commerce, or networking events to meet other small business owners. If these organizations aren’t available, don’t be shy to walk into a local small business that you revere and ask to speak to the owner. You’ll be surprised by the warm welcome the small business community shares. Still looking for more resources? Online resources are available to connect you to small businesses that specialize in the specific areas you’re looking to improve.
How can small businesses offer coaching?
If there’s more than one person in your small business, you need to do more than to seek coaching. You should start honing your skills as a coach. Here are a few tips to get started:
As a leader or manager in your company, it’s natural that your daily actions guide your employees. To shift your management style from “telling” to coaching, update the way you communicate individual priorities. Instead of telling your employees to work, offer them the context of your company goals, and ask them where they see their own work fitting in. Ask questions about their performance instead of pointing out issues immediately. Require them to tell you where they want to improve.
It should be noted that successful coaching relies on a foundation of training and context. Employees that don’t know the current state of the company or don’t have the skills to understand their work will not be able to answer your questions, so be sure to communicate and offer training resources as often as possible.
Onboarding and Coaching
Coaching is particularly important for new employees. Regardless of a new employee's prior experience and impressive resume, throwing them into the deep end of their jobs without training and coaching is a sure-fire way to lose their trust. Build a culture of coaching on their first day by giving them the context they need about your company and their roles, and asking thought-provoking questions about where they see themselves fitting in.
The result? You'll find that your new hires onboard faster, perform better, and may have ideas you haven't ever considered. Even better, they'll operate with a norm of peer-to-peer coaching or better employee coaching if they one-day manage a team within your organization. Ultimately, new hires are the best audience for your coaching efforts, and they'll yield the quickest return.
Coaching is not limited to the vertical relationship between management and subordinate. Peer-to-peer coaching is also an important part of small business growth. With your business partner or colleagues, implement the same practices as you would with your employees. When they come to you with an idea or a challenge they’re facing, ask questions that you would use to walk through the process, helping them to understand the thought process that can help them navigate similar situations in the future.
Peer-to-peer coaching often results in mutual learning and can be done casually or on a regular basis. Don’t be shy to set up weekly meetings in which you each bring an idea or a challenge that you’re facing, talk through the thought processes, and coach each other.
How can small businesses implement coaching?
Implementing coaching for the first time in your business can be an awkward process. Before suddenly changing the way you communicate with your company, let everyone know why the change will be happening, and ask them to get involved. Everyone can and should take part in the company’s growth through coaching.