Extract from How to Sell Coaching.
Coaching is not mentoring. Coaching is not consulting. Coaching is not training. Coaching is not therapy – but it’s probably more akin to therapy, and the term ‘therapy’ is still struggling to find a foothold in corporate cultures where problems are seen as weaknesses.
Coaching is about helping people to make breakthroughs to improve their business or personal performance. The ‘coachees’ might already be at the top of the ‘performance tree’, they may be struggling, or (like most people) somewhere in between.
My value proposition is hopefully clear and simple. “I will help people improve their performance by 30% or more in a matter of weeks, and in some cases, days.”
My definition of coaching, addresses the issues that inhibits clients from making breakthroughs. These issues are almost always emotional issues and not intellectual issues.
Case Study: Me and My Comfort Zones
In my early years in sales, by and large, I got on very well with clients’ operations managers. When I met or presented to a client’s more senior management, I would do my best to make sure I was structured and grounded my proposals in facts and data. Nonetheless, I often felt nervy and that came across in my body language and in the tonality of my voice. Senior clients would often think to themselves, “Paul does his ground work and thinks things through but he’s uncomfortable at this level. If I’m going to take his proposals up the line I’ll need to involve someone more senior from his company”.
*** End of case study ***
Coaching takes people outside their comfort zone in a safe and secure manner; so that a client is okay if things don’t work out the way they want, the first time around. It provides the client with tools to learn equally from successes and setbacks – especially in the domain of relationships. (For a guide to forging excellent business relationships I refer you to Quick Guide III: How to Bridge the Pillars of Successful Business Relationships.)
I have found that business, and life for that matter, is all about relationships, relationships, relationships.
When there is no-one with the power of veto to stop what you’re trying to achieve, including yourself, then you cannot fail. You succeed.
Mentoring or consulting, on the other hand implies that you are dealing with an expert; someone who has first-hand experience of new areas in your line of business; experience that you do not have. They might, for example, have studied world-class practice in a new business model in which you wish to engage. They will be capable of identifying the gaps between where you are now and where you wish to be. They will be able to customise a business model that meets your precise needs to fill those gaps. They will transfer skills over to you to fill those gaps, so that at some point in time you no longer feel dependent on their input.
The outcomes for both coaching and mentoring/consulting are the same, improved business performance and improved personal skills. Both get you to do things differently, whether those things are old or new. But the processes of achieving improved business performance are different and often complimentary. Coaching primarily addresses the emotional journey (which is still often overlooked) involved in change, whereas consulting/mentoring primarily addresses its intellectual journey.
The two categories, coaching and consulting/mentoring, require different mindsets: non-expert and expert. The two categories each require a different approach as well, directive and non-directive. I’ll explain what I mean by ‘non-expert’ and ‘non-directive’ through the following case study and later, when I define what coaching is and is not, to a prospective client.
Case Study – Top 5 Global IT Firm, Managers as Coaches
I coached a European team of managers who were already equipped with/‘trained-in’ an oft used coaching technique (GROW: Goal, Reality, Options and Way forward). BUT, they were not equipped to help their salespeople ‘grow’ their performance by more than a few percentage points. Going for, say, 30% growth requires a much more profound approach.
It involves taking people though a structured process outside their comfort zone to do some things very differently, often things that in the past, have anxiety associated with them. This level of coaching is not a competence that coaches will pick up in a two/three day training course. It requires that they experience passing though their own anxiety barriers – so that they understand more fully the emotional journey that they’ll subsequently be coaching others through – by taking their own ‘medicine’ first.
Here are testimonies from the sales managers I coached, about what it’s like to be coached and subsequently coach people to increase their sales by over 30%. Some refer to specific tools and techniques which they hadn’t received in their conventional ‘coaching-training’.
Coaching requires a completely different mindset. When I use it the process gets an A* for managing poor performers.
Coaching isn’t an individual session; it takes place over a period of time to get to a solution. Using ‘2nd position’ (how to stand in another person’s shoes) has helped enormously. It’s made me face some of my own demons.
I took the material and applied it rigorously to coaching X. The meeting wasn’t easy! I faced my demons and got on with it. It’s not there yet but the mountain has moved.
I’ve used the ‘Success and Setback Analyses’. (Two tools that, respectively, ‘paint’ both sides of the boundary of, or limits to, the success we create for ourselves.) I’ve overcome my shyness… I feel I’ve moved out of my comfort zone.
I am more rigorous in the ‘Analytical and Process Quadrants’ (a ‘thinking preferences’ analytical tool) and it’s paid off.
I took away the ‘Being at my peak’ tool from our session and used it – it’s brilliant.
The ‘Being at my peak’ tool helps me synchronise with people.
I am more effective in how I use my time and am more prepared for important meetings.
First two sessions were particularly useful. I would not have gotten through that month without the self management tool.
When I do follow the coaching process it works and it fails (I fail???) when I don’t.
This team of sales managers, in a Top 5 Global IT Company, went on to receive an award for being the top performing sales branch across Europe within six months of participating in this endeavour.
*** End of case study ***
Note that, in the case study above, the managers focused on taking themselves (and thus learn how to lead others to do the same) outside their comfort zones. In the subsequent coaching of their people, the managers specifically did not focus on directing their coachees what to do – even though previously, the managers all had successful careers in sales. Instead, the managers coached their direct reports to explore the space beyond their ‘boundaries of current success’.
In a nutshell…
- Coaching implies a non-expert and non-directive approach.
- Consulting/mentoring implies an expert and directive approach.