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What is business coaching?

There are an awful lot of people out there today calling themselves business coaches. And when many of them don't have any real professional accreditations or associations, it’s hard to know who to trust—not simply when it comes to their methodology or the quality of their training, but also in terms of their approach to business and life in general. Working with a coach is a deeply personal engagement, and on some level you’re buying who they are and why they do what they do.

Business coaching is a relationship. It’s a place you go to for guidance, support and accountability so you can figure out what’s in the way of creating the business you want. But it's also not just about having a trusted guide—they also have to have the right map.

We’ve been at it for over 40 years and have helped over 70,000 businesses transform, so we know what it takes.

It’s about asking the right questions in the right moments—something a coach can only do if they have the right training and experience. If your coach can do that, you'll become a better leader. You'll see the impact in your business, in the way your employees show up at work and in your bottom line. Great coaching helps you build a company culture based on commitment and accountability—and gives you the right tools to put theory into practice.

A trusted partnership

Business coaching is not consulting and it’s not therapy. A good business coach doesn't simply tell you what to do or listen without giving feedback. A good business coach is someone you can trust—someone that has the acumen to be able to diagnose specific and systemic issues in your business and knows that in order for you to get real results, you're going to have to implement the solutions yourself.

Being a good listener is half the equation, but a coach can’t help you unless they understand what makes a good business good and a great business great.

Being smart about business is half the equation, but a coach can’t help you unless they care about people and really want to get to know you personally, to understand why you went into business in the first place.

Great coaches are patient—their job is to help you get clear on what needs to happen next, but they wait for you to take action. And of course, they hold your feet to the fire on your goals. A great coach lives by one rule: that you already have the fundamental ingredient to transform your business—which is the ability to change how you relate to it.

Curiosity and courage

Great coaching is equal parts curiosity and courage. Curiosity to look in each and every corner of your business to find the root cause for why things are stuck or stagnating, and the courage to be honest with you. Great coaches understand that you need to hear the truth, even if it stings a bit or means pausing to reflect before jumping into action.

The goal is to teach you to fish

A great business coach hopes that, over time, you'll need them less and less. Their goal is to show you how to do for yourself what you need their help with today—which is to become a real-time diagnostician of what your business needs next. Like any good helping relationship, it’s a bit of a paradox. The more they help you, the less you need them. A great coach knows this and doesn't pretend otherwise to keep your financial relationship with them intact. A good coach knows that once you've built a mature, thriving business, you may not need to meet with them as frequently.

So, how good is your coach?

Here’s a guide to evaluating every meeting with your coach and the value of the relationship overall:

  1. Do they meet you where you are? Do they take the time to celebrate you as well as be there for you when something really goes wrong? 
  2. Do they know where you're headed? Do they have a proven map that they use to ask the right questions for your specific business in the specific stage it’s in? Don’t assume they have a real plan or any real training just because they have the word “coach” on their business card.
  3. Can they hold a long-term vision while they help you fix the problems that exist in your business today? Do they notice patterns and trends, or are they just reacting to your daily frustrations? You want wise counsel, not just quick fixes.
  4. Do they make you more curious? Their way of thinking about things should be infectious—you should find yourself asking other people the kinds of questions they ask you.
  5. Do they understand what coaching is? Watch out for consultants in disguise and amateur therapists without the real training or experience to guide you.
  6. Do they truly hold you accountable? They should be willing to call you out if you don't show up, do the work and make real change.
  7. Do they hide behind lingo, lists or tricks? It shouldn't feel complicated to translate the work you do with your coach into your business and your life. Hard maybe, but never complicated or unclear.

A great coach is a lot of things. But most importantly, they're a trusted mentor who truly cares about your success, and the success of your business. They know that the two are inextricably linked. And that’s a partnership where everybody wins.

Learn more about working with an EMyth Coach.

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Tricia Huebner

Written by Tricia Huebner

Tricia is EMyth's Director of Coaching. She joined the EMyth team in 2002.