This morning I delivered a 20-minute group coaching session to 20 business owners. All of them told me at the beginning that they already enjoyed what they did. So why did I bother? What did they need coaching for if they already felt ok? Surely it’s a waste of time and resources to coach people who already feel satisfied? Better to focus efforts on people who are struggling or who need to improve. Or perhaps not even bother because bringing in a coach might look bad, like we’re struggling in some way.
That’s the issue with coaching. Many businesses see it as a remedial measure. Something to “do” to people who need help; somewhere to send employees who aren’t performing; someone who can “fix” what’s broken. To employ a coach is to admit there’s a problem.
The truth is that coaching can help to address issues in the workplace and elsewhere (as long as the coachee wants to address them) but the most effective way to spend your coaching budget is to use it to focus on developing the good stuff so the bad stuff doesn’t happen. Prevention is the best cure. Bringing in a coach should be a benefit to be shouted about, not a last resort to be kept secret.
Back to my group of business owners; despite all of them saying they enjoyed their work, not one said that everything was perfect, and after our short session, several of them thanked me for having opened their eyes, given them focus or enabled a level of clarity around what they want. With this new-found insight, they are now able to go away and focus on what they need to make their lives better and their businesses successful; the two are intertwined.
It’s exactly the same in a business with employees. Employees who are satisfied at work are better employees, we all know that. But being satisfied at work and being satisfied in life are often, bizarrely, treated as if they’re different things when in fact they’re inseperable. Work is a huge part of life, and if an employer wants to ensure that his or her staff are performing at their best, rather than focus on making them improve what they don’t do well, they should focus on helping them understand themselves better. I’m not talking about sending them off on soul-searching trips around the world, I’m talking about giving them the opportunity to identify what they’re good at, what they enjoy and what gives them meaning, and then to help them apply that to their work. This is the work of a coach.
Take Bob. Bob is good at his job and doesn’t have any particular complaints about it. Nor does his manager; she feels he’s a solid member of the team and generally performs well. Bob likes to run marathons outside of work; that’s his “thing”. He doesn’t do them for the joy of running, he does them because he likes the challenge, the self-discipline and self-motivation involved. This is something that’s really important to him in life. When he thinks about his job, he sometimes needs to be self-motivated, but often he’s driven by other people’s deadlines. That’s ok because he’s also a hard worker and doesn’t like to let people down, but when he gets the chance to do something off his own back, he really excels. Bob only worked this out through talking to a coach. When he did, he took it upon himself to develop a side-project at work, with his boss’s approval, that required self-motivation and self-discipline. Once he did this, he went from being a good employee to a great one because not only was he working on something off his own back that could be of value to the business, but his increased sense of fulfilment meant that he performed the core elements of his job better as well.
I’ve worked with lots of people like Bob. Employees who are good at their jobs already, but who are able to increase both their enjoyment and their performance through identifying something that drives them, something they could do differently, something that boosts their confidence in what they’re capable of. More often than not, it’s something they can bring from their life outside of work into their life at work, to the benefit of all.
It’s time to free coaching from its dungeon and recognize it as an essential part of making a business tick. We put time and effort into functioning IT; we put time and effort into well-oiled accounts; let’s put time and effort into functioning, well-oiled people. It’s the people, after all, who make the business.