Want to make your business better? Bring in a coach [Interview]
By John Becker
We all have blindspots and biases, and we bring these with us to any meeting room we enter.
For a business, barriers to communication become barriers to growth.
A business cannot align and grow without buy-in, communication, and shared vision.
Those all-too-common blindspots become hinderances to our ability to listen, see things objectively, and make the best decisions.
Increasingly, businesses are looking to coaches or consultants to help them with the messy work of efficiency and candor.
The right coach can help facilitate necessary conversations, build consensus, and be a catalyst for progress.
So, how do you know how to find the right coach? IMPACT's Chief Learning Officer Chris Duprey shares his thoughts on the subject.
The difference between a coach and a consultant
John: First off, do we need to differentiate between coaching and consultant?
Chris: I don't know that we need to differentiate, but I think that there are connotations that people have. Consultant is a word that gets overused. It’s a catch-all. Or it has a negative connotation. Sometimes when you hear "consultants," you think of the folks that come in to help a business lay people off.
I like the word coach better, even if it's not as openly as acceptable in a business sense.
But at the end of the day, what we're talking about with consultant or a coach is someone who brings another set of eyes to look at a problem. They're there to help whomever that they're working with to see those potential blind spots that they may have and to help them see the things that they're missing.
To do the work that needs to be done, coaches need to have creativity and flexibility. Instead of in the box or outside of the box, there needs to be no box.
How a coach can make you better
John: How does a coach add value to a company that it can’t get from within?
Chris: I believe that they have the ability to ask questions that probably are never asked — and then to push further and further.
If you get sales marketing and leadership all in the same room, they can have a meeting about a topic, but each of them is going to show up with their own biases.
And then, depending on how the conversation is managed, someone might get defensive and put their armor up, someone else will hear that defensiveness and then react. It just doesn't create this great environment.
But when you throw in a coach or a consultant, they navigate that conversation for you by asking those tough questions, by unraveling or unpacking something.
When you ask somebody the question, most of the time their first answer isn't the true root problem or isn't the real answer. When you have this outsider come in that has absolutely no bias, they're able to get to the truth of what is.
Once they get to the truth, then they can start helping you figure out, “so here's where we want to go. What needs to be true to allow us to get there?”
John: Do they ever find themselves in the role of mediator?
Chris: I don't know that I would use the word mediator, but I would definitely say that they are the facilitator of communication. They should be establishing the rules, they should be driving the conversation and really creating that safe space for the conversation to happen.
That is when a consultant or a coach is really excellent. When they can force a company to have a conversation some people don't want to have, like talking about a big problem.
But they can have it in a way where it's actually working towards the goal, not one department blaming another.
What effective coaching looks like in practice
John: So what does IMPACT's coaching look like in day-to-day practice?
Chris: With respect to strategic consulting, we meet with our clients every two weeks, sitting down with sales, marketing, and leadership.
We're really looking at what's top of mind for them, helping figure out what's going on. Are they doing all the things that they committed to do to get them where they want to go?
There are moments of teaching, and there are moments of conversation, but it's all about making sure that they're getting to the solution.
The coach isn't there to say “here's what you should do.” Their job is to help you realize that you already know what to do. They help pull it out of you.
In terms of meetings, every client is different.
If you're a small business and the CEO is running sales and marketing, it might be a one on one conversation talking about growth and challenges.
Sometimes clients might be larger, where you have a ton of people in the meetings.
And then, some of the consulting touches on how to train internal teams, or handling company culture.
So it's not just sales, it's not just marketing, it's not just leadership. There are times when we might say, hey, you should bring in the product team or the engineering team or the service team. They might play a big role too, and we want to make sure they understand everything.
John: What happens between the meetings?
Chris: A consulting call or a coaching call that ends without action items is a missed opportunity.
There's always going to be something to read or something to watch or something to hone in on.
There's also correspondence in between those calls.
John: Can you speak to the value of having a relationship with a consultant that's ongoing?
Chris: Think about professional golfers. They're all such phenomenal athletes, and yet they each have a swing coach they meet with weekly to refine their swing.
I don't know that there's ever a moment when a leader or anybody, really, is ever going to be at the point where they’re like, “you know what, I'm good. I have no blind spots, I have no biases.”
When a coaching relationship starts, there’s going to be low-hanging fruit — immediate improvements. Then, it gets into more fine-turing. And then, as the company grows and improves, the coach becomes more like a mentor, a confidant, a sounding board.
At that point, your coach has become your trusted advisor.
The beauty of a coach or a consultant is that they are a fresh set of eyes that isn't weighed down by an agenda of their own. Their agenda is your success.
John: What does a client need to bring to this relationship for it to be as successful as possible?
Chris: The first thing, honestly, is that you know that you have more to learn. You have to show up with a growth mindset.
Secondly, you need to have the whole team bought-in. If all we're doing is talking to the marketing leader, they're going to get better but the organization isn't going to be moving that way.
Companies that truly succeed with digital sales and marketing understand that it is a multi-departmental effort to actually grow.
John: So, do you need the CEO?
Chris: I think it depends on the size of the business. If you're a small company that truly doesn't have a sales leader, you've got a small marketing team, maybe one or two sales people, but the CEO still handles sales, then yes, they should be there.
For bigger companies, I think you definitely need to have somebody that sits on the leadership level.
Without someone in leadership, individual teams sometimes can’t see beyond their own silos.
Like with any initiative, any big program, any big cultural change, if the leaders of the organization aren't engaged and aware and willing to own it, it’s not going to be taken seriously.
IMPACT's Digital Sales & Marketing Mastery
John: What's the goal of IMPACT's Mastery program?
Chris: At the end of the day, the Mastery program allows us to set the conditions for business leaders and team members to truly become the heroes in their organizations and have incredible growth potential.
We put businesses on a trajectory so that they can achieve their goals. And at the end of the day, this kind of success can really impact the lives of all those folks at our clients' organizations.
The program helps you truly do the things you need to to grow.
Wondering where to begin?