Here’s how to do business coaching the right way

It is well known that social media changes brain chemistry. It distorts reality and confuses the frameworks by which we understand concepts.

Business coaching, as a concept, has been distorted by social media, especially life coaches on LinkedIn. Instead of an objective and hard science, akin to sports coaching, it is now seen as a mysterious art at the intersection of mysticism, self-help jingoism and pop psychology.

To be fair, the criticality of intrinsic motivation in complex and long-lasting undertakings, such as career, is indisputable. The science is overwhelming: in complex, long-term activities, intrinsic motivation trumps all forms of extrinsic rewards. However, intrinsic motivation is not the same as motivational exercises. More importantly, business coaching involves, in large part, the development of specific skills, abilities, and behaviors to achieve defined business goals. No intrinsic motivation can replace the lack of goals and abilities.

Understanding true business coaching starts with three ideas: First, business coaching is like sports coaching: it should focus on developing targeted skills and behaviors to achieve well-defined goals. Intrinsic motivation is essential, but it must be channeled towards the desired outcome. Second, coaching is not a stand-alone HR-focused activity, but an integral part of the strategy-planning-governance process.

Third, somewhat unlike the first, business is a tricky problem. Unlike nature problems (eg, chess), business rules are not always well-defined; they change over time and often in unexpected ways, the definition of “winning” is ambiguous, and the consequences of actions taken are often delayed and poorly correlated. Business coaching must therefore enable high-potential leaders to flourish in such dynamic environments.

Once these three ideas are internalized, business coaching can be harnessed in five steps: The first step is strategic alignment: defining the meaning of “winning”, within a manageable time frame, say three years. realities, but it will define the general orientation.

The second step is essential: Define the future organization that will win (for example, if the goal is to double revenue in three years, what will the organization look like then?) This must be done in four dimensions: Design of the organization (the critical building blocks of the organization, whether functions or business units,) the organizational structure (the critical roles,) the processes and capabilities required. When this future organization is compared to the current one, the shortcomings will become evident and the way forward will emerge.

The third step is to identify candidates for coaching. The second stage benchmarking should identify leaders who fit into the future organization. Among those who match (and external recruits to fill in the gaps), there will be those who are already performing at potential and those who need support. Both types benefit from business coaching in different ways: the former by honing and the latter by first learning and then practicing the required skills.

The fourth step is to establish the personalized coaching program for the identified candidates. It is a detailed exercise that lists specific skills and behaviors that need to be developed, how they need to be learned, when and what metrics will be measured. The final step is the execution of the coaching program. This is where the inglorious hard work is done, often through direct coaching interventions over several years.

Two questions remain: who is an ideal coach, and should he be internal or external? The ideal business coach is a former business executive who has herself faced similar challenges and achieved similar business goals. Whether it is internal or external depends on the bandwidth and the extent of the internal complexity of the enterprise.

One thing is certain: she is not a motivational speaker or a life coach.

Abhisek Mukherjee is co-founder and director of Auctus Advisors.

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