Why businesses need coaches or mentors

For the sports-focused society that we are, I am surprised that there are not more high-paced businesses that make use of business coaches and mentors. I have come across very few people who admit to seeing the benefit of leveraging an outsider as a confidante, advisor and coach but rather the opposite “We are doing okay, why would we need one?”. Is okay enough or do we want to be brilliant?

I get the very real sense that in British business culture a business coach or advisor is a sign of weakness or failure and yet we would not expect any budding sports person to pursue a sporting career without a coach – how are they different? Sports requires agility, fitness, clear mind, focus, determination, vision and passion. Business requires the same, doesn’t it?

When I was competing in martial arts I had three coaches, one for my mental preparation, one for perfecting the practice of forms (Kata) and the third to focus on my sparring. I really benefited from their ability to help me think about the problems and where to find the opportunity in my opponent’s flaws. I could lean on them when I needed to and I felt supported by their stability and their perspective. While I was psyching up for the match or competition, they stayed calm and kept my focus. They knew my strengths and weaknesses and could help me train on improving between matches.

In business there are no matches, the battle is by day, minute and second. There is always a competitor looking for the same client, wanting to provide a better or cheaper product. The requirement to stay on top of ones game is relentless. There is more information sharing and data available and we are making decisions at breakneck speed. Business is now 24/7 and any successful or aspiring business person is always connected. Just like when I was warming up for the next sparring match.

In this environment, the need for perspective is great and yet the environment is not conducive… this is why businesses need coaches.

Today I ran a proposition and position workshop with a client over a three-hour session. The benefit of working with an advisor is that my client could take the step back and look at their business from where I am standing… on the outside. They had tried to do the work internally but they had not prioritised it, didn’t have the external perspective and had taken a long time to get not very far. This is not uncommon, rather the opposite!

Today we were all really fired up, inspired and extremely productive. Net-net: we transformed the proposition into one which is exciting and strong, they felt inspired by their business and they have a tool-set with which to go sell their kick-ass product. This is something that otherwise would have taken months to get to.

Obviously I would think that businesses need coaches and mentors given my profession as a coach and psychologist but I fell into this through looking for investment worthy businesses and kept coming across high-growth businesses that had not stopped to take a breath and as such were putting their own fires out. The most rewarding thing for me in coaching is seeing the clients eyes light up, their inspiration is at full tilt and they realise they probably do have the answers to the problems, it is the space and perspective they don’t always have and that is what I bring – along with some humour and external insight for validation.

A great business is fit, self-aware and agile. A mentor is someone who challenges, encourages and validates before the market gets to do that. A coach is someone who prepares for the fight and for the challenge. They provide the stability and insight by not being in the same boat rocking to the same waves or standing on the same burning platform.

If you feel like you are running a 200mph marathon and want to up your game, and see business as a mental and economic sport, have you thought about a mentor or coach as an investment rather than a weakness?