In recent years, there has been huge growth in the coaching industry. The business world has changed greatly, and coaching is a useful tool to deal with many of those changes. To be the best, you need coaching. Can you imagine where Roger Federer or Tiger Woods would be today without coaching? Their sporting careers certainly would not have had the same stellar trajectory. 

To be the best in any field, or simply to improve, coaching is key. Business coaching offers a type of personal human resource development. It provides positive support, feedback and advice to an individual or group to improve effectiveness in the business setting. Coaching involves partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

The athletics analogy, however, does not cover the entire nature of business coaching. Athletics coaches are often seen as experts who direct the behaviour of individuals or teams based on their greater experience and knowledge. Professional business coaches possess these qualities, but it is the experience and knowledge of the individual or team that determines the direction. Additionally, professional coaching, unlike athletic development, does not focus on behaviours that are being executed poorly or incorrectly. Instead, the focus is on identifying opportunity for development based on individual strengths and capabilities.

In recent years, there has been huge growth in the coaching industry. The business world has changed greatly, and coaching is a useful tool to deal with many of those changes. For example, coaching is an excellent tool for today’s challenging job market, where there is more job transition, more self-employment and more small businesses. Coaching can also help managers deal with the widening disparity between what they were trained to do and what their jobs now require them to do in order to meet increasing demands for competitive results. There is currently unrest on the part of many employees and leaders as they wrestle with fears around job insecurity and increased workplace pressures to perform at higher levels than ever before. Coaching can help in this regard, and it can help companies to develop inclusive, collaborative work environments in order to achieve strategic business goals and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction.

Professional coaching focuses on an individual’s life as it relates to goal setting, outcome creation and personal change management. There are almost as many different ways of delivering business coaching as there are business coaches. Some offer personal support and feedback, others combine a coaching approach with practical and structured business planning and bring a disciplined accountability to the relationship. Particularly in the small business market, business coaching is as much about driving profit as it is about developing the person.

Coaching typically begins with a personal interview to assess the individual’s current opportunities and challenges, define the scope of the relationship, identify priorities for action, and establish specific desired outcomes. Subsequent coaching sessions may be conducted in person or over the phone. Between scheduled coaching sessions, the individual may be asked to complete specific actions that support the achievement of one’s personally prioritized goals. The coach may provide additional resources in the form of relevant articles, checklists, assessments, or models, to support the individual’s thinking and actions. The duration of the coaching relationship varies depending on the individual’s personal needs and preferences.

The success of the coaching process can be measured in two distinct ways. First, there are the external indicators of performance: measures that can be seen and measured in the individual’s or team’s environment. Second, there are internal indicators of success: measures that are inherent within the individual or team members being coached and can be measured by the individual or team being coached with the support of the coach. Ideally, both external and internal metrics are incorporated.

There are many reasons that an individual or team might choose to work with a coach: a challenge or goal is at stake, there is a gap in knowledge or confidence, there is a desire to accelerate results, there is a lack of clarity, the individual is extremely successful but success has become problematic, work and life are out of balance, one has not identified his or her core strengths and how best to leverage them.

So how do you know if coaching is right for you? If you have a fairly clear idea of the desired outcome, a coaching partnership can be a useful tool for developing a strategy for how to achieve that outcome with greater ease. As coaching is a partnership, you must find it valuable to collaborate, to have another viewpoint and to be asked to consider new perspectives. You must be ready to devote the time and the energy to making real changes in your work or life. If this is the case, then coaching may be a beneficial way for you to grow and develop.

If you have decided to take on a coach, your first port of call should be the International Coach Federation (ICF). Founded in 1995, the ICF’s goal is to advance the art, science, and practice of professional coaching. As the leading global coaching organization, the ICF is working toward this goal by setting high standards, providing independent certification, and building a worldwide network of credentialed coaches. ICF members specialize in a variety of coaching areas, including executive coaching, life coaching, leadership coaching, relationship coaching and career coaching.

Findings from the 2010 ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study, showed that more than two-fifths (42.6%) of respondents who had experienced coaching chose “optimize individual and/or team performance” as their motivation for being coached. This reason was followed in the ranking by “expand professional career opportunities” at 38.8% and “improve business management strategies” at 36.1%. Other more personal motivations like “increase self-esteem/self-confidence” and “manage work/life balance” rated fourth and fifth.

The ICF advises that when looking to hire a coach, prospective clients should educate themselves about coaching. Clients should also know their objectives for working with a coach and interview three coaches before deciding on one. Coaching is an important relationship. There should be a connection between you and the coach that “feels” right to you. Thousands of articles have been written about coaching in the last few years. The ICF Research Portal hosts the latest coaching research articles, case studies and journals (http://www.coachfederation.org/icf-research/icf-research-portal/).