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How a coach can help your small business

By Marty Minchin
Correspondent

How can an executive coach help small-business owners move their companies forward?

John Bennett, a professor of behavioral science at Queens University of Charlotte and co-author of the new book “Coaching for Change,” said an executive coach can help business owners think through things they might not have considered on their own.

Executive coaches specialize in training clients in leadership, management and other business skills. Within a small business, that can translate into helping business owners improve performance or create a transition or transformation in their business.

“A coach can help someone see things in a different perspective,” Bennett said. “They can see possibilities and resources they wouldn’t have seen for themselves.”

Bennett suggests several ways a small-business owner in particular can get the most out of meeting with an executive coach:

•  Make sure you’re ready for coaching: A good starting point for working with a coach is entering the relationship with an agenda, Bennett said.

A good executive coaching candidate also will be open to growth and willing to take action on changes.

“If someone wants to make a change, they start by gaining self awareness,” Bennett said. Then “they can move to a new place (by) adapting a new mindset and skill set.”

Coaches can help business owners stay on track as they try to move out of old habits and into a new way of operating.

•  Find the right coach: An executive coach is different from an expert or a consultant, who will tell you what to do, Bennett said. Coaches focus more on asking questions and listening.

Look for someone who is experienced and trained in coaching. You may need to interview a few coaches to find the best fit.

“Find the coach you feel comfortable with,” Bennett said, “the one you trust and who is going to help you achieve your goals and who has the skills you need.”

•  Commit to the relationship – and the homework: While even one executive coaching session can reap change, effective coaching relationships can last between three months and a year. Coach and client typically meet several times a month, Bennett said.

Coaches often will assign homework, ranging from implementing a better way to deal with email to thinking through how to approach certain people.

“Take action and be willing to go deeper than just a set of to-dos,” Bennett said. “It’s not just about a task list. Discover and grow and develop as a person.”

•  When you’re ready, move on: The best coaches help their clients develop their own support systems and resources, relying less and less on the coach for help.

“You know someone is doing a good job coaching when they’re not needed anymore,” Bennett said.

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