Business

6 Business Coaches To Guide You Through Your Career

Oprah has one, Barack Obama has one - but what does a business coach do and why do you need one?

By Florence Robson

2 August 2021
E

veryone from Barack Obama to Oprah has spoken about the numerous benefits of working with a coach but as a broad and largely unregulated sector, the world of coaching can be a bit of a mystery. What does a business coach actually do – and do you need one? We take a closer look, through the eyes of six professional coaches.

What does a business coach do?

A business coach provides support, motivation and recommendations for your vision, growth and goals. The term ‘business coach’ can encompass a wide variety of approaches; some coaches focus on mindsets and emotions while others will help you to design and implement strategies and action steps to grow your company.

How do I know if a coach is right for me?

There are a wide range of reasons you might feel drawn to coaching, from increasing your confidence to preparing for a fundraising round. Working with a coach can also be helpful if you are going through a major professional change, like dealing with redundancy or considering a new career path.

Ready to dive a little deeper? Read on to hear from six coaches on their approaches and advice for making the most out of a session.

Polly Bateman, Mindset & Performance Coach

What does your coaching practice look like?

My method is focused on ontological coaching, so looking at how you are being in a particular moment, rather than what you are doing. We often say, “When I have X, then I can be X”; for example, “When I have money, then I’ll be happy”. In reality, the being comes before the having: when you are being your truest self, then you have everything you need.

Why do you think coaching is important?

In the entrepreneurial space, your business is a reflection of something in you. If you don’t fully understand yourself, you are not going to understand why your business is showing up in the way it is. Coaching can help you to master yourself and move out of a fear-based place. There isn’t an athlete in the world that would dream of going to a top competition without a coach!

What’s your advice for anyone looking for a coach?

Make sure you shop around; I’m always delighted when I know that prospective clients are speaking to a few other coaches before choosing one. I want this to be the most informed decision you make.

Nell Jordan-Gent, Career-based Coach

What does your coaching practice look like?

My practice is creative, inclusive, diverse, supportive and safe. I specialise in facilitating empowering conversations, focusing on purpose, perspective and boundaries, as well as helping people to reflect on progress. Imposter syndrome is also something that many of my clients are dealing with. I am committed to supporting and progressing under-represented groups and penetrating change in institutions which have been traditionally quite set in their ways. For example, I have been working with the PRS Foundation on Power Up, a long-term initiative supporting Black music creators and industry professionals and executives, as well as addressing anti-Black racism and racial disparities in the music sector.

Do you feel that it's important for someone to look for a coach with experience of their industry or specific challenges?

Yes, it can be helpful to work with a coach who has a particular coaching focus, specialist areas or knowledge of a specific sector (although it’s not always necessary). I have over a decade’s experience working across journalism, music, broadcasting and live events, and it felt like a natural fit to work with people who are in those fields. I understand the specific challenges and red tape they are dealing with.

How would you recommend that someone prepares for a coaching session?

Allow yourself the space to be present and engaged within that session. Everyone is busy and it can be tempting to squeeze coaching in between a meeting and a deadline, so be mindful of giving yourself a bit of breathing space before and after the call. Working on yourself is challenging but the rewards and possibilities can be life changing.

Gemma Perlin, Change Coach

What does your coaching practice look like?

My style of coaching is about understanding the past as it affects your future. If you are going on a journey, you’ll put the destination into your SatNav or check a map, but most people have never sat down and thought about where they want to go in life and the best route to get there. I use visualisation to help people to look at how they want to feel, the blocks holding them back and the resources they need. Then we develop actionable tools together that they can go away and use.

What’s your advice for anyone looking for a coach?

I do a no-strings-attached phone call consultation with everyone who gets in touch. If someone is unwilling to do that, I would question their level of commitment to you as a coach. Do they have testimonials? Do they have returning clients? Ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to interview them as much as they are you.

Why do you think coaching is important?

I want coaching to be for ambitious young women, not just for 65-year-old male CEOs. We should all have that ability to make space to think about what we want.

@gemma_perlin

Jess Ratcliffe, Coach and Creator of Stuck to Started

What does your coaching practice look like?

My approach is inspired by my background in product development and focuses on helping you identify the assumptions you’re making about yourself (or the world around you) that are holding you back from being the person and leader you want to be. Over the last five years, I’ve developed a method called the Testing Mindset, which brings together assumption-testing and action-planning, so that you can take small, iterative steps to challenge your assumptions, build your confidence and make progress you're proud of.

What should you look for in a coach?

Once you know you're curious about coaching, it's about finding the coach that feels like the best fit for you, your goals and your approach. The best way to get started is through a recommendation from someone you trust and then scheduling a chemistry call to explore what it looks like to work together. Another tip is to ask to speak to someone they've worked with or are working with currently to hear from someone who's experienced their coaching.

How would you recommend that someone prepares for a coaching session?

My tip would be to prepare one specific thing you would love to walk away from each session with, so that you have the space to dive deeply into one topic and leave with a plan to move forward on the thing that's most pressing for you. Knowing exactly what you want to cover is a great way to get stuck into each session from the get-go – and cover one thing deeply versus a few things lightly.

@jessratcliffe

Alice Benham, Business & Marketing Strategist

What does your coaching practice look like?

Coaching is one arm of my business, which is primarily focused at service-based or creative businesses. Usually they have been running for a couple of years and are looking to level up, so I advise on the strategy needed to scale. That could be helping someone to scale their income, for example, or the efficiency of their business.

What’s your advice for anyone looking for a coach?

The first thing I always encourage people to get clear on is why they are looking for outside support and what they are hoping to get out of it. What are your challenges? What question marks do you have? There are so many options of people you can work with and it might be that what you really need is a mentor or a consultant rather than a coach. Understanding where you are trying to get to will help you to clarify what kind of support you really need.

What do you wish people knew about coaching?

Making the coaching industry a positive and impactful space is down to both sides of the relationship. As coaches, we need to share what we do in a really value-driven way so that people don’t feel pressured and can make informed decisions. We also need to make sure we are investing in our own personal development and are being held accountable for the work we’re doing.

@alice_benham

Cheryl Clements, Leadership Coach

What does your coaching practice look like?

I tend to work with founders, CEOs, COOs, and people who aspire to those kinds of leadership positions but aren’t quite there yet. I blend very practical and very deep work, so although people usually come to me in a professional capacity, we do that emotional work as well.

What’s your advice for anyone looking for a coach?

Any good coach should offer you at least an hour’s conversation before you sign up with them. An initial conversation shouldn't just be about the practicalities like fees; it should be about that coach really listening to you. Do you feel comfortable enough to reveal parts of yourself to them? Word of mouth recommendations can be a great way to start your search but bear in mind that a friend or colleague’s ideal coach may not be yours.

How would you recommend that someone prepares for a coaching session?

Just really embrace it and allow yourself to be challenged. Be willing to be honest about how you’re feeling at different stages of the process, even if that means saying “this session isn’t really working for me”. It takes guts to speak up when you’re uncomfortable but that’s when you get really good results.

@thecherylclements

The Short Stack

From supporting your leadership journey to improving your professional relationships, a business coach could be the key to levelling up your career.

By Florence Robson

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