Many small business owners become leaders of their companies almost by accident. Without setting out to become a CEO, or company president, they find themselves in charge of a team of employees and contractors. They have to create a company culture, and they’re thrust into the public eye. Soon they find themselves under a good deal of pressure, often without a whole lot of time to reflect.
That’s why business coaching can be incredibly valuable. Over the second half of 2020, I worked with Lauren Lambrecht, an incredible leadership coach, and the experience was incredibly valuable. I asked Lauren to share more about her coaching practice so that other craft entrepreneurs who might not have considered coaching or might be on the fence, can better understand how it works.
What is professional coaching?
At its core, coaching is a partnership between a coach and a client where the coach supports the client’s success around their area of focus, such as achieving a personal or professional goal, gaining greater self-awareness or crafting a vision for their future. Coaches commonly draw upon deep skills of empathy, curiosity, active listening and asking thought-provoking questions. Coaching is distinct from therapy, mentorship or consulting, in that it trusts that the client holds the answer, not the coach. Coaching creates space and a framework for breakthroughs, clarity, and awareness.
Coaching is relevant to all kinds of people, in all kinds of situations, both personal and professional. Being an entrepreneur or business owner can be intense, as often the business identity and the personal identity are intertwined. Coaching can be useful in defining or revising business visions, breaking through fears and resistance around sales and marketing, or having a strategic thought partner and accountability buddy.
How does the process work?
Each coach has their own process, but many coaches work with clients for a set duration of time, usually three to six months, with an option to renew the commitment as desired. Most engagements will start off with a foundation session, where agreements are made regarding frequency and duration of meetings, establishing client goals, and most importantly, establishing rapport. Some coaches utilize personality or behavioral assessments like Enneagram, EQi, or StrengthsFinder, to establish a baseline and to help inform the coaching plan. Other coaches will have a questionnaire or set of questions for the client to reflect on as they define their goals.
After the foundation meetings, you might meet with your coach weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to continue the discussion. It is common for the client to be responsible for providing the agenda – whether that be a top-of-mind challenge or going deeper on one of the coaching goals. A typical meeting will include a check-in/update on accomplishments and celebrations since the last meeting, then a deep dive on the coaching topic of the day, and a wrap-up with the client selecting action items or items to reflect on before the next meeting. Many coaches say that ‘coaching happens between meetings’ — doing your ‘homework’ and observing behaviors and practicing new habits are excellent ways to maximize your coaching experience.
Choosing a coach
Typically the client will search for a coach with a specialty in their area of focus – life coaching, leadership coaching, business coaching, etc, and will have conversations with a few resonant coaches to determine whether the fit feels right. The most important thing is to feel comfortable with the coach, like you can trust them and that they have your best interest in mind. They should be curious about you, ask you questions, make you feel seen and heard. You are going to be paying this person a considerable amount of money and you will be spending a lot of time with them, so it’s important that you feel good in their presence.
Many accredited coaches are registered with their local International Coaching Federation (ICF) chapter. Alternatively, the International Coach Federation has a searchable database of credentialed coaches. Coaching schools, like Co-Active Training Institute, often also maintain a database of their certified coaches. It is not SO important to work with an ICF accredited coach, but it is recommended that you work with someone who has gone through an accredited coaching program. Finally, organizations like a)plan coaching, BetterUp and coach.me offer a selection of coaches aligned with their programs.
The best resource for finding a coach is word of mouth. Ask around your network to see who has worked with a coach and what they liked about working with that individual. Many coaches offer online workshops or have YouTube channels or IG Live offerings which give you a chance to see their style before engaging in a contract. My personal advice – be selective about joining masterminds or group coaching forums from sales or business coaches or “lifestyle gurus”. One of the best parts of coaching is working with someone 1:1 or in small groups to meet your specific needs. While some of the scaled options are more affordable, it’s not the same as pure coaching.
Is coaching just for leaders of big businesses?
Leaders at all levels can benefit from coaching! Solopreneurs, small teams, large businesses alike can reap the benefits of having conversations with a coach, either 1:1 or in groups or teams. Coaches often work with a senior leader 1:1, but may also host group coaching for 3-4 individuals at once, where they may be working through a common goal or challenge, or team coaching for a team that wants to grow and develop together.
I believe one of the greatest benefits a small business owner — or aspiring business owner — can get out of coaching is having an impartial partner to work with to fine-tune ideas, provide resources, and break through any obstacles. Look for a coach who is in tune with your needs – time management, financial acumen, communication, sales are all things that coaches can help you address.
When to hire a coach
When you are stuck, frustrated, and over yourself! Or, when you are on fire and have a burning idea that you just NEED to bring to the world, but you don’t know how to do it. Or when you feel like you could benefit from speaking your thoughts aloud to an empathetic listener who can help you dig deeper into the underlying challenge and offer insights that can propel you forward.
In short, there is no shortage of reasons to hire a coach, and it’s very rarely a bad idea. The most important thing is to have a pain point to resolve or measurable goal you want to achieve so that you know what you are working towards.
What kinds of results can you expect?
My clients and those of my colleagues have experienced successes far beyond their initial intentions and visions when they signed up for coaching. Beyond the tangible outcomes of creating a business plan or finishing a long-overdue project, or increasing sales and earnings, there are the intangible benefits like creating boundaries, having more productive conversations with partners and customers, or finally getting a handle on time management so they can start enjoying their business again. Alternatively, some clients go through coaching and find their heart isn’t in it their current business, and they are able to make adjustments that result in revising the scope of their work or sometimes even retiring their business altogether.
You never know exactly what you will get out of coaching, but the simple act of dedicating time to yourself and your development almost certainly guarantees that something good will come of it.
Lauren Travis Lambrecht is the founder and lead coach of Verve Leadership, a creativity-based coaching company that helps individuals, teams and organizations to reach their greatest potential. She has led corporate initiatives for programs focused on Team Effectiveness, Coaching, Diversity & Inclusion, and Informal Learning, while also serving as an executive coach to senior leaders in a variety of functions. Lauren has enabled her clients to enhance their leadership skills, define and implement their business goals and most importantly, design lives that are in greater alignment with their purpose. Lauren is a graduate of Stanford University, holds an MBA from University of San Francisco, and is an International Coach Federation accredited coach (ACC).