Unless you’ve had personal experience with it, business coaching is probably a bit of a mystery. Do business coaches just walk in and fix the broken parts of your business? Are they only there to motivate and support, or do they get down in the weeds with you? In our 40+ years coaching owners to be entrepreneurs, we’ve cleared up a lot of confusion about what coaching is—and what it isn’t.
Here are five of the most common misconceptions we see.
1. Coaching is only for failing businesses
This misconception is unfortunate because it can lead many owners of stable (and profitable) businesses away from coaching, thinking they have nothing to gain. But coaching isn’t just for at-risk businesses whose owners are in a constant state of overwhelm. It can also turn a good company into a great one. In fact, if you looked at many of the businesses whose owners are just starting as EMyth clients, you’d probably say they looked like great companies. They’re unquestionably successful in some way. Maybe the owner has worked diligently to build a business that turns a profit and that’s not dependent on them. Maybe they have solid employees and loyal clients. Yet they, too, are challenged in other ways. Sure, some owners come to coaching to fix a struggling business; but many others come with a strong business that’s stagnant—one they just don’t know how to grow. The point is, coaching can help any owner whose business has yet to fully become what they’d like it to be.
2. Business coaching is therapy
Business owners approach coaching as a way to improve their business. But the way a business works reflects the choices the owner makes. It reflects what they want and who they are—the good and the bad. To change your business, you need to change yourself; it’s self-work, guided by a mentor. So it makes sense that people would often make the mistake of thinking business coaches are—more or less—like therapists. But this is a big misconception.
To treat a patient, a therapist needs to be distant and objective, to look at an individual from the outside. But a client isn’t a patient. And a coach—in the EMyth definition—doesn’t linger objectively on the outside. A coach needs to get side-by-side with owners to guide them through their challenges. In order to see what they can do to impact profitability or growth, coaches and owners need to speak a common language, with no acronyms or jargon. And the coach needs to be personal, curious, and invested—without being immersed, without getting so far into mentoring that they can’t see the picture clearly. To help their client, a coach actually has to be subjective enough to connect and understand, while maintaining enough objectivity to see and light the path an owner needs to take.
3. A business coach is a glorified cheerleader
It isn’t the job of a business coach to stand on the sidelines and cheer their clients on. Sure, we can do this—and love to when owners make great strides in their development plans—but coaching is about accountability first. And while coaches always want to motivate and offer positive feedback, their key role is to see and reflect what their clients need to do to grow and improve their businesses—even (especially) when it’s tough to hear.
4. A business coach does the work for you
If an owner comes in thinking their coach is going to do the hard work, they’ll find themselves in a difficult spot. The heart of coaching is transformation and change, and it has to come from the owner themselves.
Coaches are interested in helping you create a thriving business and a more fulfilling life—and it’s an exercise in patience for everyone involved. To create lasting and productive change in your business, you need to learn how to do everything on your own. Only then will you know to do it the same way—or not the same way—next time.
And to be honest, it’s a difficult line to hold, especially when we find the business solution really interesting. But business coaching isn’t about fast results: It’s about getting to those results in a meaningful way. If a coach does all the work for you, it short-circuits your outcome. If you’re driving your own solution—if you’re tied to it tactically—you’re going to use it. If not, the solution will live in isolation. Coaching is beyond getting to the answer; it’s about living that answer.
5. Business coaching is a quick fix
Business coaching is like any other type of coaching: It’s a development process. Consider a baseball coach. If you’re having a hard time hitting the ball, your coach can’t simply come in and say: “Do it this way and you’ll hit it.” To achieve your goal, you need to take the necessary steps. You need to shift your stance, hold the bat differently, work different muscles. You need to practice. Business coaching is no different. It takes time.
In business coaching, we’re talking about you, the business owner, not just the functions of your business. We look at your whole company (not simply a single pain point) and how it’s a product that’s distinctly yours. And it’s a lot of work. Some owners have young businesses that need structure to survive. Others have businesses that have been around for years—businesses built with different habits and beliefs than the ones they need now. Whatever your business or your challenges as a leader, in order to change you need to accept what’s true today so you can stop the merry-go-round and spin it the other direction. If you work at it, you’ll see results on day one—and lasting impacts down the road that will amaze you.