Paul Raggio | The value of a business coach

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I wrote in a previous column in The Signal that I love the game of golf. My father is a golfer, and in my pre-teen years, he enrolled my brother and me in a golf clinic. We learned the rules, fundamentals and body mechanics required to connect with a 1.7-inch golf ball. We played as a family — Mom, too, even when she was eight months pregnant with our sister, Lisa. We watched the greats on television: Arnie Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, and many more not mentioned. My brother and I mimicked their swings, swaggers and self-confidence.  

Although the players mentioned were so very different in their gameplay, they had one thing in common: They engaged a coach. A trusted confidant who had their professional interests at heart brought awareness to the many bright shiny objects their players chased, impeding their road to excellence. I continue to play golf, but I must admit that I sought a coach’s assistance on very few occasions. I believe I had the talent to turn professional but never pursued it. I was satisfied being a high, single-digit handicapper, working out my stance and swing kinks at the driving range, and treating the game as one of my favorite hobbies. 

In my professional careers, 26 years in the Army and 14 years as a CEO and business unit president, I had a coach and several mentors. The Army depends on leaders to coach subordinates on how to lead, in and out of a crisis, under any circumstances and conditions. Career soldiers seek coaches and relish the benefit of having a more seasoned professional evaluate and inspire them to achieve peak performance. Similarly, many large, successful corporations coach junior leaders through C-suite executives on behaviors and skills required to attain positional excellence. These corporations consider coaching programs as investments, not expenses. Experience taught them the dollars invested in coaching significantly enhance their strategic vision, decision-making, organizational culture, employee engagement and customer gratification.  

Coaching is becoming a necessary service more and more in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and asymmetric business environment. Having professionals such as an accountant, lawyer and coach as essential support team members on your company’s bench of experts maximizes your potential to succeed. A business coach helps you meet goals, holds you accountable, identifies your blind spots and provides practical solutions for everyday challenges. One-size-fits all training programs and expensive consultants no longer suit these unprecedented times when trying to save or scale a business and address an ever-changing technology need.  

Coaching, though, is not for everyone, nor a cure-all for a failing business. First, the owners and business leaders have to be coachable — meaning they are willing to self-exam and acknowledge their shortcomings. They have to commit to setting aside time to evaluate personal and organizational weaknesses, accepting and acting on strategies to overcome challenges, expanding their knowledge base and enthusiastically learning, breaking old routines and adapting to new business environments, and recognizing they or their staff may not be the right person to lead and manage the company. 

Second, there must be potential to grow the company and the leadership’s willingness to accept triage for those symptoms causing a death spiral. Suppose the company has some financial stability, and its growth is problematic and stagnating in a neutral or rising market. In this case, a coach triaging the challenging symptoms offers a very lucrative and long-term solution. However, even the most experienced coaches can’t save an organization that acts too slowly in seeking help or one being led by a CEO who makes consequential decisions that can’t be righted. 

Third, leadership must be committed to investing in long-term coaching. The more a coach knows about a company’s purpose, vision, mission, leadership, team members, systems, sales cycle, unique selling proposition, and financial status and forecast, the more substantive the coaching engagement. You’ll find a coach is that rare, trusted advisor who discovers blind spots in your leadership and organizational culture, introduces strategies that shed light on pathways to success, then holds you accountable for achieving the milestones necessary. Seldom do results from coaching occur overnight. However, long-term commitments to a coaching program, especially one that offers meaningful guarantees, absolutely produces results. 

If you and your leadership team are coachable, your company has the potential to grow, and you are committed to a lasting engagement to accelerate massive and long-standing results, then seek a business coach who is knowledgeable, experienced, enthusiastic, inspirational, and gets positive outcomes. Treat yourself as a professional in the game of business, just as the golf greats treated themselves in the game of golf. Your business is more than a hobby. Become the best leader and business owner you can by engaging a coach who will tap into your hidden talents, expose and mitigate your blind spots, and commit to improving you and growing your business! That’s how you lead, think, plan, and act. 

Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions.

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