Coaches everywhere – Which type is right for me? Business Coaching vs Executive and Life Coaching

April 10, 2019 | Roger and Susie Engelau

This is a difficult question to answer especially when coaches and coaching associations don’t agree!

The coaching community, including the International Coach Federation (ICF), decrees that coaching is the process of asking the right questions to draw out the answers that are already within the coachee. The coach, they say, should not give advice, answers, or solutions. In its code of ethics, the ICF defines coaching as “Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

It is important to understand that traditional coaching stems from psychotherapy where the answers truly are inside the coachee.

As Business coaches, we find ourselves on the minority side of this debate within the coaching community. Should the coach give advice, answers, direction, and solutions? We say yes.   Here’s why —

We coach business owners to enhance their business’ performance and potential. The answers don’t necessarily reside within the business owner. They call us in to help find a new way of leading and growing their business. Frequently we can see solutions they can’t because of our experience with other business owners who’ve followed the same path.

Plus, we believe in practicality. A business owner is short on time and resources and very much appreciates answers, advice, ideas, and direct guidance. And fast. We’ll help you find the answers within, sure, when it’s practical and timely, but in our experience, if we go down the road of asking contemplative questions and soul-searching, the business owner will kick us to the curb.

We see our job as working alongside business owners and their teams to find real solutions to real problems in real time. We share the burden of the problems that weigh on the business owner like it’s our own business. We share solutions and help support implementation, even if we have to do some of the work ourselves.

We believe in rolling up our sleeves, jumping in, getting dirty, and actually doing work that the business owner doesn’t have time to do but that needs to be done ASAP. We’ve been known to create organization charts, write job descriptions, create budgets, write loan proposals, research suppliers, draft up strategy documents, and interview job candidates.

As business coaches, we must approach the profession differently to truly serve our clients well!

One reason for the difference in coaching approaches can be explained by looking at the focus of the change. In executive coaching and life coaching, the focus of the change is on you, the person, the executive, the business owner. In business coaching, the focus is on the business.

Another reason lies in the difference between business ownership and working for someone else. Everyone’s work world is fast-paced but in the world of small business, resources are way more limited and the sense of urgency is heightened because failure of the business can literally be one week away (it usually isn’t, but the possibility is there).

Maybe you’ve thought about hiring a business coach but you’re not sure what it is. Or how it works. Or if you should hire a business coach or an executive coach… In researching for this post, we saw a list of 20 different types of business and personal coaches!

Executive coaching is geared to high performing, high level employees seeking guidance around career goals, self-awareness, personal development, and behaviors that may be holding them back. The goal is usually to improve the client’s leadership and management skills. An executive coach focuses on behavior, motivation, and navigating corporate communications.

Life coaching works to help the client tap into his/er personal potential. The emphasis is less on imparting information and more on the coach asking questions to help the coachee raise his/er own awareness, take responsibility, think through options, and decide upon his/er own course of action. (From Personal-Coaching-Information.com). According to the International Coaching Community, “life coaching supports a person at every level in becoming who they want to be…” [Life] coaches usually don’t give advice or tell you what to do. They try to help you find what feels right by helping you reveal the answers to yourself through discussion, suggestions, brainstorming and reflection. (LifeCoachSpotter)

Business coaching is geared to the owners and management teams of small to mid-size businesses. The leading or presenting issues are business issues. Resolutions are business focused. A business coach’s focus is on the entire organization from financials to personnel, sales to strategy, operations to budgets. It’s the most holistic in that, while most resolutions are business focused, sometimes they can be personal if the business owner desires it and if it supports the business legacy. A business coach can help the owner grow because, as the owner grows, develops and heals personally, so does the company.

In many ways, the business coach is a combination of business, executive, and life coaching.

We hope the business coaching community defines itself as practical, efficient, roll-up-your-sleeve partners to the thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners who’re risking so much to create sustainable, viable products and services in their local communities.

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