Business coaches get into the field because they want to help owners achieve their goals. But we all know business coaches are people too. You know that saying in airplane safety about putting your oxygen mask on first before helping others? The same advice applies to business coaches. They need to get right with their own business before they can be useful for others. That includes avoiding these seven common mistakes business coaches make.
1. Trying to Solve Everything at Once
Want to know one of the most endearing qualities of a good business coach? They have an intense desire to help others get the most out of their companies. They get a genuine rush from helping other people achieve their dreams. And they’re damn good at motivating business owners to make scary and sometimes painful changes.
The trouble begins when coaches see everything that needs improving with a company and try to tackle them all at once. Time and energy play enormous limiting factors on the all-or-nothing approach. Business coaches also face natural change resistance from owner clients, their leadership teams, and their entire employee population.
Solution: Prioritize all the issues with the client and work on getting to the root causes of the most important problem first. Then head to the next most important issue. When you prioritize, a funny thing happens: Some of those less urgent problems solve themselves as part of bigger issues.
2. Analysis Paralysis
We live in an age where we expect to have choices. Choices of restaurants, choices of educational experiences – heck, even choices of toilet paper (assuming efficacy of the supply chain). But all those choices we’ve come to expect can actually paralyze us into doing less. Psychologist Barry Schwartz coined the term the paradox of choice to describe how having unlimited choices has made us less effective. How many times have you given up and ordered pizza – again – when overwhelmed by an hour-long discussion on takeout options?
In business, wanting to make the “right” business choices as an owner creates incredibly stressful situations. Stress makes brilliant people behave stupidly and kills all creativity. Working with a client, a business coach must start with fundamentals like core values, target audiences, and product differentiators. Without a clear north star to guide discussions, business coaches wind up just as paralyzed as their clients.
Solution: When faced with a board full of brainstorming notes, how do you know where to focus? By clearly outlining a company’s business model, coaches can help clients find those diamond ideas in the rough. Create action plans that embrace the 80-20 rule.
3. Haphazardly Adopting Different Theories and Models of Business Coaching
Ever try constructing a building using several different blueprints? The multiple-personality result probably wouldn’t look too great or be terribly functional. Johnny Cash sang about building a luxury car made of random parts (see One Piece at a Time).
The same works for taking random bits and pieces of different theories and models for business coaching. Like Johnny’s car, sure, it can work… sort of. But the Frankenstein model you’ve created may not generate the results you or your client expect. Business coaches likely end up creating a bespoke model for each client. The models generally become hopelessly complex to follow or repeat. Owners get frustrated because the model takes too much effort to implement. Coaches spend inordinate amounts of time creating new models every time they get a new client.
Solution: Find a proven business coaching model with a holistic yet simple approach that can be applied in any industry. The best models are repeatable yet adaptable to every company regardless the field or leadership education level.
4. Not Diversifying Your Strategies
At the opposite end of the spectrum lies the cookie-cutter implementation trap. A common mistake business coaches make is to start treating every client, especially if within a certain field, the same. Funny thing, though: people are not cookies. Business coaches need to have a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) and read the room during client sessions.
Like the expression “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” using the same techniques won’t always work. You need more than a hammer to help your clients. By adding more expertise to your business coach toolkit, you can find new ways to support your clients.
Solution: Embrace a growth mindset and continue to learn new areas of expertise and interact with other successful business coaches.
5. Assuming Clients Will Come to You
Sorry, friends. Your business isn’t a field of dreams. The people won’t just show up at your doorstep passing over money for your services as a business coach. Just hanging out a shingle and waiting by the phone won’t cut it. You need to let the people who need you know you exist. Well-planned marketing and advertising lie at the core of every organization’s success.
When just starting a new company, business coaches should market like crazy using their own business plan as a guide. How else will the right owners know where or how to find you? When a business coach goes through lean times with few clients, they should market like crazy. Marketing is often one of the first cutbacks owners make during tough times, but instead they should ramp up their efforts. Business coaches will never attract new clients without their awareness that you exist. When a business coaches find themselves flush with clients, they should continue to market for tomorrow’s clients.
Solution: Market like crazy, using thoughtful and effective planning. Analyze impact of current efforts. Change course or repeat as necessary. Networking with other business coaches also expands your reach with potential referrals.
6. Changing Your Niche
When you created your own business plan (you did that first, right?), you had a targeted audience in mind. Any business coach seeking to become a great business coach likely finds a groove in a particular niche. It’s what differentiates you from business coach John/Jane Doe on the other side of town.
If you change your niche, any potential clients get confused. How do they know you can help them? Without experience with clients in your new niche, you basically start all over again. Your clients and networking partners know you for a particular specialty. If you find yourself tempted to stray from this, ask yourself why. Did you read something that inspired you? Might you possibly have shiny object syndrome?
Solution: Find a niche that fits your style and personality well. Grow within this area of specialty instead of branching out into unknown territory. Oh, and stay away from those shiny objects.
If you work crazy hours to build your business while helping your clients build theirs, you risk heading for burnout. This unsustainable path can leave you feeling empty, exhausted, and helpless. Entrepreneurs don’t like to talk about this, but it happens frequently. The very thing that fuels their passion and fires them up can also leave them depleted.
Everyday headlines scream about another pandemic of burnout. As a helping professional, business coaches are just as susceptible to emotional burnout as therapists or physicians. Being of service to others is incredibly rewarding but also incredibly draining. Even if you’re the epitome of an extrovert, you need downtime to recharge your batteries.
If nothing else, you must serve as a role model for your clients by demonstrating healthy behaviors. Most entrepreneurs are pretty competitive. If your clients see you burning the candle at both ends while you preach rest and rejuvenation, what do you think they’ll do? Try to burn hotter than you!
Solution: Nearly every helping profession requires a level of rest and recharge to meet basic human needs. Just because you own a business doesn’t make you exempt from those needs.
Business coaches live in a unique world: They build their own businesses by helping other business owners build theirs. To become a truly great business coach, strive to avoid these common mistakes with your business. If you’re looking for a network of other amazing business coaches, consider becoming an EOS Implementer®.