Columns Opinion Your Views — 31 January 2014
The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Coaching isn’t just for CEOs

By Bill Reagan
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Bill Reagan

We all strive to make clear-headed decisions — to be well informed, have all the facts, think objectively and feel confident in the way we’ve come to a conclusion.

The problem is that we have so many distractions — external and internal — while we’re trying to make thoughtful choices. We’re further pressured because many of our decisions are cumulative. Decisions we make today might affect future choices.

Every one of us could benefit from objective and constructive feedback from a person who’s qualified and whom we trust. Our most accessible sources — friends, colleagues and relatives — often tell us what they think we want to hear, and we can’t be sure of their objectivity.

How do we go about finding an individual who will listen to our ideas and give us thoughtful feedback?

During a recent speaking engagement, Capital One founder and CEO Richard Fairbank surprised many when he discussed the importance of executive coaching. He said he benefits from a coach, and that Capital One makes coaches available to all of its executives. He went on to say that he could easily tell which executives were using coaches because of their exceptional performance.

Many of us hold a preconceived notion that personal coaches are for those climbing the ladder to success rather than for powerful CEOs or successful business owners. Fairbank makes a strong case that people at every level can improve their performance and quality of life by engaging a professional coach.

The International Coach Federation asserts that engaging a professional coach helps people be more productive, achieve their goals and have greater interpersonal effectiveness. While coaches can give you helpful feedback on specific issues and actions, they also can provide insight on big-picture issues.

They challenge your thought processes, identify behaviors you want to change, help you solidify your professional and personal aspirations, and encourage balance in your life.

Choosing the right coach requires research and self-education. There are many articles and websites to help, but you should ensure that your coach is credentialed and that you have a rapport with them. It also is important to know your objectives and focus on a few goals to get started, rather than tackling everything at once.

While considering the benefits of engaging a personal coach, you also should identify other sources of impartial and objective feedback. For business owners, the Alexandria Small Business Development Center staff has experience, resources and contacts that can solve problems or provide timely information in areas where owners lack expertise. The center’s services are free and focused only on what’s in the best interest of the individual business; it has nothing to sell.

The center is not a substitute for the in-depth individual coaching described earlier, but staff members can help to evaluate business decisions and work to guide you in the right direction.
Objective feedback can enhance your confidence and productivity — it’s worth seeking.

- The writer is the executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

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