Posted Jan 15, 2018 1:37:54 PM

Coaching and Mentoring in business have become interchangeable terms, although one tends to imply short term specifics and the other longer term and more general development. The concept of a “mentor” was first noted in Greek mythology from the Odyssey by Homer, in which a goddess appears in various ways to help guide, protect and support the journey of the main character. The principle of business coaches and mentors came to prominence in the 1990s, primarily in the US, and it is undergoing a resurgence in popularity in recent years, presumably because those who benefitted from it are now at the top of their respective industries.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself”, according to George Bernard Shaw. Creating leadership skills in your personal fabric is essential if you have an ambition to manage well and generate sustainable success, both personally and for your business; you need to manage and develop yourself. Without your intervention, no-one else is going to generate the necessary focus and momentum that you will require to succeed, and without your effective leadership your teams will under-perform as well.

Yet, it is estimated that nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive executive coaching or leadership development, with the next most senior level faring almost as badly with less than half receiving coaching or development. This may not be surprising news. However, research conducted by Forbes found that more than 90% would like coaching to optimise their effectiveness and continue their development.

It is clear that there is a disconnect between the wishes of executives and their actions.

Perhaps that is driven in part by the general culture of working in the western world that focuses on ambition, results and success. These are necessary, righteous and laudable goals, but often counter-intuitively lead to the perception that it is a weakness to need to learn, or to require any further personal development.

Further, in British society, there remains a sense of courtesy, modesty and decorum, and despite what TV dramas would have you believe this still extends into the workplace. It leads to a habit of feeling it rude to put ourselves first. However, in the context of business it is not selfish to do so. For you to be the most help to others, to generate the most sustainably successful team, you must be the best version of yourself possible.

This leads to the common tendency, that appears to increase in line with seniority, for executives to not concern themselves with their own development, instead focusing their actions on their teams and short-term outputs. This can both blunt the full powers of the executive and lead to frustrations, the root of which are often not obvious.

Workload pressures, available time and business priorities are the most common reasons given by executives for not embarking on a journey with a business coach. How ironic it is that solutions to these very obstacles are among the first objectives on the coaching journey.

When highlighting this vicious circle, I often find myself quoting Stephen Covey’s ‘Sharpen the Saw’ allegory, which enforces the importance of looking after and enhancing the person you are and the life you lead. For me, it perfectly illustrates the power of looking beyond the short term and investing wisely in yourself. The time that you devote to self-development, so illogical in the context of your overloaded to-do list, will ultimately be what sets you apart from your competition.

It is here that a business coach provides the invaluable catalyst, through careful advice and guidance to ensure that you continue to develop your skills in the right ways, and at the right times, for your ever-changing business.