Every elite sports person has a performance coach. So why isn’t there more coaching in business?

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 20 April 2022

Serena Williams is widely regarded as one of the best tennis players of all time. With 23 Grand Slam Singles’ Titles under her belt, her seemingly endless triumphs also include three Olympic gold medals. There’s no denying the unrivalled level of natural talent she has, but that doesn’t make her long-standing coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, any less valuable. Steering her to success for over 12 years, Mouratoglou’s guidance saw Williams achieve 10 of her Grand Slam titles.

When Mouratoglou first started working with Williams, she had just lost in the first round of a Grand Slam. Since that point, Williams has won three Wimbledon titles, an Olympic gold medal, several US Open titles, two French Opens, and two Australian Opens - and got back to world number 1.

But while Serena Williams is an outstanding example, she’s far from unique in terms of the coaching and support she receives.

And if coaching for performance is so rewarding for elite sportspeople, why isn’t that the case when it comes to business?

I’ve recently been seeing an increase in the number of my clients requesting leadership solutions, including coaching, and this has given me much food for thought. Why is coaching for high performers in business not the norm, in the same way that a high-performing athlete would always have a coach? Why is coaching sometimes seen as a negative thing, or something that’s ‘remedial’?

An upwards curve that has been on the rise since 2018, the need for coaching was exacerbated during the pandemic when leaders remained at home with people turning to them for answers that they just didn’t have - and a coach provided the necessary space for pause, reflection and support.

What is coaching in a business context?

A core component of leadership development, coaching provides a platform for business leaders, however experienced, to increase their self-awareness and strengthen their leadership and impact.

Coaching enables leaders to carve out dedicated time to explore options, have their assumptions and limiting beliefs challenged, and find new ways to increase their performance and that of their teams and businesses.

For further related reading, see my previous post on why you need to focus on leadership solutions now more than ever.

Types of coaching

Given the pace of change in our current working world, it’s no surprise that coaching for optimal performance is a hot topic. However, internal efforts just aren’t cutting it. A survey by CSO Insights found that most organisations leave coaching up to individual managers or develop lacklustre coaching guidelines that simply aren’t implemented or followed.

But coaching and development are (thankfully) changing from optional extras into industry essentials.

Different types of coaching include humanist, development, cognitive, systemic, goal-orientated and adaptive. A humanist type of leadership coaching takes a therapeutic approach, whereby the coach helps lift the leader by using confidence-building techniques, and is often used to overcome times of crisis.

Development coaching is similar in approach, and involves the coach trying to establish what stage the leader is at, and where they can go from there. Cognitive, systemic and goal-oriented coaching are much more focused, each taking a look at what obstacles stand in the way and what can be done about them.

Specialist coaches can also help with specific development goals, such as strengthening personal impact and confidence, thereby enabling the participant to accelerate their success and career progression.

5 benefits of coaching

1. Unlock your ultimate leadership potential

Just like in the sporting world, a business coach will help you identify your strengths and realise your potential. While you might already be confident in your abilities, the role of a coach is to see where these can be maximised and put to better use, which is often hard to see when you have your eyes fixed firmly on the ground.

Coaching will help you evaluate the skills you have, the ones you can build and how to master them all in order to grow.

2. Avoid common mistakes

A performance coach will have their own wealth of experience to bring to your table. Hindsight is 20/20, and coaches typically have plenty of it. Leadership and performance coaches can guide you around the minefields that could derail your progress. Their experience can become your invaluable tool to avoid making mistakes (that’s not to say that everyone’s perfect - mistakes happen, and we should learn from them).

3. Master key skills

A good leadership coach will tell you where you’re wasting your time and where you need to invest more of your energy and efforts. The skills you used to rely on might now be outdated, and sometimes it’s hard to see that without someone to point it out. Developing your skills and understanding how best to invest your time is critical - for example, when stepping into a new role.

4. Recognise excellence

Under-appreciation and a lack of visibility is at an all-time high, thanks to the hybrid working world. A good coach has enough distance to identify when the person they’re working with deserves recognition for their efforts, and can help them to increase their visibility and impact in their organisation.

5. Remain rooted

Coaches are vital in order to avoid burnout and keep a level head in times of crisis. Adding a reassuring presence to bounce ideas off and talk things through with, a coach can help you find the elusive solution you might need in times of intense pressure, or bring you back down to the facts of the scenario when you become overwhelmed.

Leadership coaching, just like Patrick Mouratoglou for Serena Williams, can help you remain at the top of your game or regain your confidence after a setback. Commonplace in the elite sporting world, there’s no reason a performance coach shouldn’t be considered essential for leaders and teams at all levels.

Contact us to find out more about how leadership coaching can help you and your team.

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