Written by Matt Somers

Someone you respect has advised you that working with a coach would really help develop you, your team or your business.

Someone else has suggested that an advisor, consultant or mentor could do those things too.

But what do these terms actually mean in practical terms? What happens the very next day after any of these people have left? How do you turn their work into the results you’re looking for.

I’d like to start with coaching (I would, it’s sort of my thing)

Tim Gallwey started out as a tennis coach and in 1972 published The Inner Game of Tennis. It turned the world of sports coaching upside down (A US TV show tried unsuccessfully to reveal him as a fraud) and as Corporate Executives started applying the principles to their companies as well as their backhands, the world of business coaching as we know it today began.

Gallwey proposed a simple equation to explain how we improve our performance in any endeavour:

PERFORMANCE = Potential minus Interference (P=p-i)

Seen in this way, if we want to improve performance in say, sales, we can do one of two things. We can either try to increase potential: giving people training, access to CRM tools, Social Selling techniques, etc. Or we can reduce interference: fear of failure, self-doubt, conflicting priorities, rejection fatigue and so on.

It follows that a coach’s (or coaching style leader’s) job is to convert as much potential as possible into performance, but of course performance means different things to different people. An actor will have a different view to an athlete and a founder may have a different view to a team member when it comes to defining performance.

In the world of business it seems that performance can be reduced to being about one of five things:

Each of these areas of performance can improve as a result of effective coaching, and often coaching is sought because things aren't going well in some of these areas. But these very broad areas of work performance are really outcomes, i.e. the results and consequences of people's ability to perform in a host of other areas, increasing personal productivity, increasing team productivity, generating leads and opportunities, making presentations, managing performance, and so the list goes on.

A good coach will work hard to develop an agreed of what performance actually means in a given role and how we would know if it had improved.

One thing is certain: there will always be a gap between a person’s potential (what they could achieve) and their subsequent performance (what they do achieve) and life wouldn't be much fun if there wasn't. Put simply, coaches work with their clients to look at ways of closing the gap so that more potential is converted into performance.

The equation also helps us distinguish between a coach and the other roles mentioned earlier. A consultant, mentor or advisor is there to pass on their wisdom. They will probably have been there, seen it and done it and their role is to get that wisdom out of their heads and into yours. They are there to increase your potential.

But a coach is different. A coach doesn’t need to have deep expertise in your business because their job is to help you deal with the ways in which you are probably getting in your own way. They’ll help you find your focus and priorities when all you can sense is chaos and white noise.

They’ll help you rediscover your motivation when you’re wondering why you set up in business in the first place.

They’ll help you squeeze every last drop of value from any development you’ve recently undertaken. They’re there to reduce your interference.

Of course, many individual providers combine the various roles and can help in many ways. An in the end that’s all that matters – you just want some help who cares what we call it.

But far too many business owners are missing out on the amazing benefits that coaching can bring because they don’t see that the biggest obstacles are in the own mind.

As Gallwey said, “I suddenly realised that the opponent inside my own head was much more formidable than the one on the other side of the net.”


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