Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Marie Longserre looks at the principle of this adage applied to business coaching.
As often happens I have had a new revelation about something I thought I fully understood – using a coaching approach to help client entrepreneurs.
There is an abundance of methods and models we can employ to help people transform ideas, grow businesses, and ultimately better their lives and enhance our communities. Effective business incubators apply multiple techniques and use a variety of tools to advise, mentor, train, teach, counsel, consult, and coach clients. Coaching, a term historically applied to athletics, has been widely adopted in the business world for decades. Business coaching is a valuable addition to incubator programmes. It helps build communication and trust and allows us to assist clients without having to be an expert in their business fields. I do not have to know construction or chemistry to help entrepreneurs in those spheres. I simply have to apply the key coaching principles: ask good questions; listen actively; help the client identify challenges and goals, break those goals into small achievable steps, hold the client accountable for them, and give feedback and encouragement. But when I encountered the use of coaching in a new and unexpected setting, I gained a deeper understanding of why it works and what it means to the participants.
I recently visited a social services centre that helps people in crisis in a large city. In addition to meeting their immediate needs for shelter, food or clothing, the centre assists people with longer-term concerns such as permanent housing, access to education, health services, transportation and job placement. A single mother who has become homeless will benefit from having immediate shelter, but to build a better life she may need a better job which may require new skills training. Such solutions take time, perseverance and a commitment to showing up and using the centre’s services. In order to increase client engagement and improve outcomes the centre recently adopted a coaching model. They began with a core principal of the International Coaching Federation – “Coaches honour the client as the expert in Teach A Man To Fish Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.” It is the job of the coach to skilfully help people find answers and motivation. This method embodies a belief that each person can meet challenges and cultivate opportunities, and only they know what is best for them.
The road to success in life or business is most often a steep climb requiring selfdiscovery, dedication and ingenuity. The centre’s coaching model, based on respect and self-determination, has successfully motivated more people to keep returning to do the slow hard work of accomplishing their goals and aspirations.
Like all human endeavours business development is ultimately about people. When people can learn to solve problems creatively without looking to someone else to tell them what to do, they will set higher goals and achieve them. Coaching our clients to develop those skills, to cultivate their resourcefulness and imaginations, not only helps them transform their ideas and businesses, it transforms their lives.
Marie Longserre has been President/CEO of the Santa Fe Business Incubator in New Mexico, USA since its launch in 1997. She was elected to two terms on the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) Board and was Board Chair 2011-2012. She currently serves on the Federal Reserve Bank 10th District's Community Development Advisory Council, and is on the Board of the New Mexico Bio-Tech Association. She has presented at global conferences on topics of business and entrepreneurial development, non-profit management, and Board governance. She is a certified Business Incubation Director, a GrowthWheel trainer, and business coach.
Back to TBI list