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Cambridge Judge MBA alumna and current Fellow Marie Taylor co-authors a new book, Business Coaching & Mentoring for Dummies

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Less than 20 years ago, business owners who told colleagues they needed a coach or mentor were asked “What’s wrong with you?” These days, people are more likely to ask “Do you know a really great business coach?”

Marie Taylor

Marie Taylor

So begins a recently published book – Business Coaching & Mentoring for Dummies – co-authored by Marie Taylor, an MBA alumnus of Cambridge Judge Business School (Class of 2001) and currently a Fellow in Human Resources in the Organisational Theory & Information Systems subject group at Cambridge Judge.

The co-authors are Marie Taylor and Steve Crabb, both of them professional executive coaches.

The book, published by the Dummies brand of publisher John Wiley & Sons, is aimed at both business people and coaches. It includes chapters on coaching to get a business started, tools to develop a business leader’s mindset, managing the “inner world of thoughts and emotions,” and “coaching clients through their blind spots.”

We asked Marie Taylor a few questions about business coaching and mentoring:

What is the most difficult aspect of coaching a start-up business?

There are a few, mostly focused around being realistic. The key one is coaching a start-up founder to see that their great business idea, technology or product is just that until they can sell it and make a profit. Founders can also be unrealistic about the effort, business planning and market research required at the beginning. One of the most valuable contributions a coach can make is to hold up the mirror to help founders and the management team see their business from the perspective of others. It’s about helping them develop a commercial mindset. Getting the balance between keeping a client motivated yet realistic can be a challenge for the coach.

How does coaching differ in dealing with founders of start-ups and directors or chief executives of established companies?

In my experience, the personal investment can be very different. Founders have typically developed their product offering themselves. It can feel like part of their identity to them, particularly if it has taken many years to research and develop. As a business grows and takes on Directors and CEOs, people in these roles understandably want to do well personally and professionally in pursuing their careers. They may well love the product and the company, but their relationship with the originating product is different: the role they occupy is as a custodian of the offering and of the company. That said, some of the coaching issues regarding a Director or CEO may be similar to those with a founder in relation to managing relationships, generating ideas, helping to gain clarity, and personal wellbeing.

What are the most common “blind spots” for business clients to overcome?

How long have you got? We all have those spots beyond our conscious awareness that we just cannot see or may choose to ignore. Blind spots can cost a business client their reputation, the contents of their bank account, their customer share and even the business. They can impact their personal reationships too. The most common blind spots include an unwillingness to be a learner, valuing intelligence and knowledge over skills in business, and an inability to manage ego. There is no prescription pad for any of this, but coaches help leaders to identify and see the blind spots for long enough to address them – and sometimes this can be very uncomfortable.

How do emotions get in the way of effective management and leadership?

Emotions can get in the way and can also be enabling. We want heart-based engagement in business, some passion and some healthy disagreement because this is how business develops. But unchecked negative emotions can really get in the way. Sometimes leaders cannot seem to maintain a healthy distance between their decision taking and their emotions; alternatively, leaders may distance their emotions so much that they misjudge a situation and get a response they didn’t anticipate. Emotions, thinking and beliefs are closely aligned. It comes down to developing personal insight, maintaining emotional balance and managing our thinking.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your coaching career?

Never stop learning whether you are a coach or a business leader. Expanding your self awareness, knowledge and skills is a service to your stakeholders. Business in all of its forms is fundamentally about serving people to get what they need and want within a set of parameters. Whatever kind of business you are in, learn to adapt. Get really good at serving the changing needs of your stakeholders. A good coach can add value in helping you do that.