An orthodoxy has started to ossify around the concept of effective business coaching: it is all about helping small business owners streamline and optimise their strategies for business expansion. That is true as far as it goes; however, I think it leaves a lot out.

Business coaching, from a Gestalt point of view, involves working with actively experiencing human beings to help them realise their as yet unacknowledged potential, both in terms of business acumen and personal growth.

I begin from the premise that knowledge and experience of the business world should not clutter my mind and determine my thinking when I meet coachees for the first time. The great psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion once enjoined therapists to “eschew memory and desire”. In other words, do not cling on to what your training and experience has taught you, and suspend pressing wishes for the encounter to ‘go well’ if you really want new ideas to emerge.

If we fail to do this, we risk assimilating everything we see and hear to our already-existing understanding, overlooking what is genuinely novel, which may only make a tentative and easily ignored appearance unless given encouragement and attention.

Great businesses allow room for creative innovation, and good business coaching should provide a bespoke setting for that, untrammelled by all the other intrusions and unexpected impingements that business owners have to manage everywhere else. That special setting should feel like a special setting from the outset, so how a coach opens the coaching conversation really matters.

I never narrow the field of enquiry in these early phases by setting an agenda or offering topics for discussion, such as last week’s meeting. Instead, I invite the coachee to say where they would like to start today, making sure that I am making myself as receptive as possible to whatever that person needs to discuss.

I will elaborate further in part two, as well as moving on to the absorbing and empathising functions of effective business coaching.

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