‘Thanks, coach’: how coaching can help business

Alan Eagle and Jonathan Rosenberg

Coaching can help businesses of any size, and that sometimes includes tough love, Google executives tell an “Excellence in entrepreneurship” evening at Cambridge Judge Business School.

The concept of “coaching” in entrepreneurship is often thought of as one-to-one mentoring for entry-level founders of start-ups or board-level executives of big companies. But in fact, coaching is equally important for teams as it is for individuals, and at all stages of a company’s development.

That was a central theme of a recent event at Cambridge Judge Business School called “Excellence in entrepreneurship”, organised by the School’s Entrepreneurship Centre, that featured Google executives Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle. Along with former Google boss Eric Schmidt, they have authored a book, Trillion Dollar Coach, about legendary Silicon Valley business coach Bill Campbell, who coached leaders and managers at Google and Apple and was previously an American football coach for 12 years.

“Bill was a team coach,” said Rosenberg, an adviser to Google parent Alphabet and former Senior Vice President of Google Products. “He kind of invented something new, another Silicon Valley innovation, the idea of business coaching as coaching teams. You coach the entire team to keep everyone working together.”

The principles of effective coaching can be applied by companies big and small, with or without external coaches, Eagle told the packed event at Cambridge Judge. “You just need to marry the principles of coaching with the principles of management,” he said. “If you’re a young company you may not be able to bring in an external coach, but you can practice these principles anyway.”

Added Rosenberg: “The principles of great coaching – trust, teamworking, building a sense of community and love – are things any manager can do. You just need to find someone who’s a good manager and who wants to understand your career goals and aspirations.” Yet people need to be “coachable” to take advantage of good coaching, and that means a desire to get something tangible out of the experience, he added.


The 15 May event was introduced by Bruno Cotta, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Centre. “World-class coaching and mentoring are central to our mission at Cambridge Judge,” says Bruno. “All of our venture creation and growth programmes at the Entrepreneurship Centre incorporate elements of the powerful mix that Jonathan and Alan articulated so well: on the one hand, the need for deep knowledge, skill and experience in great coaches and mentors, and on the other, the need for those benefiting from this to be receptive to change that will help them overcome fears, obstacles and failure to achieve great success.”

The discussion was moderated by Simon Hall, a journalist, author and communications consultant who coaches at the Entrepreneurship Centre.

“What’s not always appreciated about coaching is how much the relationship can benefit both sides,” says Simon. “As a coach, I get to work with and know the entrepreneurs who will shape our world of the future. The energy, passion, commitment and talent of the entrepreneurs is simply inspirational. But as a coach, I benefit too: the energy I encounter is infectious, and any coaching session always leaves me buzzing and full of excitement for the future. It’s a demanding role, but one which is rich in its rewards.”

Coaches can nurture and praise, of course, but sometimes they also need to practice some tough love to bring out the full potential of others. Rosenberg quoted Tom Landry, who coached the Dallas Cowboys American football team for 29 years, who said: “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”

Image: Alan Eagle and Jonathan Rosenberg

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