The traditional image of workplace coaching has been for the reserve of executives or individuals with high potential within an organisation. It is now reaching the shop floor with organisations realising that managers using coaching skills in the workplace can provide direct performance and business benefits.
More than 70% of organisations with any formal leadership development activities use coaching as an important part of that (Zenger & Stinnett) . This figure is supported by a recent learning and development survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which states “just over 70% of organisations use coaching and 80% report that line managers are using coaching methods with their staff.” It goes on to state that line managers were typically delivering 36% of the coaching to their reports, while HR and Training and Development specialists were delivering 30%.
The evidence certainly suggests that there is an expectation for line managers to deliver more coaching. We will look later in more detail at the benefits and the implications that it presents.
In this report I am going to investigate the topic of coaching in the workplace. I will start with defining what is coaching in the workplace, and what it is not. I will cover how it works as a development tool and its purpose. I’ll then cover the topic of the Manager as coach. What their roles and responsibilities are; the deliverables to the business and look at the pros and cons of delivering coaching.
The reader will then be taken through how can a manager coach, who will they coach and to what end. This will also look at different styles and methods. To conclude I will discuss the issues that it may raise, how they can be recognised and some potential solutions.
Finally during my writing, I will be adding my own thoughts, as well as reference material and drawing comparisons through a case study of my experience as a manager in a multi national manufacturing organisation, where I had been involved with coaching first hand. This I hope will add some realism to the theory and reference material.
The aim of the report will give you the reader an insight into the subject area bringing together views, evidence, and real life perspective (the writers).
How does it work?
Coaching versus mentoring: a difference in name only? Before I proceed any further, it is at this point I feel it is important to define for the reader the difference between the two approaches. Although a large body of work has been done on both, there is still a difference of understanding. Sean Weafer claims “that a mentor is involved in transferring job specific skills or culture specific knowledge to someone junior to them, but not in their direct line of management within an organisation”. He then goes on to say “coaches usually focus on the clients perception of the challenges they face”.
Jennifer Wright argues that the difference is mentoring traditionally involves an individual with expert knowledge passing the knowledge in a specific domain.” Coaching is defined as a process in which the coach facilitates learning in the client and furthermore elicits solutions from the clients.
These definitions came from a coaching perspective; therefore to keep the balance, from a mentoring dimension I present a definition from Meggison and Clutterbuck . In their book “Mentoring in Action, their view is that mentoring is “off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking.
To summarise these definitions for the purpose of this report, mentoring is the passing of knowledge and a directional approach, coaching is the facilitation of learning and in doing so non-directional. I hope that the reader will accept my condensed definitions for this purpose.
Organisations now realise that they can improve both the performance and motivation of their people through coaching. In Julie Starr’s book she states “increasingly a coaching style of management is preferred to the command and control traditional approach”. This is supported in an article by Sue Weekes that “old style directional management is unlikely to get the best out of younger employees”.
Instead of telling people what to do, there appears to be a shift to encouraging people and allowing them to think for themselves and come up with their own solutions. Rather than interjecting and solving the issues, a coaching manager would look to provide support, challenge, feedback and guidance.
Managers can also use this skill for example during team meetings to enable the team to take responsibility for their activities. One to one meetings can also be used as coaching sessions if the manager uses a supportive, challenging and developmental approach.
There have also been some recent developments, which has pushed coaching higher up on the management agenda. Coaching raises awareness, and an awareness of balance is coming to the fore. “Business has taken over too much of too many peoples lives at too high a personal cost” . This statement echoes to me of many people I have come across. Organisations have to recognise that their values and ethics are failing and in some cases failing under the scrutiny of staff and customers. Coaching works well at eliciting values and producing values in both individuals and organisations. These are not always in alignment.
Coaching is a more a management style rather than a tool. The application of coaching has many examples, some common ones are (but not limited to) delegating, problem solving, team building, planning and reviewing, appraisals and assessments.
Coaching embraces 2 fundamental principles, that of awareness and responsibility . Huge potential lies within all of us, and this is supported by a study to determine the percentage of people’s potential manifests itself in the workplace. Surprisingly it was as low as 40% . The top three statements from the participants were, things people do so well outside the workplace, how well people respond in a crisis, and I know that I could be so much more productive. What then blocks this unleashed potential? The report came back with “restrictive structures and practices of my company”, the “lack of encouragement and opportunities offered by the organisation”, and “the management style of the company and/ or my manager”. The single most common internal block was that of self belief. Building self awareness, responsibility and self belief is the goal of a coach.
The first key element of coaching is awareness . This can be raised by focussed attention and by practice. It is much more than seeing and hearing. It is the clear perception of the relevant facts and information. It is an understanding of systems, dynamics and of relationships between things and people. Also it helps in recognising when and how emotions or desires distort our own perception.
Responsibility is the other key element. When we accept, choose or take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions, our levels of commitment increase, and so does our performance. Performance is more likely to improve if someone chooses to take action, rather than being told to do so.
It is questions, and in particular effective questioning in a conversation that best generates awareness and responsibility. The function of questions is to elicit information. The information is however of secondary importance to the coach. It is more important to raise awareness with the coachee. The types of questions used are important. They should be open questions, usually beginning with words like what, when, how (much/many), and who. Why is discouraged as it often suggests criticism, or a need for the individual to justify themselves, and therefore a tendency to become defensive. Coaching is non judgemental, and therefore this approach is not effective.
The questions should start broadly, and then focus in more detail. To maintain focus and interest of the coachee in order to bring into their consciousness things that otherwise may not be apparent. The questioning will follow the coachee’s train of thought. If they appear to be going way off track a simple interjection like “I notice we haven’t talked about”, helps bring things back on course. Leading questions and implying criticism should be avoided. The coach should be attentive to the answers as this will quite often form the next question in the conversation, and in doing so allow the process to flow naturally.
So we now have the questions, but what should we ask, and in what sequence? There have been several coaching models offered up to deal with this. One of the most familiar is the (T) GROW model . The G is for Goal, setting the agenda for the session as well as the long term aspiration. The R is for reality, checking to explore the current situation. The O follows for options and alternative strategies or courses of action. Finally W is for what is to be done, when, by whom (sometimes known as the way forward). Readers will notice that I have omitted the T. This was added by Noble Manhattan as identifying the Topic is advance of setting the Goal. This makes sense for me as the coach should not presume to know what the conversation is going to be about, and produces clarity for both parties.
Other coaching models exist, such at the SHOOTS model developed by Leeds University and adopted by the Wirral Hospital NHS Trust . Here they cover Seek to understand, Hone the goals, Objectives set, Options and action planning, Try it out, Success review. One further coaching model of mention the “Coaching path”, is another model that can be used . Although I personally prefer the TGROW model, it is appropriate to pick one that works for you. Following a model sequence combined with effective questioning will yield the best results.
To conclude the coaching cycle it is up to the coach to give the coachee a clear and accurate record of the action steps that the coachee has agreed and committed to take. The coach should then confirm that they fully understand as it constitutes the actions they will carry out.
The Manager as Coach the pros & cons
One of the first questions that come to mind is how can a manager be a coach and do their own day job? With all the demands placed on managers these days, adding one more task to their list of objectives in an ever demanding workplace. This eventually puts more pressure on managers.
Organisations now realise that they can improve both the performance and motivation of their associates through coaching . More than ever a “coaching style” of management is preferred to the “command and control” traditional approach. Rather than managers directing people, they are focussing more on encouraging people to think for themselves. Furthermore when there are issues, a coaching manager doesn’t automatically jump in and solve it for them. Coaching managers provide support, challenge, feedback and guidance, but rarely the answers.
The manager can use the platform of team meetings, and their coaching skills to support the group to take responsibility. Julie Starr then goes on to say “one to one meetings can now become coaching sessions, as the manager adopts a more supportive, challenging and developmental approach”. This surely must be a more preferable approach than the traditional performance appraisal telling the associate what they have done wrong and “telling” them what they need to do to improve (in the eyes of the manager). The benefit of this to the manager is that they can spend more time on long-term work, objective setting and so on.
This was my experience at a new BMW Group site that I was involved with. The one to one sessions were very much in the style of a coaching session where I encouraged associates to find the answers for themselves and have much more ownership of their tasks and responsibilities. There is however a critical mass where it may no longer be feasible for the manager to give one to one sessions to all their team.
This may then be diluted by managers coaching their first line, and then the first line coaching the supervisors, and supervisors to the shop floor. In theory this may sound a good idea, however in deployment not all supervisors and managers may make good coaches. Training resource and operational conditions may hinder the amount of time required to do this on a repeatable basis, and may therefore question its effectiveness. There may also be the dimension of hidden agendas that can be present within organisations. This may cause a hindrance to the successful deployment of coaching.
In a recent learning and development survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) it is suggested that managers who have been trained in coaching can also self coach. There is a double benefit here of both the associate and the manager developing. It goes on to say that “while operational coaching carried out by line managers will help to improve performance, it is dedicated internal coaches who will bring about the sort of long-lasting behavioural change that can really add value.
This is supported by (Mc Girk-CIPD) that says “line managers with coaching skills instils coaching behaviours throughout an organisation, but on its own won’t necessarily help companies to develop the in-depth coaching capability that dedicated internal coaches will offer”. He concludes that both are important
Although there is evidence here that both are to be used, in my experience within a manufacturing environment during the last 12 years, I have found no evidence of this being carried out within my own organisation, or suppliers and customers that I have interacted with. Therefore from this perspective I do not agree in totality with these statements.
The idea of dedicated internal coaches within an organisation must raise the question of value for money and cost effectiveness. My own observations of cost-cutting programmes, flatter organisations, and the need to demonstrate value for money leave little room for a coach to exist as a dedicated resource. However this is from a manufacturing perspective and other sectors may see it differently. Indeed the Workplace Coaching strategy paper issued by Wirral Hospital NHS Trust , discusses having qualified workplace coaches, but goes on to state that it is not using dedicated resources for this role. This paper supports my argument, however I am more than happy to hear to the contrary.
It is equally important for the manager to recognise when coaching is not appropriate. They are not therapists or councillors. Here they would need to seek guidance from their own HR/ Training department. Coaching is not a “catch all” and managers will have to decide when they need to coach, mentor or direct.
So far we have focussed mainly on individual coaching. There are some additional pros and cons for coaching a team . First I will look from the perspective of the coach in that a successor could be created, it avoids team members being “off the job” to develop their skills, and it can be cost effective. The potential downside to this is that they (the manager) may feel their own job may be jeopardised, it can be time consuming, and giving people responsibility may encourage them to dispute the coach’s authority. The success of the manager in coaching may lead to a feeling of lack of confidence if the coaching experience does not go well.
From the perspective of the team the positive benefits are that they will be coached by someone who knows them and their development needs. Development is part of the job and is therefore directly relevant and useful, and it makes work more challenging and interesting. Again the downside could be if first line management doesn’t take coaching seriously, there may be no other way to develop the team member’s potential, and of course the first line manager may not have good coaching skills.
As mentioned earlier, coaching may not always be appropriate for all situations. Often the manager may have to switch from a coaching role to a directing role and then back again. For example I recall while working in a press shop producing body panels, we had a major tool failure. While it may have been beneficial to take the time and ask the team how we might solve the issue, and listen to everyone’s input, in this high pressure, high volume environment immediate action is required. As long as this is explained to the associates and team this should not cause an issue. If not then the manager’s behaviour can be seen as somewhat ambiguous.
In order for the manager to be successful at coaching, he needs to build rapport with the people he is coaching. Without this coaching will have limited benefits. When starting out with the coaching relationship, the manager needs to establish the reporting hierarchy. The relationship will often be one to one, however in the case of a development or performance focus; the manager may have to report to a sponsor to give feedback. All parties will need to know this from the start. Clearly the manager cannot handle this from a standing start, and will therefore need to undertake some form of coach training.
How can a Manager Coach?
In deploying coaching training the organisation needs to decide how will this be done, who will do the training (internal/external) and how many managers are to be trained. The cost and the timescale are amongst other factors. This would usually be led by the HR function, strongly supported and taken seriously by senior management. A good way of demonstrating this would be to include this in the organisations objectives and targets. By the creation of a “coaching culture” coaching will be more readily accepted. During my time with the BMW Group, the coaching culture was suggested, and did feature in the management performance objectives (Management House Criteria). Other organisations also feature it in their corporate objectives to give it an appropriate level of visibility.
As part of my management training with the BMW Group, we received a 3 day coaching course, with a 2 day follow up. While this was an effective way of getting managers initially trained, unfortunately after this period there was no further follow up training, or reviews. More importantly, the coaching was only offered to associates, and none of the managers were allocated coaches to check on either their ability as coaches, or to aid them in their own development.
There are various coaching models available for the manager as coach. One of the most common is known as the (T)GROW model. This is a sequence that has been used effectively and is relatively simple to use and repeat. It starts with the Topic which is the area to be covered. Then there is the Goal, what do you want to achieve, or what would be a good outcome? Followed by the Reality, what is going on now, what has already been done? Options come next, what can be done, who can help? Finally we end with the Way forward, what is the next step to take?
The “Coaching path” is another model that can be used . Regardless of which model the coach chooses to take, it will give them a suitable repeatable model to use. One of the disadvantages of having many managers coaching in an organisation is that of standardisation; therefore a model will help this. This does of course presuppose that the manager has received some form of coaching training. I have only briefly covered the TGROW model and the reader may benefit from further reading to get a better understanding of this, and other models. The bibliography would be a good place to start.
If we now assume that the manager has received some coaching training, and is now armed with a repeatable model to follow (TGROW), in what direction should he go? There are several dimensions in the coaching relationship to consider. The obvious one is between the coach and the coachee (team or individual). However we can also consider a third dimension which is the one the manager will have to the organisation as well. This may well mean reporting upwards on progress and developments of a coaching relationship, as I alluded to previously.
Peter Bolt presents various ways in which a manager can coach as; coaching downwards, meaning coaching individuals who report directly to the coach. This works so long as coaching rules are applied. Rapport must also exist, and the process must be open, honest and 2 way communication.
Coaching upwards, meaning the relatively unusual situation of coaching ones superior. This is normally requested by the superior. They can get a better idea of how they are performing. However he states that this can be very dangerous as often a senior manager may ask for honest feedback, but does not want to hear the truth! I can concur with this from my experience in BMW Group, where I was asked to give feedback to a senior manager and encouraged not to pull any punches. Of course this was exactly the opposite of what the senior manager wanted to hear! I would advise extreme caution in this situation.
Coaching sideways, meaning coaching ones colleagues peers or equals in the organisation. This can occur in different areas of the organisation, and can benefit the coach, coachee and the organisation with an exchange of views and knowledge. In particular I have found coaching across functions a rewarding experience. If one is in a cross functional relationship it is often possible to see things from a non judgemental perspective. It allows challenging questions to be asked, which might not necessarily be raised if one had expert knowledge of the functional area. Here we come back to the difference between mentoring and coaching, where the coach can demonstrate that specialist knowledge is not required.
Team Coaching, this is another dynamic where a manager can apply his coaching skills. In the introduction we could see where it is increasingly common for the manager to adopt coaching skills to the whole team , rather than the traditional “command and control style”.
Peter Bolt goes on to mention other times when coaching can be applied “in times of turbulence” . He goes on to categorise these; Organisation turbulence, downsizing, change of ownership, competition pressures, continuous change, new technologies and new work practices. Personal turbulence, this could be a new job or change in responsibilities. It could mean a new boss, family issues, health problems, stress, and substance abuse. However I feel that the last three should at the very least involve HR and other specialists. These may be areas where coaching is not appropriate and should be referred to other specialists such as therapists, councillors etc.
The individual or team need to be in a position to receive coaching. For the individual I will refer to the “Preparation stage” of the Stages of Change cycle. The preparation stage indicates that the individual is getting ready for change.
They have decided to take action and are making the steps necessary to prepare for action. The step prior to this is the “Contemplation stage”. This is where the individual may be thinking about doing something, however may procrastinate. They may insist on the perfect solution before acting. The “Pre-Contemplation stage” is where the individual is avoiding the subject, and not taking responsibility for it. They may even be in denial or defensive. At these stages coaching will not be effective. It would be more pragmatic to work on moving them to the “Preparation stage” first.
For a team I will refer to the times when coaching intervention will be effective during a cycle. These are at the beginning, midpoint and ends. The beginning helps establish boundaries, identifies what to do regarding tasks and timings.
This helps the group to have a good launch, and can significantly enhance member’s commitment to the team and the task. At the midpoint failures and successes can be shared, as well as experiences. The team are able to review how they have worked together and will be open for some coaching intervention. At the end of a task or performance there should be time for lessons learnt and applied to future project work. Performance should also be reflected upon.
Hackman goes on to say that if there is an absence of coaching intervention, team members are unlikely to take initiatives after the work has been completed and to capture the lessons learnt. These 3 coaching interactions can be summarised as motivational in the beginning, consultative at the midpoint, and educational at the end. The evidence suggests that coaching a team in between these points in the cycle may have some small beneficial effects. I have used this approach in my own work with great success.
What issues does it raise?
In this section I will look at the issues as they are perceived from three angles, the coach (manager) the coachee (individual and team) and the organisation. It will give some insight to the barriers experienced to coaching, their identification, and offer some ideas on how they may be resolved.
In all organisations both large and small politics will have their place. It is important to remember that as a coach your role is non-judgemental. However the manager needs to recognise when there is a conflict of interests and flag the issue at the earliest opportunity. There may be situations where the manager is expected to act as coach, in a situation where their own values are not in alignment with company values and an individual. By finding themselves “in the middle”, this is a potential form of stress. Managers should therefore be aware and take early action if they are to avoid this situation.
In most commercial organisations, the Return on Investment (ROI) or at least a very clear measure of how coaching will impact the organisation is required. Very few initiatives will be approved or deployed unless there is a clear measurement system. This is where a “coaching culture” may support the initiative. Being incorporated into the organisations missions, and values as well as clearly being one of the organisations corporate objectives will support its success and adoption.
In a recent study, Zenger Folkman reveals that managers who are highly effective in coaching their direct reports make a significant impact. It states specifically the positive correlation with employee satisfaction with the organisation, confidence in the organisations ability to achieve goals, employee commitment to go “the extra mile” and intention to stay. It goes further to say that employees working for an ineffective coach as leader are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be thinking about leaving the organisation.
Tracking the success of coaching can pose a headache. However to determine the effectiveness this needs to be carried out. Adopting certain process tools & guidelines will help with this. For example specifying how long the coaching will last for, specifying the assessment instruments and agreement of the process as part of the contracting phase. This will help managers as well as the organisation in controlling the activity. Wirral NHS Trust has adopted learner and coach evaluation documentation to support this, as well as their coaching strategy.
One of the issues a manager will face when coaching in an organisation is that of standardisation. I have covered previously some of the coaching models, however there are other topics such as the way information is recorded, and how the coaching sessions are carried out and so on. It would be here that the HR/ Training function should provide the lead with guidelines and documentation. While coaching in the BMW Group there was limited resource available to do this and the individual manager relied on adopting their own.
One of the barriers to coaching is the perception of finding the time to do it. Small companies and some owner managers are likely to complain that they simply don’t have the time to do everything . Smaller companies tend to have fewer dedicated resources. However it was accepted that some smaller businesses fail as a consequence because they had not adequately developed their key staff.
The coaching relationship will only have meaningful effect if both participants want to be there. If one or both are reluctant it will not be effective. It could pose an issue for the manager who may feel that they are obliged to demonstrate their people development skills, & could be linked to their own personal performance review and pay structure. This could present a source of stress to the manager. If both parties are open to receiving and delivering coaching both will benefit as well as the organisation.
Managers as coaches may well come across the international dimension. My previous employer (German led) had a common approach around the world. With different cultures perhaps this was not the best approach. There is a difficulty in altering the attitudes and behaviour for deep cultural or religious reasons. The idea of “ONE” strategy for the group worldwide, in my view is not sustainable. Although some managers on international assignments received a few hours cultural training as part of their induction, this does not go far enough.
This is not a study of cultural differences; however this is an aspect that the manager as a coach needs to be aware of, even within a single organisation. This is particularly relevant in these days of a more diverse workforce. This is supported in a case study, Engineering Co, very similar to my own employer.
Although they talk about a mentoring programme, the same implementation and process issues can be applied to implementing coaching. As it is only a different, albeit similar type of development tool, and management style.
In becoming a coach, the manager ought to understand how development impacts on people in the organisation. This was missing within the BMW Group organisation. Managers who have had no positive experience of coaching themselves, raises a question how can they coach effectively. Although I was trained to be a coach within BMW Group, as I previously mentioned, there were no coaches for managers who were expected to deploy coaching to their teams and individuals. My personal observations were that only those managers who adopted self coaching, and peer coaching made progress.
Managers need genuine interest; otherwise they may only pay lip service to the “coaching culture” or their organisations “strategy and vision”. In hostile environments (such as fast paced manufacturing) with aggressive attitudes and styles, change needs to happen quickly, for example at the end of a shift, or when a serious process issue arises. This does not automatically lend itself to a coaching style.
In an autocratic environment where management “tell” their associates they display language and behaviour that is in direct conflict to the coaching style. I recall one evening at a management meeting with the Manufacturing Director, who simply told us that none of the management team can leave until the issue at hand is solved, which did not lend itself to the coaching style. Particularly in the light that the specialists who could solve the issue had gone home an hour previously, and the company had no mechanism to recall their associates back into work at the end of their shift.
There may be times when managers will have to “tell” their associates. However if they handle this well they can remove any ambiguity in their role as coach. As long as this is explained to the associates and team this should not cause an issue. If this is not done, then the manager’s behaviour could be seen as somewhat inconsistent. John Whitmore breaks this down nicely into 3 decisions ; if time is predominant then telling will be the fastest way. If the quality of the result is predominant, then coaching for high awareness and responsibility is likely to deliver the most. And finally if maximising learning is predominant, then coaching will optimise learning and retention.
I have indicated before that coaching is a tool for people development. A question this raises is what if there is nowhere for the people to develop to? On the face of it this may seem an odd question. To put it into context, with organisations adopting flatter and leaner structures, particularly in the light of current economic situations there may be little scope of individuals to move in organisations unless someone leaves. Succession planning helps here but people may have to “stand still” for some time.
In one of my operational roles with BMW Group, I was coaching an associate in their career development where they found themselves “stuck”. Recognising that there were no opportunities on the site which was being downsized, where they had worked for 9 years, I enabled them to move to a new role at one of the groups other sites. Although the individual was lost to another site, they were still employed as part of the group and therefore their knowledge and experience was retained at a group level. This was a good outcome for both parties.
In fact as a consequence of downsizing individuals may find themselves with an even higher workload than before. Organisations typically shed jobs and restructure with little thought as to how the business processes and people will be affected. My own experience of this was that in an attempt to reduce headcount a production control function was taken out that covered the 24 hour 7 day operating cycle of the plant. Although new organisation charts had been agreed at senior level, it was not clear which processes were now required, which ones were not, which ones needed to be developed, and how would these responsibilities be distributed. The end result was that the manufacturing and planning teams spent several weeks disputing who would do what and discovered that the evenings and weekends were no longer covered. Had a coaching style approach been used, I believe that the transition would have been far less painful and any process issues would have been identified and solved a lot earlier.
There are other organisational barriers to coaching success. In David Pardey’s book , he highlights 6 specific barriers, but all of them come from a common root cause which was a lack of commitment to the idea of coaching as a tool to improve performance. First there was a lack of time, where the managers did not feel that they had the time; they want things done now so revert back to “command and control”.
The fear of skills used in coaching, for managers who can’t or won’t coach will oppose its use. It was suggested that they may feel weakness in their ability as they are not able to do everything. There was the fear from the associates side that the mangers were not confident in their role as coach, and that some associates may be better at it than them. From the manager’s side there is the fear of the coach, that the coach can perform better than them and perceive it as a threat. There is the fear of risk, that if it does not bring the results that are expected (whether reasonable or not) that it would be a waste of money (externally provided), or resources and time (internally provided).
Lastly is the unwillingness to recognise and address difficult performance issues. Telling someone that they are not performing well is a difficult and uncomfortable task. If it cannot be solved by coaching or other means, there are more serious consequences for the associate. This also involves more time for the manager, and can be a greater cause of stress.
We touched earlier that coaching is not a “catch all” for everything and everyone in the organisation. It is equally important for the manager to recognise when coaching is not appropriate. As a guide but by no means exhaustive, when faced with the following situations, a manager may question if coaching is appropriate. If a criminal act is committed, serious health or emotional problems, stress, and substance abuse. The manager should seek advice initially from HR. HR may then chose to refer this to other specialists such as therapists, councillors etc.
I have demonstrated that coaching has been officially recognised as adding value in the workplace, and earning its place not only for high achievers and executives, but also on the shop floor. I have identified that the responsibility for delivering the coaching still rests largely with the line management team in an organisation. Some reports suggest as much as 70% is delivered by them.
Increasingly a coaching style of management is preferred to the command and control traditional approach. This shift encourages people to think for themselves and release an enormous amount of potential.
In order to facilitate learning, coaching is applied in a non-directional, non-judgemental way. Before you can improve performance the two key elements of awareness and responsibility need to be raised in the subject (individual or team). This is conducted in a structured approach using effective questioning skills. Several coaching models exist to aid the manager coach through this process, the most common being the (T)GROW.
On the face of it, it may appear that coaching is just an additional task on top of the manager’s already heavy workload. However when done correctly, it actually allows the manager more time on their core tasks such as long-term planning, objective setting and so on. A further benefit is that those managers trained as coaches, are then able to coach themselves. In developing staff it avoids them being “off the job” to develop skills. The effectiveness of coaching can be diluted in a multi level organisation, and from my research there is little evidence of having the luxury of dedicated full time coaches within organisations. There will be occasions where a manager will have to ”tell” staff and this needs to be handled by them in an appropriate manner.
Once the manager is trained, they can be involved in coaching at various levels within their own organisation. This can be with team or individuals, their peer group, their superiors or indeed themselves. They will identify when a coaching intervention is required, and at what point teams and individuals are ready to receive coaching. It is equally important for the manager to recognise when coaching is not appropriate and seek assistance from other resources like HR.
The manager needs to be aware of any conflicts of interest, especially when this is in the area of values and beliefs. Often the return on investment (ROI) is questioned; by having a demonstrable measurement system this will positively support the coaching approach. The standard of training and ongoing support to coaches is important to ensure that a coach does not have a negative effect on the workforce. In this ever changing world, the cultural and diversity dimension also needs to be considered. If coaching is to be effective then all parties need to be willing and open, and managers in particular need to demonstrate interest.
Coaching is clearly not a “catch all” or a sticking plaster for a manager to heal over their areas of responsibility. Other routes are available and the manager should quickly recognise this. It is however extremely powerful when used as a management style, supported by a strong and visible coaching culture within an organisation.
The final question I would raise to any organisation not using, or considering using coaching is why would they not want to benefit from the overriding benefits that it can yield?
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Wulston Alderman FCILT
Founder: Life & Corporate Coaching
Wulston works with clients to improve their business performance, in particular the areas on supply chain and procurement, both in the public and private sector.
He is a qualified Practitioner Coach, and CILT Mentor. He is currently Mentoring individuals in the CILT Mentoring Programme.
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