Peter Drucker says managers of today utilise the services of knowledge workers, who are confident and competent. Knowledge workers are people, who know much more than their bosses. For instance, a CFO, CHRO, and CIO will have better knowledge of their function than their CEOs. Similarly, today’s younger generation, who are very creative and cannot be controlled or managed. Therefore, the traditional command and control model may not be effective in dealing with them.
In this highly turbulent environment characterised by uncertainty, volatility, and ambiguity, rapid and disruptive change is the new norm. The past is not a guide to understanding and succeeding in the future. To cope with this new reality, organisations are moving away from traditional command-and-control practices towards a model in which leaders provide support and guidance rather than giving instructions. Thus employees learn how to adapt to a constantly changing environment in ways that unleash fresh energy, innovation, and commitment.
Coaching helps leaders to unleash their potential and build high-performing individuals and teams. Leaders of today need to follow, ask and listen to model rather than telling and selling model. Adapting a culture of coaching helps the organisations to build a competent workforce which becomes a source of competitive advantage.
What is coaching?
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the verb to coach as to “tutor, train, give hints to, prime with facts.” This does not help us much, for those things can be done in many ways, some of which bear no relationship to coaching. Coaching is as much about the way these things are done as about what is done. Coaching delivers results in large measure because of the supportive relationship between the coach and the coachee, and the means and style of communication adopted. The coachee does acquire the facts, not from the coach but from within himself, stimulated by the coach.
Although the exact definitions of coaching offered in the literature vary, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, coaching is:
• A non-directive form of development
• Focused on work performance improvement and related skill development
• Dually focuses on both the individual and the organisation
• Provides feedback, raises awareness, and imbues personal responsibility for action
• A skilled intervention delivered by those trained in coaching skills.
According to Marshall Goldsmith coaching is “helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior; for themselves, their people and their teams”
Unlocking a person’s potential to maximise his or her potential – Sir John Whitmore International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honour client as experts in work and believe every client is creative, resourceful, and whole. Hence, the coach’s responsibility is to:
- Discover, clarify, and align with what client wants to achieve
- Encourage client self-discovery
- Elicit client centered solutions and strategies
- Hold the client responsible and accountable
The process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.
Coaching is about asking questions to help the client find his answers, without giving advice. The coach acts as a catalyst for positive change and helps them to realise their potential leading to better individual team performance.
Coaching is not telling someone what to do; it is not giving advice or providing solutions. It is not similar to mentoring, consulting, training, and therapy.
Coaching is a well-defined process with a start point and end point. Coaching is a distinct form of collaborative helping relationship between a coach and coachee, which is focused on working in a systematic way towards agreed goals to enhance professional performance, foster ongoing self-directed learning, and increase personal satisfaction and personal growth.
In the context of workplace, there are typically three parties to a coaching agreement/process: the coach, coachee and their organisation. The coaching agreement (sometimes referred to as the contract)) sets out the goals for the coaching. This directs the work between the coach and coachee. As a discipline, coaching draws from several areas of study including psychology, sports coaching, and business
The distinction between therapy, coaching, and mentoring
Therapy deals with healing pain, dysfunction, and conflict within an individual or in relationships. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past that hamper an individual’s present emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with the present in most healthy ways. The distinction between coaching and therapy is that therapy focuses on a problem that needs to be fixed- the way to fix it is by going into the person’s psychology and emotional history. Coaching looks at the present and goes forward. Coaching is future-oriented.
Coaches like all business people need to have an understanding of psychology, such as what inspires and motivates people. But coaching focuses on what to do now, not what went wrong in the past.
A mentor is an expert who provides wisdom and guidance based on his own experience. It may include advising, counseling, and advising. Mentoring is a long-term relationship whereas coaching is time-bound. Mentoring is an open-ended non-specific contract. It is like saying “I am going to be your big brother and going to be with you around for an uncertain amount of time”. Mentors are experienced professionals in the same field who teach and share their experience along with relevant insights to their mentees. It is their job to “download genius”.
A coaching contract is for a specific period to work on a specific issue with measurable outcomes. The coaching process does not include advising or counseling.
Uploading genius vs downloading genius
According to ICF, coaches do not tell their clients what needs to be done and how to do it; they ask questions to enable clients to gain self-discovery and clarity. It’s the coach’s job to “upload genius” and guide the client to find ways to identify and overcome obstacles.
In the future of corporate coaching, as the coaching agenda increasingly is centered around strategy, we can expect these two roles to converge. Executives want to learn from the best, and they’re hungry for coaches with experience at their level and in their industry. As a result, it’s only natural that their coaches will flex their style, knowing when a coach is needed and when a mentor is needed. When coaches wear their “mentoring hat,” they’re sharing their winning formula. But there’s an art to guiding the client to discovering their signature style. The most successful leaders understand the importance of leading from a place of authenticity — wanting to learn from their coaches, rather than become a copy of their mentors.
Executive coaching is a $19 billion global industry because organizations believe that it can help their leaders innovate in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. More than 70% of formal leadership development programs include coaching. The following underscore the salience of executive coaching.
The force to incessantly deliver results causes leaders to ignore things that don’t lead directly to them. Since executives are highly talented achievers, they tend to rise on their abilities, but experience challenges against the ceiling of those abilities as they move up in the corporate ladder. All their leadership issues have a significant impact on the organizations and mistakes can cost millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.
As work from home has become a new normal, CEOs across the world are facing unprecedented challenges of digital transformation, agile transformation and cultural transformation. Sometime back most of the originations had faced challenge of change management and leaders looked at a coach as a locksmith who helps the leaders who have answers within in self but are unaware of unlocking their internal resources to find answers.
Digital transformation demands a fundamental shift in organisation’s business models, beliefs, values ways of working, and decisions making. This requires the support of a coach whose skills are more than a skilled locksmith. Today leaders are looking at the coach who has information and guidance on how to apply to their industry.
Since organisations need to transform themselves continuously to stay agile. It is the coach’s responsibility to support the leader by anticipating and overcoming associated hurdles. Coaching for transformation raises the question, “How can we best identify the people who will exert a strong influence on the rest of the organization in the context of our change initiative, and how can we best leverage their influence and talents?”
Many situations present opportunities or coachable moments.
Ram, a recently appointed team leader is domineering his team members. Due to the lack of supervisory experience, he believes that this is the best approach to get the job done from people.
Raju is an outstanding programmer and possessed exceptional technical skills. Since he spends most of his time with computer and has little organizational skills, spends little time with the clients and customers. As a result, his exceptional programming skills are not made known to key personnel in the organization.
Prasad is a brilliant sales professional and has managerial potential. He is a fast learner, understands and works well with team and has clarity on organizational goals. Though he has potential, he is reluctant to assume managerial position due to his reluctance to confront with difficult and argumentative people.
Ravi, a competent leader is finding it difficult to plan as he is spending most of his time in handling trivial and routine work. Though he wishes to delegate some work to his subordinates, he is skeptical about their performance. As a result, experiences burnout and stress.
All the above hypothetical situations demand improvement and we find a need for development agenda. Ram the bossy team leader could be shown that there are better ways of getting the work done. Raju’s genius for programming is underutilised as he does not interact with people who could benefit from work; he needs to improve his communication skills. Prasad can make a better contribution to the organisation if he had some pointers and encouragement in confronting difficult people. Ravi, the time-pressed manager would make his job easier if he develops his team members.
Similarly, if someone is fired or received a scary medical report on health or is baffled to take a decision, we can spot the coachable moments.
The growth of the coaching industry has been rapid. Similar to personal training in the private realm, coaching in the business environment is quickly becoming mainstream and branching out to all areas of organizational management
Applications of coaching
- Applications of coaching are numerous and varied. A coach can help leaders to
- Maximise individual strengths, for example, build on analytical skills
- Overcome personal obstacles, for instance, address fear of public speaking
- Reach their full potential through continuous learning, for example, learn to use analytics for better decisions making
- Achieve new skills and competencies to become more effective, for instance, learn to become emphatic to become a better leader
- Prepare themselves to take responsibility for their success and life
- Manage themselves better, for instance, increased self-awareness will help them realise their full potential
- Developing more productive teams
- Improving working relationships with colleagues, supervisors, and team members
- Help leaders to think and plan more strategically, to manage risk more effectively, and to create and communicate vision and mission.
- Prevent executive derailment; which, as some studies suggest, can be as high as thirty-three per cent for senior executives.
- Helps develop interpersonal skills. Some common reasons for interpersonal conflict include executives being too abrasive, too controlling, and too isolated. Coaches work with executives to explore these behaviors, to recognize and regulate their self-defeating beliefs, assumptions, and actions.
- Aid in developing a culture of trust, commitment, and personal responsibility, both internally and with the external world of clients and customers
- Enable the executive or manager to leverage his or her personal power more effectively.
- Develop leadership qualities that have been empirically proven to be associated with success: cognitive capacity, social capacities, personality style, motivation, knowledge, and expertise.
Besides coaching on demand, there are several other types of coaching that can address many different issues. For example:
- Senior executives and high potentials may benefit from coaching that helps them develop strategies for leading in new or complex situations, build on existing strengths, and push their goals forward. One leader may work with a coach to go from “good to great.” Another may use coaching to shorten her ramp-up time in a new role or to help navigate a significant increase in responsibilities.
- For middle managers, coaching can reinvigorate a job or even a career. A coach can help a leader identify skills to be developed, key strengths, and strategies for improvement. Coaching can focus on achieving goals within a leader’s current job or moving in new directions.
- Struggling executives can benefit from coaching to improve performance, too. It can help these previously successful leaders, who for any number of reasons might have jeopardized their prospects, to identify problem areas and make tangible performance improvements that serve the needs of the organisation and the individual.
Building learning organisation through coaching
To build a learning organisation, we need to make coaching an organisational capacity which is an integral part of company culture. Satya Nadella after assuming the office of CEO at Microsoft found that Microsoft needs to move from a traditional mindset to a growth mindset. Nadella aptly put it that leaders of Microsoft had to shift from “know-it-all” to being “learn-it-all”.
Nadella has interacted, solicited ideas from many people, listened ardently, and asked non-directive questions without making judgment. Nadella demonstrated a role modeled behavior which was acknowledged and followed by his teammates. Research revealed that when in doubt people copy the actions of the senior leaders who have power and status. He has imbibed the culture of coaching across the organisation spreading to 130,000 employees through various leadership interventions resulting in high-performance culture.
Leaders are playing the role of coach to foster the development, learning, and performance of team members. Leaders are using questions to spark insights in the team members and a choice to give support and guidance rather than instructions. For instance, David Morley, Senior Partner of the law firm Allen & Overy, has decided to make coaching a key part of organisational capacity, highlighting the importance of highly valued conversations to his colleagues as well as clients. Training programs were deployed to enable employees to perform better through open and effective coaching conversations.
Coaching in times of disruption
Leaders are grappling with several challenges of setting direction in these uncertain times, leveraging the creative skills of a team with limited resources, and seeking commitment from those without job security. Leaders at the higher levels will have very few trusted sounding boards and their challenges are quite confidential.
An executive coach can be a trusted sounding board during times of crisis and can provide leaders with a structured approach to leading organisation through unforeseen circumstances. The key is to be clear on desired outcomes and work with a coach in a way that emphasizes improved performance.
During times of crisis, leaders are called to make tough decisions and there is no right choice or straight-jacketed solution most of the time. As a result, leaders experience uncomfortable feelings like sadness, anxiety, fear, worry, skepticism, and stress. These feelings will manifest differently and impact their behaviors with others and their perspective about the future. A coach can serve as a receptacle of a leader’s behaviour and help the leader in prioritising the emotional wellbeing of the leader and can become a trusted sounding board. Particularly in times of profound change and disruption, executives and senior-level managers need the support of a coach who can help them filter through the noise and make clear decisions that propel their organisations into the future.
In a challenging business environment when company resources are highly strained, organisations prioritise coaching. In times of uncertainty, leaders are responsible for making strategic decisions that may change the course of their organizations, and coaching provides a laser-focused approach specifically targeted for these key people in the organisation.
Adapting a culture of coaching helps the organisations to build a competent workforce and makes people a source of competitive advantage. The ICF is showing that 86% of organisations see an ROI on their coaching engagements, the benefits of corporate coaching are significant indeed.