Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Coach

In the corporate world, pressure is put on managers to deliver the best from their teams, contributing to the overall success of a company. In recent years, business coaching has come to light as a successful way to bring about change in the workplace. However, the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and many of its approved centres are concerned about the approaches being taken.

A recent report by ILM raises some of the major issues in how coaching is being viewed by and incorporated into businesses. One of the key issues identified through their research is the high incidence of coaching being delivered within organisations by improperly qualified or unsupported internal coaches. ‘Much of the burden of coaching responsibility falls upon line managers, who are often asked to coach their direct reports’, in spite of the fact that ‘being a line manager does not automatically make someone a good coach.’

Approaches to management are changing.

It is important to remember as you facilitate these changes that an individual hired for their knowledge and expertise in an industry does not automatically possess the necessary skills required to deliver effective coaching. With the correct training and guidance, it is of course possible that they could cultivate these skills, but making the presumption that leadership and the ability to coach are synonymous is an alarmingly common faux pas in corporate environments.

Although a promising ‘52% of organisations make coaching available to all their staff’ when an external coach is brought in, some businesses still only offer coaching to the upper tiers of their management staff. If your company is part of the remaining 48% and takes this approach in the hopes that the skills your management staff develop throughout coaching can be passed on second-hand to employees below management level; you need to re-examine the benefits of professional coaching, whether this means training managers as coaches or offering external coaching across your entire organisation.

Don’t underestimate the complexities of coaching.

Whilst external coaching helps managers to be more effective in their own roles, it does not automatically make them qualified to train their team members in a similar way. The techniques employed in coaching have been carefully developed to extract the very best from individuals and are more complex than you might anticipate. If your coaches are not professionally trained in how to deliver coaching; damage can be done. To avoid the potentially detrimental effects of ‘informal’ internal coaching, why not offer your managers the opportunity to become qualified coaches? Going through recognised channels and with the correct training, they can deliver the high quality of coaching that made them excellent managers and continue to encourage success.

The report from ILM states that currently, ‘many coaches inside organisations are chosen informally, on the grounds that they are line managers (53%), senior staff members coaching individuals from within their own business area (46%) or members of the HR department (43%).’ This approach, barely advanced from the eenie meenie election methods of the playground, sees those ‘expressing an interest in coaching [...] encouraged to “have a go”’ and has come under criticism. Markedly less effective than internal coaches who have been selected for their coaching ability and qualifications, the approach is unlikely to deliver the same ROI-driven action as professional coaching.

By offering coaching to potential coaches on a one-to-one basis, you can contribute to the ILM way of thinking, ‘[n]ot simply challenging people but encouraging people to challenge themselves.’ This kind of drive within your company can bring about genuine, sustainable improvements to productivity and the effectiveness of your teams. If you offered your management-level staff not only coaching but ‘Manager as Coach’ training, they could become significantly more effective managers and with further ‘Advanced Coaching Skills’ programmes could successfully operate as internal coaches within your business. By investing in the proper coaching for your potential internal coaches, you can create a self-sufficient environment of support for your staff, and improved commercial performance for your organisation.

Would you trust an untrained electrician with your circuitry?

Probably not. Nor, as a business owner, are you likely to employ a manager who has no management experience or qualifications. The same scrutiny should be used when selecting coaches.

Out of the 80% of respondents to the survey who claimed they used coaching within their companies, only half had staff members who were ‘specifically employed to coach’. Whilst multi-skilled employees are the face of modern business, managers are being allowed to attempt coaching – under the title of coach – before being offered any proper training in the field.

Do your ‘coaches’ fall into this category?

The ILM report cites that ‘encouraging coaches to study for coaching qualifications is a popular option, and this is likely to be while they are coaching, rather than requiring qualifications before commencing coaching.’ If you provide the training first, you will see better, more targeted results immediately, and a tangible return on investment.

If the internal coaches within your business are part of this demographic, the untrained coach, consider approaching an organisation which offers high quality coach training, are an accredited provider and can evidence results from previous clients.

34% of companies ‘do not offer any support or development for internal coaches’.

Does your company fall into this 34%? This kind of neglect is often reflected in the quality of coaching and the minimal impact that the rusty coaching has on the productivity of staff and the profit margins of the company. Consider the successful coaching cultures established within the other 66% of businesses, refreshed and supported with ongoing updates from coaching masterclasses, supervision and advanced training. Their staff confidence and competence will continue to soar whilst yours remains static or, not surprisingly, declines. Would you isolate your company from new developments in technology relevant to your field?

To fully benefit from the impact that qualified coaches can have on an organisation, coaches should be qualified before they begin and have ongoing support available to them through external channels. This way, they become an asset to your company, coaching teams of employees, developing the personal and professional skills of those in their charge. They can coach individuals in preparation for a promotion, bring new members of staff up to the expected standard or help ailing departments to improve.

Once you have properly invested in your selected coaches, you are equipped to extract the very best from all of your employees.

In high-pressure environments, where targets are to be set and met regularly, coaches can help teams to deliver every time. Relevant in all kinds of business, private or public sector, having coaches involved in your business consistently improves performance. By training a handful of your existing managers from a professional business coaching company, you can ensure that this success is an integrated part of day-to-day functioning within your company, delivering measurable improvement.

If you don’t currently provide your coaches with access to proper training and the subsequent support which is essential for delivering results, contact us for a free consultation on coaching for coaches. This is one of the most dynamic ways to invest in your management staff, whether you intend to implement a coaching culture in a business which does not yet have one, to professionally train your ‘informal’ coaches, or to refresh the techniques of existing internal coaches.

Kind regards

Laura Ashley-Timms - Director of Coaching