ROI Guaranteed Effecting Transformation and Sustaining Change with Coaching
Is coaching a secret weapon which guarantees performance improvements? If it is, as we can prove it is, why do so many corporate boards still think of it as an indulgence, and not a commercial necessity?
Our research suggests that one of the main reason’s why coaching doesn’t always deliver measurable results is more about the internal set up and original expectations than about the coaching itself. Often, senior managers are not properly educated in the processes which must be followed to make sure that the implementation of a coaching culture produces significant results in terms of return on investment (ROI).
They may be aware of the success effected by coaching in other organisations, but they struggle to introduce the same level of achievement into their own offices because no one has explained to them some of the simple ground rules.
This is not a problem that our clients experience, as a lot of time is invested up front on designing programmes that can deliver measurable ROI – so where money is no longer available for indulgences, the time has come for all coaching companies to step up their commercial game.
The idea is not a new one. Back in 1998, John O. Burdett wrote that coaching remains the secret weapon of many outstanding organisations. There is only so much that a business can productively do by way of downsizing, restructuring, focusing on the core business and the like. Ultimately, it comes down to people – building winning teams.’ By investing in their teams with professional coaching and resolving to master what so many organisations have failed to grasp, companies can still give themselves a real edge in terms of performance and as a result, enjoy the bottom line benefits that a successful coaching culture can generate.
Embrace the Change
There are a number of reasons that coaching cultures fail to achieve the expected results in terms of ROI. Throughout the process of coaching, businesses ought to ‘redefine the role fulfilled by managers at every level in the business’ (Burdett), and some environments are not prepared for this kind of overhaul, aware that they will be taken out of their comfort zones and their actions scrutinised. But in order to enjoy the positive effects of coaching, managers must overcome these fears, remembering at all times that if you continue to perform the same actions; you will continue to achieve the same unimpressive results. Sometimes, change is essential for success. This often starts with clarity of vision and clear leadership. Coaching cultures don’t work when they are ‘slipped in from the middle’ somewhere!
Without clearly defined goals and identifying actions which will drive towards these goals, nothing will change. The process should be driven at all times by focus. Developing goals which are specific to the context of the organisation is an essential part of achieving exceptional results. If you turn your energy and attention towards each behavioural or cultural change implementation in turn under a coach’s guidance, a process is followed which is more likely to produce results across the board, generating larger ROI potential.
The measures of success in terms of each of these goals must be specific and time-restricted. Without these factors, they fail before they have the chance to succeed, becoming automatically unattainable. The coaching company should also help the organisation gain clarity on how they will capture and measure the results and ROI without breaching any client-coaching confidentialities.
Be Prepared for Hard Work
Ensuring that the implementations made throughout the coaching process remain in effect after their sessions end is another area where organisations fail. This can begin in the early stages, with the initial expectations. Companies who believe that coaches will come in, right their wrongs and leave again are often unpleasantly surprised. The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), in conducting their 2011 report on the creation of coaching cultures, discovered that “[m]any organisations still view coaching as a tool for correcting poor performance.” They go on to assert that “good coaching is about achieving a high performance culture, not managing a low-performance one, and should not be seen primarily as a remedial tool.”
Similarly, Burdett wrote that ‘[p]resenting possible options should not be confused with, and is very different from, telling the employee how he/she should act’, yet this is evidently still a major misconception where coaching is concerned. This can stem from problems of misunderstanding, and confusion between counselling, mentoring, and coaching.
As explained by Andrew Lambert, ‘formal vocational qualifications are required for some areas of counselling whereas they are, at present, merely recommended for coaching and not appropriate for mentoring – although some training is desirable. The need is to be specific about what is being delivered.’ (2008)
Then, once the concept of coaching is properly understood, employees should be open to the idea of being driven by their own self-insight and motivation. Without this, the coaching will not achieve the same level of ROI as in a company which understands what will be expected of them and is keen to have the dominant input into their own success. If employees begin with the understanding that they hold the key to the outcomes of their own coaching, the motivation already exists to make the most of the opportunity.
Once implemented, the coaching culture should remain an everyday part of running within the workplace, with scheduled follow-ups and measurable longer-term successes. Encouraging the process of self-improvement to be an ongoing one, businesses continue to see improvement after coaches have left the building. By placing the responsibility for the success or failure of the long-term coaching outcomes in the hands of your employees, they are likely to rise to the challenge and commit to their individual goals, contributing to an overall success and increased ROI.
Without any follow-up, there will be little to no change and this should become an important mantra for companies developing their own strategies post-coaching. Ensuring that the after-effects are as carefully measured as the initial coaching outcomes, with feedback and progress reports, a close eye can be kept on the development of the company and the continued ROI of the coaching. The measures implemented to sustain progress will vary dependent upon the kind of coaching which has been delivered, with CPD and supervision for the continuation of coach training, or where one-or-one coaching is concerned; the follow-up may involve developing a sustainability programme.
Once implemented successfully, a coaching culture can be self-perpetuating, with employees seeking the feedback of their managers on a regular basis, striving for positive reinforcement wherever possible. This often increases productivity and the quality of action seen within a company, from the lower levels upwards. By ensuring that feedback is received on a regular basis, not simply once a year at a brisk but daunting annual review, changes in the behaviour of individuals and the output of teams within the company can be fast-tracked, brought into effectiveness with much greater speed.
David Lindbom (2007) suggests that the ‘mix of regular, frequent, formal, and informal coaching events sets the stage for the acceptance and, later, the expectation of consistent performance feedback. When these systems produce better results, they are self reinforcing.’ When employees are made aware of their target results and have the positive behaviours towards this goal identified, the path to success becomes unavoidably clear, generating bottom line improvements for the company.
A Case Study from Notion
After an audit which revealed that a major city council’s Housing and Constituencies Directorate was failing to deliver an adequate performance, the council sought the expertise of a professional coaching company. They began their success story by identifying what their needs were in terms of a coaching provider: experience, qualifications, proven track record and other criteria were taken into consideration before they chose their provider. The outcome was to appoint Notion (BusinessCoaching.co.uk) to deliver a tailored programme of 3 3-hour sessions for in excess of 70 managers. The results were fast paced organisational change. 100% of managers reported that they believed themselves to be more effective as a direct result of the coaching. One manager claimed: ‘I am more confident. In fact so much so that I have gained a promotion as a direct result of the way I am now conducting myself, which I can directly link to the coaching received.’
The program effected behavioural change instantaneously, increasing motivation across the board. By establishing objectives at the outset of each coaching relationship, which were personal to each client whilst being completely aligned to the organisation’s strategic goals – every positive improvement made by each one of the coaches contributed directly to the organisation’s overall performance improvement. By the completion of the third coaching session, managers were reporting an average performance improvement of 72% within three months. The coaching gave them the motivation to push for higher percentages still, to chase measurable, tangible success for which they were directly responsible.
These managers reported increased personal productivity (65%), better decision-making (77%) and problem-handling (81%). Quantifiable improvements such as these contribute to more effective leadership, creating the winning teams mentioned earlier. 77% of management had improved their team management capability, with 65% declaring an improvement to their own contribution to teamwork. One manager claimed ‘I now have a better understanding of how different types of people work and function as part of a team.’ With this understanding, it becomes easier to extract more from each individual and the team as a whole.
In a follow-up report, 92% of managers stated they had made progress on the majority of the actions agreed with their coach. Being properly motivated and having clear criteria with which to measure their success, managers are able to achieve goals set and identify where progress is being made, and similarly, which actions still need more attention to drive success.
Improvements in areas such as communication helped to improve relationships not only within the Directorate but also with stakeholders and other external partners. 69% reported better negotiations with suppliers or partners, with 11% making substantial improvements which directly affected their bottom line. This is an example of how coaching, honing key managerial skills and helping managers to apply them with a focused, positive attitude, can deliver a significant ROI.
After a follow-up audit, this particular Directorate was awarded a rating which made them one of the top-performing Directorates in the country: a total turnaround effected by successfully-delivered coaching.
Whilst it has long been acknowledged by much of the business community that coaching is what sets exceptional organisations apart from those performing to a satisfactory standard, not enough stress is placed upon ensuring that the quality and the structure of the coaching received are of the calibre your company specifically needs.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have noted in their research that “[c]oaching which focuses on performance seems to be productive and grounded in business reality.” They also suggest that “[f]ocusing on both poor and good performance is a good way to ensure that coaching is not seen as a remedial intervention or a talent path for the gifted, but as a key intervention.” (2011)
So, in addition to making a ‘commitment to communication and expectation’ as Burdett advised almost fifteen years ago, companies must conduct research and take an active role in the course of their coaching. The process is not an easy, automatic fix for organisations who feel they are failing. Acknowledging the ongoing nature of the growth begun in coaching—personal, organisational, and financial—is key to the success of introducing a coaching culture. Making these as measurable as possible will continue to drive success.
‘Organizations that survive and thrive in the years ahead are going to be, and look entirely different from, those that made their name when the world was stable and where the rate of change was, relatively speaking, manageable. To adapt to an environment marked by turbulence means that organizations will have to create value from, and through, all of their resources.’ (Burdett)
These words are increasingly relevant, what is critical to remember when any budget is set aside for performance improvement, is that coaching and developing an organisational coaching culture, should be geared towards generating a significant ROI from the outset, and tailored towards sustaining the changes which help to bring about improvements to the bottom line.
Laura Ashley-Timms - Director of Coaching
Burdett, John O. (1998), “Forty things every manager should know about coaching”, Journal of Management Development, Vol. 17, No. 2.
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2011), “The Coaching Climate”, September, available at: www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/survey-reports/coaching-climate-2011.aspx (accessed 24 November 2011)
Institute of Leadership and Management (2011), “Creating a coaching culture”, May, available at: www.i-l-m.com/downloads/publications/G443_ILM_COACH_REP.pdf (accessed 3 September 2011)
Lambert, Andrew (2008), “What’s New in Coaching and Mentoring? An Update”, Corporate Research Forum, October, available at: www.crforum.co.uk/library/view/364.html (accessed 21 November 2011)
Lindbom, David (2007), “A Culture of Coaching: The Challenge of Managing Performance for Long-Term Results”, Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25, No. 2.