Managers and leaders put a lot of time, effort and resources (including money) into developing their organisational people leadership skills; they develop a repertoire of understanding around broad theories, models, styles, approaches, preferences and competencies, which they may or may not use one day.
But these skills are fundamentally ‘just’ about improving understanding, communication and influencing to achieve organisational objectives. It’s a simplistic view I know, but true.
A new understanding
I have trained and supervised over 100 people towards their coaching qualifications. It is fascinating to experience the realisations these participants come to as they begin to understand these simple principles and become more aware, competent and confident in coaching. They have an almost religious experience over the application of such simple and powerful techniques.
There is no single ‘magic’ leadership approach or skill, an effective leader needs to flex and utilise a range of styles depending on the situation they are in. Coaching however is one of the very few tools and approaches that transcends organisational leadership and incorporates all the elements needed to achieve performance, development and relational objectives. Similarly, there isn’t an area of any organisation which can’t be touched by the positive impact and influence of quality coaching – operations, IT, sales, marketing, customer service and support services to name but a few.
Monique Valcour in the Harvard Business Review supports this universal value of coaching, citing that – ‘according to recent research, the single more important management competency that separates highly effective managers from average ones is coaching’.
Testing the theory
On the internet there is an aged and grainy clip of Sir John Whitmore* and a golf pro, each using their individual approach to training a golfing ‘newbie’ to effectively hit a golf ball. Can you guess who is most impactful with their learner..?
It would be an interesting exercise to recreate this set up in the workplace, but instead of using golf, there would be a line manager who has undertaken generic leadership training, and a line manager who has been developed and applies their coaching skills. It would be interesting to see who has the most impact on employee performance and development, short, medium and long term.
As an experienced coach, I can predict what the outcomes would be, and it’s food for thought.
The true value of coaching
Apart from the well-publicised benefits available from any Google search, why is coaching such a potent and powerful ‘must have’ for organisational leaders? What makes coaching so universal across organisations? Effective coaching is apolitical, it brings people together and engages rather than divides; it places value on and in employees. It does not judge, instead it looks to understand and change, giving employees personal freedom and opportunity in the workplace, which they may otherwise rarely experience.
Coaching encourages safe introspection; it takes people to the heart of what makes them tick (thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, wants and emotions) whilst at the same time considering the environment and situations in which they operate, enabling the two to converge.
Coaching is about the employee’s here and now, exploring what’s happening to them in this moment, promoting a ‘can-do’ mindset and preparing them for their next moments. The experience gives employees something that they are not receiving in their daily working environments – time. Ultimately coaching is about targeted and personal transformational communication.
A few words from the wise:
Clay Shirky the American writer states – ‘when we change the way we communicate, we change society.’ The same is true in organisations; coaching is a universal part of that change.
And in the words of Valcour, M. (July 2014) – “You can’t be a great manager if you are not a good coach”. Harvard Business Review.
Food for thought indeed.
* Sadly, John Whitmore passed away recently. You can view his golf video demonstration here.Back to News & Blogs Overview