Organizations where coaching skills are infused in day-to-day practice have “higher employee engagement and stronger financial performance.” So says a 2014 International Coaching Federation (ICF) research report.
As I see it, more traditional approaches to leadership development involve three components: leader training programs, formal mentoring, and/or coaching offered to senior leaders (and sometimes to a select group of rising stars.) Comparing these three components highlights special features of coaching.
- Coaching is a partnership in which the coachee sets or, even where HR or Talent Management is involved, co-creates her/his goals. The coach, using skills and frameworks he/she has learned, co-creates paths for learning.
- In contrast, “training” means that the program developer—not the learner—determines the learning objectives and creates a course of study.
- Although mentoring is more organic than training, it is still teaching. The mentor guides learning from her/his own experience and expertise in a particular area.
It’s great when organizations offer training programs, formal mentoring, and/or some coaching. I wish more organizations had all three! Fundamentally, though, I would like all managers to be able to use a coaching approach to supervising employees. And I would like to see more employees have the experience of coaching.
Why? Beliefs that underlie coaching cultures build resilient organizations.
- People’s strengths, resources, and experiences are the wellsprings of growth.
- Inquiry and exploration are important both for employee growth and business outcomes.
- Both coach and coachee are learners. Everybody is a learner; work is about learning every day.
- Supervision is collaborative.
According to the ICF report, organizations with strong coaching cultures share several attributes.
- Coach training and coaching skills training are dedicated line items in the corporate budget.
- Leaders and managers use a coaching approach to supervision.
- They have coaching skill training that has been approved by an an accrediting organization (such as ICF).
- Both internal and external coaches are certified. Certification entails completion of a course of study approved by a certifying organization, adherence to ethical standards, verification of coaching experience, and ongoing continuing education.
Especially if your resources are limited, you may not think a coaching culture is within reach. Don’t give up; here are ways to get started.
- Help managers and organizational leaders learn more about coaching. For example, there are important differences between leadership coaching, consulting, mentoring, training, and sports/wellness/voice coaching.
- Host brown bag lunch discussions where leaders compare their mental models of coaching.
- Invite a panel of coaches to explain and demonstrate aspects of their practice.
- Discuss the supervision practices you now use, such as performance reviews. What assumptions about supervising, teaching, employee motivation, and correcting underlie your current practices? What would be different if managers adopted a coaching stance as the norm?
- Offer a coaching skills course so managers can learn to use a coaching approach to supervision.
- Support one or a few employees at a time to enroll in an accredited coaching program. (I’m happy to offer recommendations.)
- Create a multi-year plan for building a coaching culture, and welcome small steps. Some experts think that with large scale change, it may actually be better to implement the change over a period of time.
As organizations grow more complex, people at all levels need the very skill sets that coaching encourages and teaches: the capability to heighten self-awareness, cultivate critical and strategic thinking, see from multiple points of view, and communicate with people who are very different from oneself.