You’ve probably heard the word thrown around a Tedtalk, leadership seminar or management meeting. It’s the future. If you believe everything you read about it, it’ll supercharge your team’s performance, grant you an enlightened level of self-awareness and possibly even do your admin for you… Of course, I’m talking about coaching.
As more and more organisations begin to reap the benefits of investing in their people, coaching is becoming an increasingly popular offering, with some companies even hiring their very own in-house coaches. But what is workplace coaching and how does it work? In this article for Amazing Workplaces, we’ll explore the coach approach, the benefits of using it in the workplace and the limitations and pitfalls to be aware of.
The Coach Approach
Coaches comes in all shapes and sizes. There are life coaches, relationship coaches, business coaches, executive coaches, health & nutrition coaches… You name it, there’s probably a coach for it. Despite the broad range of subject matter, most coaches have a simple aim: to support you in reaching your goals. For workplace coaches, these goals usually involve supporting somebody to enhance an area of strength or ameliorate an area of development.
A common misunderstanding of the coaching process is that this “support” comes in the form of instructing you on how to reach your goals. Unlike sports coaches and mentors, coaches should use a non-directive approach, which means they offer no advice, suggestions or instruction. This means that it doesn’t matter if your coach has experience in your field, in fact, sometimes it can even hinder the process if they do.
Instead, clients are empowered to engage their thinking skills and identify the best ways forward for themselves. Coaches do this through a blend of open questions, coaching frameworks, active listening, effective summarising and occasionally, thought-provoking visualisations. Different coaches will employ different techniques, from those rooted in science and psychology such as Cognitive Behavioural Coaching and Acceptance & Commitment Coaching, to more holistic and spiritual practices. Many workplace coaches use a form of Solutions Focussed Coaching.
Simply put, coaching allows clients to reach their own conclusions, set focussed actions and see clear progress towards their goals. By the end of the relatively short coaching partnership, clients should have developed a set of skills and practices that enable them to thrive autonomously and sustainably.
So, let’s talk numbers, shall we? According to a 2016 study conducted by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), coaching can have some amazing impacts:
- 80% of coaching clients reported an increase in self-confidence
- 73% saw a positive impact in their relationships
- 70%+ saw positive change to their communication and interpersonal skills
In addition to this, 86% of companies who calculated ROI indicated that their company had made their initial investment back, with a median average of 700%. This means that organisations saw an incredible return of 7 times their initial investment on coaching.
With such impressive figures, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of managers are looking to emulate the coach approach in order to get the best out of their teams. The GROW model has become a firm favourite in management training, with leaders being encouraged to nurture talent by facilitating employee development, rather than embodying more traditional, autocratic management styles. Further to this, managers are not only using coaching to get the best out of others, but also themselves and their leadership styles.
Pitfalls and Limitations
It’s easy to see from the data, that coaching can bring about some fantastic benefits, but like anything, it is not without its challenges and limitations.
Given the incredibly diverse nature of coaching subjects and methodologies, identifying an approach that works for you can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Take the GROW model for example, this framework can be great for individuals who have a clear idea of the goal they’re looking to achieve and wish to change or introduce new behaviours in order to reach it. However, it might not prove quite so effective for individuals who wish to work on limiting beliefs or unhelpful thinking patterns. Also, the non-directive nature of coaching means that it’s not an effective tool for learning new knowledge. For example, if I placed you in an airplane and asked you to fly it, it’s likely that we’d never leave the ground regardless of how many visualisations or open questions I asked.
What’s more, the very diversity of coaching methodologies that makes it such a flexible process, also adds a level of complexity when it comes to providing cold, hard evidence of its efficacy. There is still a wealth of research yet to be completed on what coaching methodologies are most effective and those which are not. The lack of ‘one standardised approach’ and the unquestionable evidence that comes along with it, can therefore prove difficult to overcome when pitching to senior managers and business owners. It is important to add however, that over the last 25 years, large coaching bodies such as the ICF, EMCC and AC have played a crucial role in starting to create standards of practice and ethics within the industry.
So, what does all of this mean?
Well, it’s clear that coaching in the workplace can have a myriad of benefits, which more than cover the initial cost of hiring a coach. Even if your organisation is not yet ready to hire an in-house coach, working with external coaches and even training your managers in some basic frameworks can result in positive change.
However, it’s important that the coach you hire, or the techniques used are the right fit for you and your organisation. If training, ethics and evidence-based approaches are important to you, it may be useful to ask prospective coaches about their practices and certifications, allowing you to make a fully informed decision.
Author: Steven McCormick is a Business & Life Coach and Founder of New Road Coaching www.newroadcoaching.co.uk. Steven combines his L&D management experience in organisational settings with his training in integrative coaching, a blended methodology which employs techniques and frameworks found in a wide variety of coaching practices, resulting in a bespoke and impactful service for every client.