Dianne Bown-Wilson of M3 Consultancy makes the case for tying coaching into business strategy.
At present, it seems that many organisations are over-reacting to coaching – a definite case of ‘Don’t really know what it is, how it works, what we’ll get out of it, or why we need it – but you hear so much about it we’d better have some!”
Companies usually retain coaches because they have one or more specific ‘problems’ in particular areas which they believe coaching can help solve; and/or they want to improve the general culture of the organisation and create improved performance and satisfaction (employee and customer) across the board.
Certainly coaching can help in both these situations, but due to the way it is often applied – as something separate to other internal processes – it often results in short term ‘quick fixes’, or little overall change.
There are a number of reasons for this:
1. Coaching tends to act as a funnel for focus, encouraging individuals to look inside themselves to find answers. What this means is that the individual being coached tends to focus on their own interests, role and agenda.
Their coach may encourage them to consider other issues and ‘the bigger picture’ but they tend to be limited by their own perspective.
2. Coaching methodology often is not applied to helping groups and individuals think freely and widely enough.
Those being coached tend to be held back by what they perceive as ‘reality’ which means that outcomes do not fully reflect the overall potential available.
3. Coaching is often viewed as a sticking plaster rather than a stimulant – something which will fix existing ‘situations’, rather than encouraging organisations and individuals to focus on whether there might be ‘a better way’.
Relatively speaking, coaching in the UK is still in its infancy so there is little research available on outcomes and benefits, although a recent report from the University of Central England * is enlightening.
From their findings they concluded: “There is clear evidence that a more systematic and structured approach to the use of coaching will contribute greater value.”
This point underlines what many companies and coaches themselves often fail to adequately recognise and acknowledge: coaching is a tool, not an end in itself.
To generate maximum benefits in a business environment, coaching needs to be closely linked to the needs of the business, not just the needs of the individual(s) being coached. Performance in respect of those business needs must be measured as part of the coaching process.
The key point however is that it is the coaching providers who should be introducing this structure, not the client companies themselves who are unlikely to have the experience to fully understand the true nature and potential of the process. In short, any sound coaching programme should incorporate a means of helping businesses get to the heart of what matters to them.
Ideally then, coaching in an organisation should be a four-stage process, requiring management and employees to focus on a number of questions:
1. How can we do what we do better?
2. What should we do to make that happen?
3. How can we implement it at every level?
4. How will we know when we are succeeding?
Over-arching this, no matter what the issue, problem or desired outcome, the really big questions everyone should be asking and measuring are “What really matters to us?” and “How can I – or we – make a difference?”
Used in this way, coaching can provide a very worthwhile and valuable answer.
* Dianne Bown–Wilson is one of the creators of The BIG Question, a coaching- based programme designed to help businesses achieve outstanding results through focusing on what is really important to them.