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Coaching - why use it?

We live in a complex and fast-moving world. Standard answers to business problems are few and far between. This is one of the key reasons why coaching is becoming more prevalent in business and used in preference to training programmes.

So how could coaching help you or your organisation?

Coaching helps people find their own solutions to enhance their performance and contribution to an organisation. In the past it has been mainly senior people in leadership roles who have been coached, usually by someone external.

Coaching in organisations has become much more common in recent years. In their annual Learning and Development survey, the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reports that in 2008 71% of responding organisations are involved in some form of coaching activity, up from 63% in 2007.

Internal v external coaching

Recognising the value of using a coaching approach, many organisations are now investing in training up their own coaches. This makes coaching available to a wider range of employees as well as developing coaching capability internally.

Organisations are also training line managers in coaching skills as well as internal coaches whose services then are available to all. Line managers can use coaching as part of their repertoire of management skills to develop their direct reports, but for me there are issues about whether the deep level of trust required for coaching to work effectively can be developed with someone who is also responsible for performance management.

The advantage of internal coaches is that they know the organisation and its culture and they can be independent from the line management relationship, so in principle, can work at any level of the organisation.

External coaches bring independence, objectivity, experience from other organisations or sectors and a non-judgemental approach. Far from being a soft option, they bring listening acuity that you may never have experienced before, which enables them to challenge your thinking and hold up a mirror. Whilst this may be uncomfortable at times, it also enables you to achieve deep and lasting change – of your own volition. External coaches are interested in supporting you to make progress in your chosen area and will provide encouragement to do so.

A business which already has internal coaches can also gain added value from external coaches. They can, for example, develop the expertise and capability of internal coaches, handle difficult people and situations, confront contentious issues, say the ‘unsayable’, and work closely to support the most senior members of the management team. Leaders can feel isolated at times and having an external sounding board can help bring objectivity and increase your willingness and confidence to take action.

So what are the benefits of coaching?

In the same way as coaching is used in a sports context, in business it is a tool for improving personal, and therefore, organisational performance. Its focus is on moving forward and performance enhancement.

  • Coaching provides a means for employees to become more self aware, identifying and focusing on their strengths. This knowledge can help individuals to work on the issues that are potentially blocking their performance.
  • Coaching can help leaders and managers to understand and enhance working relationships, to improve their leadership and management capability, which can in turn help to improve organisational performance.
  • Coaching can help leaders work on and find solutions to the strategic issues facing their organisations.
  • Coaching can help shift an organisational culture when change is being implemented.
  • Coaching can help sustain employee motivation, engagement and commitment in times of organisational change.

The best results are achieved over a period of time rather than a single session.

So, is coaching right for your organisation?

Most businesses can benefit from using coaching. This is the reason that so many businesses have adopted it. Because its focus is positive - improving performance and enabling people and organisations to achieve this by themselves, rather than relying on external input - it can achieve results in a variety of situations.

One of the keys to success is finding the right person to be coached by. Coaching is a relationship of equals, based upon trust, respect and rapport and a qualified coach will work with you to ensure that this is created. Therefore it is important to find the right coach for you.


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