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The business benefits of coaching

Two recent articles demonstrate the business benefits of coaching.

In the Appointments Section of Sunday Times on 17 February 2008, Amanda Blinkhorn drew out the similarities between coaching for sports and business: Bosses let coach take the strain . The article examines coaching from the perspective of both coach and coachee and demonstrates that it can be of greatest benefit to those who are performing well, like top sportsmen and women.

Jez Cartwright, an executive coach interviewed for the article, states ‘With a few more executive coaches, there would be fewer people quitting, getting the sack or jumping out of windows. It’s lonely at the top – who else can these people talk to?’

One of his clients describes the benefits both personally and for his business, a recruitment consultancy: ‘We’ve just sold Witan Jardine to Australia’s Ambition Group, which means we can now offer people work across three continents. Last year we were one of The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For. This year we were awarded the Financial News Award for Excellence. And for the last three years our profits have gone up 30% a year.

‘After Jez has been coaching people in the company for three months – and these are already high performers – their performance has increased in some cases by 50%.’ An impressive result!

A summary of types of coaching was provided, compiled by Gladeana McMahon, executive coach and vice-president of the Association for Coaching.

She describes executive coaching as mostly organised and paid for by the employer and divided into 3 general areas:

  • Coaching for excellence. This is aimed at people who are already high performers. The aim is to make what’s good even better.

  • Team coaching. This involves working with groups rather than individuals – for example, working with a department or a board of directors to build better team relationships, increase performance or improve communications.

  • Performance recovery coaching. This is designed to bring someone up to an expected level – for example, after a promotion – or to bring someone back up to expectations where performance had declined.

The second article is from the Times Career section, which has been looking at six styles of leadership over recent weeks:

  • Directive/coercive - the primary aim of this style is immediate compliance.

  • Authoritative/visionary - wants to provide long-term direction for employees.

  • Affiliative - aims to bring about harmony between managers and employees.

  • Participative/democratic - creates ideas, builds commitment.

  • Pacesetting - aims high and leads by example.

  • Coaching - focuses on employees’ development.

On 21 February it was the turn of the coaching style Needs of the team set the pace .

The defining characteristics of coaching leaders are described as:

‘They work to understand the strengths and abilities of each member of the team and look for ways to help them to grow and develop over the long term. You see them discussing with team members what they hope to do and achieve, then building and shaping the work that they give them to meet those needs. You’d see careful thought going into who gets which assignment – it may not be who is best for the job but who it will stretch, who will grow with it. People tend to like working for this type of leader but this doesn’t mean that they’re a soft touch; these leaders can be quite challenging. It’s not about being nice’.

Gordon Ramsay apparently typifies ‘the hard edges’ of the coaching style. ‘Many people would associate him with the more coercive elements but if you look at what he does when he’s in a kitchen, there’s a huge amount of really honest feedback. He thinks about people’s vision for their restaurant and helps them to reach their goals; it’s not about him saying what he would do.’

The final article in the series looks at the golf club approach - how to select the best leadership style for a particular situation, just as golfers choose different clubs to play different shots. Another sporting analogy - sounds interesting and appropriate!


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