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Coaching: the X-Factor of Business Performance?

Coaching has emerged over the last 10 years as one of the fastest growing professions.  While many people have embraced life coaching, what this fledgling industry can offer the business world is not always clear.  Yet the impact of coaching on employee and business performance appears undeniable.  In a recent survey of South African executives*, 97% of respondents said they believed coaching delivered a real return on investment to their employer, with 18% feeling it had increased bottom line profitability.

ImageIn the first of a 2-part article, Jane Adshead-Grant looks at the emergence of coaching and its impact on business.

There has been a huge increase in coaching within the workplace, both internally where leaders are adopting more of a coaching style as part of their leadership toolkit and externally where organisations are purchasing external coaches. 

So why is this?  The nature of work and what we do has changed enormously.  We have moved away from the command and control paradigm towards a more involved and empowered paradigm within the workplace.  Individuals have more choice in where they work, who they work for and what they want from their work.  Responding to this change has led to organisations creating more of a coaching culture, engaging and retaining staff and, at the same time, achieving results and improving performance.

With the increase in demand for coaching, supply has risen to meet this and there are an abundance of individuals and organisations that now offer coaching.  How do you choose the right coach to meet what you or your organisation are looking for?  There are a number of elements to consider, but most important is to have rapport between coach and coachee.

Internal and External Coaching

Many organisations are seeking to create a coaching culture where Leaders and Managers are trained as coaches, developing their skills in building rapport, essential listening, asking powerful questions, providing inspiring feedback and supporting the achievement of desired results. 

Organisations are also increasingly offering coaching to staff, providing one to one tailored solutions in developing performance.  The results of the personal coaching approach are very powerful.  Not only does the employee feel valued, the organisation benefits from the increase in motivation, performance and often creativity and confidence in the employee.

Impact of coaching

The impact of coaching can have multiple benefits.  Improved performance and productivity is a primary benefit.  Coaching brings out the best in individuals and unlocks their capabilities, enabling them to achieve things they may not have thought possible of themselves. 

Coaching can lead to improved relationships.  It begins with the coach and coachee relationship where the coachee feels valued and truly listened to.  With the coach asking powerful questions, this enables the coachee to reflect and offer their answer and often their opinion.  For some, this is a rare experience.  This relationship can act as a role model where the coachee then begins to develop more powerful relationships for themselves, leading to more opportunities and achieving greater results.

A coaching culture can lead to a more creative environment where ideas are cherished and feedback is given openly, promoting continual learning and fostering creativity.  This atmosphere of learning and openness enables people to feel more valued.  This in turn leads to a faster and more willing approach to change, enabling the organisation to move forward in its desired direction.

ImageDeveloping staff is another major benefit of coaching.  Organisations are now looking at their investment in sending employees on training courses, only to find that the course manual is put on the top shelf once the employee returns to their desk, and within a relatively short period of time, the learning from the course has been forgotten. Coaching however, provides the individual an opportunity to take responsibility and accountability for their own learning.  This is a much more powerful way of learning.  A colleague of mine once shared the analogy of a coffee bean in a glass of water. Where a training course is when you drop a coffee bean in a cold glass of water and the bean eventually sinks to the bottom and the water stays the same.  Coaching on the other hand is when you drop a coffee bean in a warm glass of water and what do you notice?  As the coffee bean sinks to the bottom, the water gradually changes colour as the coffee permeates through the water, having a more permanent and lasting effect.

Performance Coaching

Performance coaching is most prevalent in organisations.  It can be offered in many different scenarios; an individual who has recently been promoted into a leadership role; a talented individual who is deemed a successor to a senior position; an individual who is moving into a different role and who is looking to develop effective interpersonal relationships across a variety of areas within the organisation; an individual who has identified a specific need to improve performance in a certain area within their role and more. 

What is performance coaching?  There are many definitions and one that stands out is as Tim Gallwey (author of the Inner Game series) suggests: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance.  It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”  Within the workplace where Managers are coaching their employees, it is important that they see the potential in their employee and not their performance.  Through coaching, an employee’s true potential can be released resulting in higher performance.

Coaching is about concentrating on action for the present and the future.  It enables individuals to turn possibilities into opportunities and generate results.  Coaching can provide tools and techniques for someone to take their talent to the next level.  It provides a focus and encourages an individual to take accountability.  Coaching also challenges an individual and supports new behaviours.

[Part 2 of this article will be available on ReConnect Africa in July 2006]

With experience within International Law and Financial Services, Jane Adshead-Grant of Ashvale Consultancy Limited is a member of the Association for Coaching and a qualified Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Coach and licensed NLP Master Practitioner.  Jane is accredited with the British Psychological Society for Level A & B psychometric assessment and is a member of the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.


* Survey carried out by Jenny Hogarth, co-founder of Comensa, South Africa.

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